Why CES Remains Relevant

on January 5, 2015

As the run up to this week’s CES takes place, I have read a number of comments from pundits on how much they hate CES or how irrelevant CES is in general. While I understand why many don’t like attending CES, the truth is that it remains one of the most relevant industry shows from a business perspective.

What many pundits and media often forget is CES is not really designed for them. The real audience for this show is retail buyers. While the public showings of products that may or may not be released is quite a spectacle, it is the parts of the show that happen behind closed doors which makes CES the place to do business.

Retail executives and the buyers for major retail outlets all get to see much more robust and unreleased product road maps for 2015. We have a saying amongst analysts: “They coolest things at the show are not found on the show floor”. This speaks to the business nature of CES and why it remains relevant. Whether vendors, media, or buyers enjoy the show is one thing. But the bottom line is business gets done at CES and, as long as that is the case, it will remain relevant.

For me, CES sets the trends. The trick here is to know what you are looking for. I attempt to find the diamond in the rough. The company or two who is doing something truly unique that could signal a major trend coming. For the past few years, it has been low end tablets I’ve watched closely at the show. Recently, new innovations around connected products have taken shape. CES last year is where I found the examples of the connected bed, tennis racket, basketball, and more. It was then I started articulating how IoT will manifest itself when connectivity becomes embedded into more every day objects. Similarly, CES has a somewhat hidden corner of only Chinese Shenzhen manufacturers. Here I see and talk to the innovative and potentially disruptive members of the China tech ecosystem. Getting to see and chat with those who are on the ground in Shenzhen and hearing from them what trends are driving the Chinese manufacturing landscape gives us great insight into hardware products that are right around the corner.

It is true CES generates a great deal of buzz around a host of products which may never see the light of day. The trick is being able to cut through all the noise and find the products that can truly impact the landscape. CES is still the show to find these things. Tech vendors from all over the world come to CES and scratch and claw to try and get the attention of a buyer who may order their products en masse.

Predict all you like that CES is going to die but I don’t see it. More importantly, neither do those who come every year and place millions of dollars worth of orders for products to carry in their stores.