Being a first time attendee to CES, it's been quite the experience seeing the number of products on display by both small and big names. Even though a number of gadgets on display have actually been introduced some time before, it's still mind blowing to find out that they actually exist. Had it not been for CES, I might not have known about them otherwise.
CES is obviously still a relevant event in the technology, bringing together over 150,000 attendees (press, buyers, regular attendees, etc.), with extensive coverage by all the major tech blogs. However, CES has its share of critics, calling the event "irrelevant". From an outsider's perspective, this may seem to be the reality since big names like Google, Apple, and Microsoft are not present. Even the Samsung and Sony booths were not THAT impressive given that their products are well known and have already been on the market for quite some time.
For a smaller company, even if their products have been out for some time, CES still offers tons of exposure. However the big names are clearly not benefiting since their powerful campaigns already do the trick, and in essence, make their existence at CES somewhat irrelevant. Should be blame CES for this though? Given that attendance has been growing constantly over the years, why aren't they actually using it to their advantage?
For instance, I have never been impressed with Samsung's launch events. Unlike Apple, and more particularly Steve Jobs, Samsung knows nothing about making their presentations interesting. Beyond the human touch nonsense and fancy blue lights, is just a rambling of specs. Nothing about their events really get my attention. They are lucky that their devices actually deliver, but in my opinion, they could have used this event to their advantage to show something new.
The same goes for Microsoft. With the whole Windows RT/Surface and Windows 8 brand struggling to take off, shouldn't they have had some presence at CES to maybe try to change that image? There are quite a number of agencies eager to write about upcoming or new products, so maybe this could have been the chance the change that. Oh well, a lost opportunity for those companies.
At the end of the day, I felt quite let down by the major brands. Even the whole 4K TV technology being pushed by Sony and Samsung was quite underwhelming. I must admit that LG's demonstration was actually mind-blowing and made me buy into the idea of 4K, but Samsung and Sony did a good job and reversing that idea. Even though the reps did say that their source feed was 4K quality, it really didn't look that way.
Now here's my issue with the smaller retailers/innovators. While browsing different booths, some exhibitors tried their best to explain what their products were about, even giving a hands-on demonstration; some of them even giving us trial products. Props to those guys, but there were others who just stood there and assumed that we, the press, would figure out what their products were about. While it may not have been rocket science, it's still a must to promote your products as best as possible. The distinction between good promoters versus 'half-dead' sales representatives showed up by the crowds around each booth.
All in all, CES does have a lot of gimmicky items, but they also do have a number of gems such as the Tactus keyboard, Makerbot 3D printer, Samsung Youm, and the water resistant Sony Xperia Z. It would definitely be great to be able to see the bigger names in attendance in the coming years.