Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 | 2:10 a.m.
The consumer electronics industry will be the first to bounce back from the recession, Consumer Electronics Association executive Gary Shapiro told audiences countless times at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
While many executives hope their industry will be the first to return to its pre-recession glory, Shapiro has some numbers to back him up.
The CEA’s preliminary attendance numbers released Sunday night show an estimated 120,000 visitors attended CES this year, an increase of about 7,000 visitors from 2009. Attendance numbers this year also ended ahead of some early projections.
By comparison, CES had an estimated 130,000 in attendance in 2008.
The numbers haven’t returned to their peak but organizers said they are pleased to see an increase in a down economy.
“The reason we did so well this year is because companies are in a much different mindset than 2009,” said Jason Oxman, senior vice president of industry affairs at CEA. “They are very excited to leave 2009 behind and move forward with the next decade.”
The four-day conference featured more than 2,500 exhibitors, including 330 that were new to the show. CES sprawled across 1.4 million square feet of exhibition space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Venetian and the Las Vegas Hilton.
CEA has been producing the convention since 1967, showcasing technology like the first personal computers, video games, portable media players and Internet-connected devices, to name a few.
Even with those technologies in mind, Oxman said the 2010 CES was the most innovative in the convention’s history. Twelve of the convention’s 23 Tech Zones – areas set aside to showcase products in specific categories – were new.
“More companies were showing new technology than ever before,” Oxman said. “There was a universal sense of optimism for the new decade. The technology industry really leads the way of recovery because people always want what’s next in technology.”
3-D was the “buzziest” technology at CES this year and was the focus of several keynote speeches and product announcements. From Sony to Panasonic to LG, almost every major TV and video manufacturer on the CES floor showcased 3-D technology front-and-center at their booths. Panasonic’s 3-D TV set took the top prize of Best in Show at the CNET Best of CES awards.
The technology was hyped at CES in recent years but the 2010 show brought announcements on dates, prices and partnerships. The Discovery Channel and ESPN announced this week they would launch 3-D channels in 2010.
“2010 is really going to be the year of 3-D,” Oxman said.
The CEA expects 4.3 million 3-D TV sets will be sold this year and estimated that 30 percent of all TVs would be 3-D-enabled by 2013.
“Yes, 3-D is going to be in the home, but I think 3-D is going to enter every visual display in the next five years,” RealD Founder John Greer said during a panel of 3-D experts at CES.
CES kicked off Wednesday night with a keynote from Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, who predicted the biggest year ever for its Xbox system.
Microsoft’s heavily anticipated Project Natal will go on sale in time for Christmas this year, said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment devices division. Natal is an add-on to Xbox 360 that works with a motion sensor, allowing gamers to control the action with their body movements, but was nowhere to be seen on the CES show floor.
There was also no sign of Microsoft’s rumored Courier tablet computer, which many tech publications had been writing about in their pre-CES coverage. Ballmer did show off a handful of e-readers and tablet computers running Windows 7, including examples from Pegatron, Archos and HP.
The e-reader was another popular first on the CES floor. Oxman said 23 companies displayed e-readers at this year’s show – and none showed them last year.
Among those showing off e-readers was Plastic Logic. Its Que e-reader is made of plastic, allowing it to be larger, lighter and more durable than those made of glass. Plastic Logic Chief Executive Richard Archuleta said Friday the Que took more than 10 years to develop.
Ford Motor Company executives unveiled their company’s latest developments in in-vehicle technology at Thursday morning’s opening-day keynote address. Dubbed “MyFord Touch,” the new system replaces standard gauges and buttons with high-resolution, LCD touch-screens.
It displays information using two 4.2-inch, color LCD screens near the speedometer and another 8-inch touch-screen in the center of the dashboard. Controls on the steering wheel allow drivers to switch between phone, entertainment, climate and navigation functions.
Connectivity was once again the over-arching theme during the 2010 CES and the focus of several technology executives’ speeches.
Intel President and Chief Executive Paul Otellini demonstrated how his company envisions home devices working together in the future: PCs and TVs are connected, while a central organizational panel controls and tracks the energy use of virtually every device in the home.
Otellini introduced Intel’s Wireless Display, which lets users transfer high-definition content from their PC to TV seamlessly with a wireless box. Otellini said Best Buy will have a selection of five laptops available with this capability this week. The Wireless Display helped Intel to pick up a Best of CES award in the People’s Voice category.
Other products picking up Best of CES awards were the Motorola Backflip, Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid, Eye-Fi, Dell’s Alienware M11x, the Valups Tivit, LG’s latest Blu-ray player and the PICOwatt plug.
Despite the increase in attendance, CES visitors found cheaper room rates than last year, a result of Las Vegas hotels slashing rates due to the weak economy.
Some CES attendees who have been attending the show for years noted the drop in room rates and lack of attendance compared to years like 2007 and 2008.
“There’s more amenities to go around. There’s more space on the convention floor, more rooms, more show and restaurant reservation spots,” said Joe Simonelic, an engineer with Phoenix-based Radio Datacom.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expected CES to inject $172 million into Las Vegas’ economy. That prediction was made when CES attendance was estimated to be at about 110,000.
The city will play host to 11 conventions with more than 25,000 people in the first quarter of the year, the top six of which are expected to draw 400,000 visitors and provide an economic boost of about $620 million.
Sun reporter Richard N. Velotta contributed to this report.