Techno geeks will converge on Sin City this week for a taste of gadget heaven. The Consumer Electronics Show will likely draw more than 126,000 people to Las Vegas, from opening previews on Tuesday through valiant last stands on Sunday.
As we noted in our earlier preview, CES (officially called the International Consumer Electronics Show 2011) is a huge extravaganza that will have the latest trendy products from connected TVs to smart grid monitors. VentureBeat writers Dean Takahashi and Devindra Hardawar will cover the show from beginning to end.
It is a bellwether for the tech economy and it is a place where companies have to appear if they want to be perceived as cool. The show floor will span 1.5 million square feet, up from 1.44 million a year ago. Last year’s attendance was 126,641, and this year the organizers expect more people. The exhibitors on the show floor will number 2,500, but that doesn’t include all of the companies showing off stuff in hotel suites.
The show will likely be a manifestation of growing optimism that the economy is slowly but surely pulling out of the recession. Bring your comfortable shoes, use a backpack with wheels, and try not to stay out too late at the parties. If the parties are what you care about, check out the Karennet party list. Here’s how we expect the news to unfold:
Tuesday: Lots of embargoed news will break on Monday and Tuesday as marketers try to steal each other’s thunder and catch some early buzz. The event officially kicks off on Tuesday afternoon with a press-only CES Unveiled reception, where scores of companies that have won innovation awards will be the first to show off. The Consumer Electronic Association will likely update its forecast for 2011; the industry is expected to grow U.S. revenues by 3 percent in 2010.
Wednesday: Press Day at CES will have press conferences galore, starting LG Electronics at 8 am through Sony at 4:45 pm. This year, the computer companies have jockeyed to get their own press conferences into the line-up. Intel, Nvidia and Microsoft have wiggled their way into the rooms at the vast Venetian Hotel conference center. During the day, you can expect to see lots of new tablets aimed at stealing the limelight from Apple’s iPad, but Apple, which does not exhibit at the show, will likely cast a big shadow over everything on display at CES. The iPad 2 is expected to be announced later in January.
There will also be smartphones and connected TV announcements, with much attention focused on apps running on TVs. Glasses-free 3D TV will also make a showing. Google’s Android will power a lot of new gadgets, but most will probably have to wait for the arrival of the Honeycomb version of the operating system. A lot of the smartphones will feature cool dual-core ARM chip designs from a variety of vendors, but there will likely be challengers to ARM’s supremacy. In the late afternoon, Motorola is expected to show its 10-inch Android-based tablet.
At 6:30 pm, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer will give his usual opening keynote speech in the Las Vegas Hilton on the same stage where Elvis Presley used to dazzle audiences with his gyrating hips. This preshow keynote was traditionally held for Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, but Ballmer has assumed the podium in the past few years. A year ago, Ballmer held up what was the biggest vaporware of 2010: a Windows-based tablet from Hewlett-Packard. After the iPad debuted, HP went back to the drawing board, acquired Palm, and started readying its WebOS-based tablet, which could debut at the show. This year, the press is betting that Ballmer will talk about a version of the full Windows operating system that can run on ARM-based gadgets. And it’s likely that Ballmer will wax on about smartphones and tablets, again. I’m looking forward to any comment Ballmer makes on sales of this season’s big hit, Microsoft’s Kinect motion-control system for the Xbox 360. Pepcom will close the day with one of many huge parties with its invite-only Digital Experience party at Caesar’s Palace.
Thursday: The exhibit floor will open and we’ll see keynotes from Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg and Audi chairman Rupert Stadler. Seidenberg will give an update on Verizon’s FiOS fiber-based broadband network expansion while Stadler will talk about the connected-car trend. Boo-Keun Yoon of Samsung displays will deliver an afternoon keynote. Press events will be held by Skype, Dell, Verizon Wireless and others. The invite-only Showstoppers party at the Wynn hotel will feature hundreds of new products. One of the highlights will be an update from Verizon Wireless on its 4G (next-generation cellular) network, but it’s anybody’s guess as to whether it says anything about a Verizon iPhone or iPad.
Friday: A three-way keynote will kick off the day with Cisco CEO John Chambers, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns speaking. Ford CEO Alan Mulally will talk about the latest advances in computerized cars using Ford’s Sync system. Show chief Gary Shapiro will interview Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, about a range of policy issues, from Net Neutrality to the Comcast-NBC merger to the allocation of more spectrum for wireless communications. An afternoon panel will focus on entertainment technology.
Saturday: We’ll finally get a breather from announcements and get our chance to walk the floor and do interviews. Everybody will be tired at this point from lack of sleep and sensory overload, so don’t expect us to be able to form coherent sentences. Still, we’ll be on the lookout for quirky and cool products that have been lost in the noise.
Sunday: VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar may be the last visitor on the show floor at this point. If you can survive this long, it’s actually not a bad day to walk the empty floor and see some products up close.