It’s time for CES, the orgy of electronic gadgets and tech doodads in Las Vegas. There is nothing so American as this trade show. Can you ever be rich enough? Skinny enough? Can your TV ever be big enough? “No” is the resounding answer, played on thousands of speakers in four convention halls for the entire week.
Don’t think of it as a trade show. Think of it as Bumbershoot. It’s just as big, crowded, slow to navigate and loud. I covered CES as a tech reporter for The Seattle Times in the early ’00s, and again in the ’10s. My best friends were a backpack and sneakers. (And I never wear sneakers to work.)
The show started in Las Vegas Tuesday night with the keynote, which is traditionally given by Microsoft’s chief executive. The big news this year is that Microsoft chose not to offer Steve Ballmer for the keynote. The company wanted to focus on holding its own product-launch events. (Another sign that Microsoft wants to be more like Apple.)
But Ballmer showed up anyway, according to Brier Dudley, a tech reporter for the news side who is in Vegas. Microsoft and CES — they’re the couple that broke up and keeps getting back together. It’s cute.
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Some of the new products shown here will be relentlessly hawked to holiday shoppers in late 2013. It is a monument to consumerism, and innovation. CES is where I saw my first high-def television. My first thumb drive. The first iPhone case that could also open beer bottles.
But most of the hype you will read this week is hot air. I saw high-def televisions in 2002, but it was several years before they became affordable for a middle-class family. Two years ago the show was all about 3-D TVs, and I doubt most families are ready to chuck their flat-screens to wear sunglasses in their living room. I’ll be glued to the coverage like a geek anyway.