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November 20, 2017

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CES 2009:

Cost-cutting behind CES attendance drop

Browser cam, Palm Pre among this year’s hottest gadgets


Justin M. Bowen

Show attendees walk past a display at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Sunday at CES

Show attendees file into the Las Vegas Convention Center in this 2009 file photo. Launch slideshow »

Faces at CES

Faces of CES Launch slideshow »

Mr. Gadget - Top Tech Toys

Mr. Gadget spent another day with the crew, this time on the various floors of the general CES Convention space. Steve Kruschen combs the entire convention to highlight his favorite tech toys. Here are just a few.

Mr. Gadget and Me

Steve Kruschen is an expert at interpreting new technological innovations for everyday consumers. Mr. Gadget took on a behind-the-scenes tour of the invite-only Showstoppers showcase to highlight his new favorite toys and explain how they can benefit consumers.

Beyond the Sun

The 2009 Consumer Electronics Show was packed with innovation, celebrity appearances and thousands of new gadgets. But one thing this year’s convention lacked was the attendance numbers of previous years.

The Consumer Electronics Association released preliminary attendance numbers Sunday night, estimating 110,000 visitors attended CES 2009, a drop of more than 30,000 visitors from 2008. Blame it on the ailing economy.

Despite the drop of more than 20 percent, organizers said they’re still happy with this year’s version of the country’s largest trade show.

“This year was a tremendous success,” CES spokesperson Sarah Szabo said Sunday. “We’re hearing from exhibitors that they got to meet with the people that they needed to meet with. We know that the average attendee holds 12 business meetings when they are at the show. This just reaffirms that CES truly make sense.”

The four-day conference featured 2,700 exhibitors from 140 countries, including 300 new to the show, showcasing more than 20,000 new products.

CES sprawled across 1.7 million square feet of exhibit space between the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Sands Expo and Convention Center, the Venetian and the Las Vegas Hilton.

But exhibitors and visitors both noticed the difference in attendance on the show floor.

Francis Murphy, a national sales manager for Pioneer Electronics, who has been at CES since its beginning, said his company brought substantially fewer people to CES this year because of high travel expenses and cost-cutting efforts. Murphy said many companies did the same.

“Obviously the attendance is down. On Thursday, the traffic was extremely light for an opening day; much lighter than I can ever remember,” he said.

Murphy said although attendance was down, he found companies still brought key dealmakers to Las Vegas.

“The meetings we’ve had have been very positive. Except for maybe one exception, everyone has had his or her meetings with us. I was very pleased with that," Murphy said. "I was thinking we would have more down time at this show but we’ve stayed very, very busy."

John Keuth, a director of sales for NXP Semiconductors, said his company was able to get more done with fewer people on the show floor.

“The attendance is not as crowded as it used to be and I actually found that more manageable. It used to be you couldn’t even walk through the halls. It wasn’t so overwhelming this year,” Keuth said. “I felt like we were better able to accomplish what we wanted.”

In the end, the slower pace at this year’s CES was all about saving money.

Mary Francia, chief executive officer of Serowires, a marketing and technology firm, said she found attendees tried to accomplish more in less time to cut cost.

“I’ve seen people who have only come for a couple days and leave rather than staying the whole time. It’s like you’re done in one day. Before, it wasn’t like that,” she said.

Many at CES this year emphasized connectability, and technology executives frequently hit on the topic of convergence across platforms in their sessions.

CES kicked off Wednesday night with a keynote speech from Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer, who announced the release of a testing version of Windows 7 to a packed ballroom. Windows 7 Beta became available to the general public Friday afternoon.

Ballmer announced a new partnership with Verizon Wireless that will add Microsoft’s search engine, Windows Live, to all Verizon cell phones. The company also is adding Flash support to its partnering mobile devices, giving users the chance to watch YouTube videos on their phones.

On the gaming front, Microsoft made announcements on the release of the cult favorite, "Halo 3: ODST."

Sony chief executive officer Sir Howard Stringer on Thursday unveiled the new Cybershot GCS-G3 Wi-fi camera, which allows users to stream content directly from their camera to social networking sites like Picasa and Flickr from any wireless hotspot.

Click to enlarge photo

Show-goers look over ultra-thin OLED televisions at a Samsung booth at CES Thursday in Las Vegas. Samsung unveiled OLED television prototypes with screens ranging from 14 to 31 inches.

The Sony executive also introduced a flexible, portable OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen that can be folded and put into a pocket, allowing users to watch TV and videos on the go.

3-D was a trend on this year’s exhibit floor.

Stringer brought on Pixar’s chief creative officer, John Lasseter, and DreamWorks Animation's chief executive officer Jeffrey Katzenberg to hype the 3-D trend. Lasseter announced the coming of “Toy Story 3” and “Toy Story 2” in 3-D, while Katzenberg gave the audience a sneak preview of DreamWorks’ new 3-D animated movie, “Monsters vs. Aliens.”

At Thursday evening’s keynote, Ford chief executive officer Alan Mulally invited Ballmer back to the stage to announce Microsoft’s enhanced Sync 3.0, which will roll out in more Ford vehicles this year.

Sync 3.0 will include a 911 Assist feature that will automatically dial local 911 operators at the sign of trouble without a driver having to dial a number. Vehicle diagnostic reports will be available online at, with scheduled maintenance, suggested service centers and recall information.

On Friday morning, Sync 3.0 was nominated for a CNET Best of CES award for best car technology.

Szabo said organizers noticed a trend in voice-operated GPS at this year’s show.

CES 2009 also marked the return of Palm with the Palm Pre, which swept the Best of CES awards, picking up Best Cell Phone and Smart Phone, the People’s Voice Award and Best in Show. Tech critics are calling the Palm Pre the breath of life Palm needed.

The Pre uses the Palm Synergy feature to bring a user’s Outlook, Google and Facebook calendars together in one view. It connects through WiFi hot spots and features an in-phone GPS.

Click to enlarge photo

Sony Vaio P-Series Lifestyle PC

Other product highlights included the 8-inch Sony Vaio Lifestyle PC (the mini laptop is the size of a business envelope), the LG Watch Phone, the Nvidia GEForce 3-D Vision, 3-D HDTV and the 1/3-inch thin, energy-efficient Plasma HDTV from Panasonic.

Products weren’t the only ones creating a buzz on the floor. CES 2009 was packed with celebrities, including appearances from Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Randy Couture and actors Jimmy Fallon and Tom Hanks, as well as musicians Usher, Akon, Soulja Boy Tell’Em, and Stevie Wonder.

Many celebrities and convention-goers spent late nights partying as several Strip hotels hosted special events in conjunction with the trade show.

CES came to a close Sunday night. As the largest electronics trade show in the world and the largest of any kind in North America, CES was expected to bring much-needed financial support to Las Vegas’ ailing economy.

The Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority expected the show to inject $204 million this year.

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