Tales Of CES: Everybody Tells Me CES Is A Mess

Next week will be my first CES. Over the past couple of months, when I talked with CES veterans, they all told me that CES is a horrible experience. And yet, I am still incredibly excited. I plan to take advantage of my fresh perspective on the show to share my experience over the next few days.

But first, let’s start with figuring out why everybody keeps telling me that CES is a mess. While CES has yet to begin, I can already feel its tentacular scope. I looked at the official map of the event, and I had no idea that there were multiple areas, starting with the well-known Las Vegas Convention Center and its surrounding buildings — but that’s just Tech East.

According to this map, you can find most of the big names in Tech East. These companies, from Samsung to Intel, LG and Sony — they have been around for decades. But you can also find recent mainstream successes, such as GoPro and Monster.

The other area is… Tech West, of course! Sand Expo’s map is very different. There are hundreds of little booths cramped together in a gigantic space. I can already hear the overwhelming sound of all these booths in my head.

But Tech West is one of the reasons why I’m still excited about CES. I spent a few minutes looking at the map, recognizing startup names and even companies that I didn’t expect to see in Vegas (like Yo). Some are already getting all the media love they deserve, but I don’t know many of these companies. And I can’t wait to learn more about what they do.

I also recognized a lot of French startups (Lima, ISKN, Smokio, Prynt, Prizm…). As I wrote last year, I’m very optimistic about the French startup scene. I’ll be sure to go out of my way to meet the French startups.

Monday is the press day, with all the big companies hosting keynotes, from Samsung to Qualcomm, LG and the rest of the family. It seems to be a different kind of beast compared to the trade show experience that I expect from CES. And apparently we have to line up for hours to attend. Last year, I watched a couple of keynotes, and I can tell you that having to wait a couple of hours to see a company introduce a washing machine on stage is not really exciting.

Next week, TechCrunch will also be hosting its own Hardware Battlefield to showcase a few companies that haven’t launched their products yet. They all have been hard at work behind the scene to pitch on stage and in front of a few panels of judges. Putting the spotlight on these hustling startups seems essential to prove that you don’t need an outrageous CES budget to shine.

And then, I learned about the puzzling CES jargon. Unveiled, Showstoppers and Digital Experience are some sorts of evening events. I have no idea how it is different from the regular booths during daytime, but it should be fun. Right?

I get why everybody keeps saying that CES is a mess. It is a gigantic event with some utterly uninteresting product launches (TVs! washing machines! fridges!). I realize that I will spend a disproportionate amount of time walking from one end of a hall to another. Apparently, there is also a nontrivial chance that I will see a dead bird before the end of the show (because there was a now posthumously famous dead bird last year, and it’s basically the only thing that my colleagues remember from last CES).

And my email inbox has been smashed by an avalanche of pitches. And there are press conferences happening at 8:45am, while other things like the “Digital Experience” end at 11pm. And I’ll probably get sick.

Yet I am still extraordinarily excited. My CES experience won’t consist in chasing some big company’s latest flagship phone — this part of the show doesn’t catch my attention. Instead, I’ll get to talk with young and scrappy entrepreneurs who built some crazy device with a team of three. It has never been cheaper to build hardware prototypes — and that’s definitely what makes CES exciting today.

Read my other posts in the Tales of CES series.

Photo credit: Intel under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license