Is CES Slowly Going Away?

I myself have been going to CES for 5 years now. For ThinkComputers it is really the highlight of the entire year, we really don’t attend any other trade shows. We get to see the latest technology, new products and catch up with old friends, not to mention getting to spend a week in Vegas. Something really stood out to me this year during CES…it was very small! Also this year CEA (the company that runs CES) tried to kick out many exhibitors who opted to use hotel rooms instead of paying for a booth.

Where was everything?
If you were on the show floor at all you definitely had to notice it was smaller. There were completely open spots on the show floor! The North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, which normally is car audio, was almost completely empty! Apparently what was left of car audio was moved to the Palms, which not only is off the strip you can’t even take the monorail to get there. The Sands Expo at the Venetian, which usually held a lot of niche products and vendors, was not even used; take a look at our Sands Expo article from last year. Many large companies who normally have decent size booths either opted for a very small booth or had meeting rooms instead.

Another thing that bothered me were the press rooms, rooms specifically for press members that have free WiFi, computers, printers, etc. In past years the press room was a nice comfortable place to work, they even had free drinks and snacks. This year the only free drink in the press room was water and there were no snacks at all. Press lunches used to be a big buffet, now you get a lunch ticket and a boxed lunch. The computers in the press room were running Windows XP Professional. You’re telling me you can’t get a large company to sponsor the press room? A sign of the times I guess?

Another thing that many companies have done in recent years is use a hotel suite to show off products. From what I’ve heard on average a booth at CES costs around $75,000 – $100,000 depending on the size and that is just for the space. Then you have to pay for construction of the booth etc, bringing costs up even more. I couldn’t imagine what large companies that have massive booth’s pay for them, I would guess some pay upwards of $500,000 in total cost if not more! Because of the hefty cost many companies display their products in a hotel. Let’s just say on average a hotel suite costs $1,000 a night during CES, include food and some other expenses, you are still under $10,000 for all of CES. You can see why many companies are doing this.

CEA Kicks Out Companies
The CEA who runs CES does offer a hotel suite package. The official CES hotels are The Venetian and Palazzo. Each had specific CES floors that allowed companies to display products, and get their name listed on the official CES Venetian / Palazzo suite guide. From what I was told this cost was $8,000 on top of the cost of the suite itself. And there is a catch, you are not allowed to sleep in the suite, it is just for display purposes only. So companies have to pay $8,000, plus the cost of the suite, plus the cost for another room for their employees.

Many companies had no need to be listed on the CES guide and did not feel like paying the $8,000 to CEA, which is very understandable. So they just went ahead and booked a suite themselves making sure ahead of time that they were allowed to display products. Well apparently this year CEA was cracking the whip on companies that did this. All hotel staff was told if they saw products being displayed in rooms that were not official CES rooms to report it. I was in one such room being given a product demo when the hotel manager and security guards asked anyone not registered to the room to leave the room. Not only was this very unprofessional it was embarrassing for the company in the suite.

I also met with a company later in the week that was kicked out of the Palazzo. They told me that they called ahead of time and made sure they were allowed to display products and have meetings. When the hotel found out they were displaying products and having meetings during the week they were asked to remove to products, but for some reason were allowed to have a party that night. Maybe because the party was being catered by the hotel? The next morning the company was asked to leave the hotel and still pay for the 4 days they had the room booked, when they only stayed 2. Funny they did this AFTER the party that was catered by the hotel.

I personally know of 2 companies that were asked to leave their suites at the Venetian / Palazzo, but I heard of up to 30 companies being ousted from the hotels. Because CEA has a deal with the Venetian and Palazzo I guess they can do this, but it is very unprofessional and many companies have done this in the past without any issues. It makes me think that the CEA put pressure on the Venetian / Palazzo to kick out companies that did not pay their fee.

DailyTech and Hardware Secrets both have articles on their experiences getting kicked out of hotel suites while meeting with companies

So is CES Going Away?
I really hope that CES is not going away, but this year the show was noticeably smaller and there was all of the drama within the Palazzo and Venetian. This could just be a sign of the times, but I hope that the 2011 CES is much larger and more exciting. I think next year you are going to see many companies using other hotels for meetings rather than the Venetian and Palazzo.

I originally posted this at ThinkComputers, but I figured I would post it here as well.