Monday, Jan. 10, 2011 | 2:10 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show was packed with innovation, the latest in gadgetry and thousands more visitors than the convention has seen in recent years.
If there’s any indication that Las Vegas convention attendance is returning to its pre-recession glory, one of the city's largest annual conventions might be it.
This year’s CES hosted an estimated 140,000 attendees, an increase of about 14,000 visitors from 2010, according to preliminary attendance numbers released Sunday night by the Consumer Electronics Association. Attendance this year also beat early projections by the CEA.
This year’s show brought about 30,000 international visitors to Las Vegas, a record for the convention.
“There was a sense of recovery in the air at CES," said Jason Oxman, senior vice president of industry affairs at the CEA. "Companies are feeling more optimistic about the prospective of economic recovery. There’s just an incredible level of innovation happening in our industry and the entire technology segment wanted to be here to experience that."
The four-day event, which wrapped up Sunday, featured more than 2,700 exhibiting companies showcasing an estimated 20,000 new products. CES sprawled across 1.6 million square feet of convention space, up about 14 percent from 2010, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas Hilton and Venetian.
The CEA has been producing the convention since 1967 and has chosen Las Vegas as its host city since 1978. CES is the world’s largest technology expo, drawing thousands of companies to showcase their latest and greatest innovations. The VCR was one of the first breakthrough technologies introduced at the show in 1970, with more recent product releases including the Xbox, Blu-ray and HDTV.
Even with those technologies in mind, Oxman said this year was one of the convention's most innovative yet.
"From our perspective, the level of innovation and enthusiasm on display this year was unprecedented in the show’s history," he said. "There was a pervasive sense of optimism and enthusiasm about the industry in 2011 and about the pace of innovation."
While 3-D TVs have hogged the spotlight for the past two years, tablet computers stole the show this year. Oxman said more than 80 new tablets were unveiled at this year’s show from companies like Toshiba, Sony, Samsung and BlackBerry. The Motorola Xoom tablet took the top honor of Best in Show at the CNET Best of CES awards Saturday.
The Xoom will be the first to run on Android 3.0, also known as Honeycomb, which Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg announced in his opening day keynote address Thursday. It's expected to hit the market in February.
The CEA expects tablet sales to total 30 million this year, nearly double the number from 2010. But a tablet announcement was noticeably missing from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s annual keynote.
Ballmer quietly kicked off the 2011 CES with a handful of small announcements, but they weren’t the major product releases tech bloggers and writers had been teasing for weeks.
There was no talk of Microsoft’s plans to compete with Apple or Google TV, no Windows 8 release and, most notable, no announcement on the company’s plans to enter the tablet market.
Instead, the bulk of Ballmer’s talk focused on recapping the company’s success over the past year.
“2010 was a very, very exciting year for our customers. We launched the Windows 7 phone, Office 2010 and Kinect,” Ballmer said. “With the amazing success of Windows 7, it’s truly been a year like no other.”
Ballmer did announce that subscriber services Netflix and Hulu Plus will be coming to Xbox 360’s Kinect, a motion sensor device that will allow users to scroll through movies and TV shows with a wave of their hand.
On Friday, Ford Motor Company executives unveiled the company’s first-ever zero emissions, electric passenger vehicle. Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally presented Ford’s electric Focus, which he claims charges faster and gets better mileage than its competitors.
Other products picking up Best of CES awards included the Nintendo 3DS, Samsung’s BD-D7000 ultra slim home theater system, Razer’s Switchblade portable gaming laptop, Vizio’s Google TV-enabled XVT3D6SP series and the Motorola Atrix 4G smart phone.
Smart phones were once again a hot trend on the show floor, but this year was all about 4G.
Verizon, Google and Motorola executives announced Thursday the first smart phone to run Android 3.0: the Motorola Bionic. Executives said the phone will be available later this year.
Sanjay Jha, the chief executive of the newly formed Motorola Mobility, called the Bionic the "end of waiting” phone, with the ability to download music in seconds and no delays in video conferencing, thanks to the phone's two cameras.
But technology wasn’t the only thing creating a buzz on the show floor. Lady Gaga had fans and convention attendees flocking to the Polaroid booth Thursday afternoon, some waiting for nearly two hours for the eccentric singer. Gaga introduced Polaroid’s Grey line, which includes a portable photo printer, a pair of camera glasses and the rebirth of Polaroid’s instant camera.
CES brought a slew of other celebrities to the show, including rappers Common and 50 Cent, “Entourage” star Adrian Grenier, Barenaked Ladies and Earth, Wind & Fire.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expected CES to inject $118 million into Las Vegas’ economy. That prediction was made when CES attendance was estimated to be about 126,000.
In previous years, CES has typically only been open to technology industry professionals, but for the first time in its history, the show opened to the public on Sunday, giving Las Vegas residents and visitors a glimpse inside the technology frenzy.