Reporter’s Notebook: Reflecting on 2014 CES
How Was Your Day?
Friday afternoon, McCarran Airport. The International CES ends today. Some bitter-enders are still at the convention center, but for me, the show is over. With a mixture of relief and regret, I toss my press pass into a recycling bin. As I wait for my boarding call, I pull out some notes, trying to make sense of what just happened.
Day 0. Sunday is the day before Press Day. On an otherwise calm afternoon, fury is unleashed at CES Unveiled. Jacked up on Red Bull and Mountain Dew liberally supplied by their editors, 10,000 news reporters jam themselves into a ballroom (occupancy: 539) to get a scoop. It’s a war zone in there. Personal injury attorneys have booths out in the hall ready to bring justice to the injured. I do not get a scoop; I am devastated. However, I think I can sue the Peoria Journal Star for a neck injury.
Day 1. Monday is Press Day, an entire day given over to stroke the egos of the press. We stream into ballrooms and listen to one press presentation after another. Some events are extremely professional and informative, others not so much. Between events, the press loves to gossip about new products and which companies have their act together. In some cases, the act is not together. The phrase “pulling a Michael Bay” enters the lexicon. Google it.
Day 2. Tuesday is the official start of CES. It is very exciting but also kind of a letdown for the press. Yesterday, we were special press people with badges. Today, we are just schmucks with badges. It is hard for me to get any work done; the band members of Lynyrd Skynyrd keep calling, begging me to jam with them at tonight’s concert (courtesy of Klipsch) at the Hard Rock. I rebuff them and tell them that frankly, people are getting tired of hearing “Sweet Home Alabama.” Also, I tell them that “Freebird” goes on just way too long. Wait a minute. That is crazy talk. That never happened. Or did it? CES does strange things to the mind.
Day 3. Wednesday is my day to actually see the show. The hard news has all been covered, so I have time to explore. I stop dead in my tracks. I see the coolest thing ever. It is a Whirlpool refrigerator with a CoolVox sound system—complete with a built-in Harman Kardon amplifier and loudspeakers, and Bluetooth. This fridge is the Tangerine Dream of appliances, the Fiona Apple in the eye of every chef, the Cream in the coffee of everyone waking up, as refreshing as an Ice Cube on a hot day, as much fun as Smashing Pumpkins, as delicious as Black Eyed Peas, as tasty as Korn. Whirlpool executives refuse to confirm, or deny, speculation that the ad campaign for the new CoolVox refrigerator will feature Meatloaf.
Day 4. Thursday is another floor day. In addition to all the products, hopes and dreams are on display. The convention hall is vast, with giant pavilions, each with a lineup of a hundred earbuds. At the far end of the hall, a guy is sitting in a tiny booth with three earbuds hanging from wire hooks. He’s here at CES because he thinks his earbuds are really good. What are the odds of him competing against a hundred other established earbud companies? When Steve Jobs and Woz started Apple in their garage, what were their odds? Who knows, but he’s here with his earbuds, determined to succeed.
Day 5. Friday is the final day. I could go over to the show for a final lap, but I decide not to. It’s been a long week. I head to the airport. They are boarding Zone 1. I am Zone 3. Perfect. Just enough time to get my hotel reservations for CES 2015.