Those of you who read TeleRead regularly probably noticed that our coverage was a little bit thin last week … but not to worry! I’ve got an alibi: I was in Las Vegas since last Sunday, covering the 2013 International CES for NAPCO—my employer, and TeleRead’s parent company.
This was my first-ever trip to CES, and while it was a huge milestone in my still-burgeoning consumer technology career, here’s the God’s honest truth: The experience totally and completely smacked the life out of me, both physically and psychologically. I walked for miles and miles, literally, every day. In fact, I walked so much—while at the same time straining under the weight of a backpack and two tote bags filled with probably 20 or 30 pounds of magazines, press kits, brochures, business cards and even my laptop—that by the morning of day two, I actually had to use the fourth notch on my belt instead of the third.
(No, I’m not really sure how that’s possible, either. I only wish I had photographic evidence of the look that must have appeared on my face while I was getting dressed, and then suddenly noticed my pants laying in a crumpled heap around my ankles. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.)
But that’s CES: It’s said to be one of the largest trade shows in the world, and it has an uncanny habit of breaking attendance records nearly every year. Depending on who you talk to, this year’s CES hosted somewhere between 150,000 and 155,000 attendees. That’s half the population of Pittsburgh!
And even though I’ve taken a couple trips to Vegas in years past, here’s something I really didn’t understand about CES: The show’s organizers like to brag about the fact that “the show floor covers more than 1.85 million net square feet of space.” (That’s a quote from Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, from his January 9 column in the Twice CES Daily.) Now, that’s a heck of a lot of space to cover—it would be literally impossible for one person to see every booth and every display in the time allotted—but it’s also not the full story. That’s because while CES technically takes place inside the confines of the Las Vegas Convention Center, there are also a nearly endless number of keynote addresses, panel discussions, parties and private shows taking place at any given time of day (and a good portion of the night) at hotels all over town. And, somewhat unfortunately, the “official” CES hotels aren’t necessarily located anywhere near each other.
I’m definitely not the first post-CES reporter, nor will I be the last, to point out that the central districts of Las Vegas—the parts of town that tourists and conventioneers find themselves in—are nearly devoid of easy-to-use public transportation. An attendee wanting to take in as much of the show as possible, for instance, might have to ride the Monorail from his hotel on the Las Vegas Strip to the Convention Center for a keynote speech, and then wait in a taxi line for 45 minutes before getting stuck in traffic on his way to a casino located halfway across town.
And that’s to say nothing of the Sisyphean quest required to find the right meeting room or restaurant inside a place like The Venetian or Paris Las Vegas, both of which are such
brilliantly deviously designed buildings that a bloodhound would probably get lost if he made the amateur mistake of wandering, glassy-eyed, onto that blinking, shimmering temptation known as the casino floor. (That’s what happened to me, anyway. About a half-dozen times. Each day.)
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But enough about that. After all, I’m thinking it probably wasn’t a coincidence that I stumbled onto a BBC News column this morning filed by a reporter who opened his article by saying, “I’ve been coming to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas since 2007, and I think at last I’m beginning to get the hang of it.” Talk about a kindred spirit! And yet his article—a sort of ‘how to survive CES’ guide—carried the following bit of prudent advice:
“Never moan to colleagues or family about the sheer hell of covering a gadget conference in Las Vegas. Some of your gripes may be true but nobody’s ever going to believe it is anything but the best job you could imagine. And they’re probably right.”
I can’t argue with that. And obviously, being paid to cover a world-famous event that essentially changes the course of global communication every 12 months isn’t such a shabby deal. In fact, I’m only just now beginning to get some inkling of sensation back into my calves and the arches of my feet, and I’m already psyched for CES 2014. I only wish I’d been involved in the CE industry three years ago; back then, reporters and bloggers covering CES were busy proclaiming 2010 to be “the year of the e-reader.”
I think we can all safely say that the 2013 show was “the year of the tablet.” (It was also the year of the on-ear headphone and the year of the iPhone case, if you want to get specific.) I probably heard just as much buzz about Polaroid’s $150 7-inch Android Kids Tablet as I did about Panasonic’s ridiculous 20-inch 4K Windows 8 tablet—both of which I got a chance to play with, by the way.
And for the record, the Panasonic slate—which may or may not ever make its way to the market—isn’t really a tablet in the conventional sense. To me, it felt more like a flat-screen TV you can walk around with. I got the feeling that the only reason Panasonic had the damn thing produced in the first place was because they could.
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At any rate, my numerous NAPCO colleagues and I discovered and experienced so many different gadgets at CES that we’ll probably still be squawking about them months from now. If you want hear a bit more about what we uncovered in the desert, I would suggest first making your way over to GadgeTell, where Jeremy Hill disses 4K TV, Matt Marchesano introduces you to the bizarre Sphero ball, and Stanley Goodner gets all hot and bothered by the Razer Edge gaming tablet.
Check out AppleTell, meanwhile, if you want to know about the ungodly barrage of iDevices and iAccessories that will be hitting stores this spring. And stay tuned to TeleRead this week; we’ll be bringing a few more stories your way about the things we saw and heard that will likely have an effect on the digital publishing industry as 2013 continues to unfold.