The Hidden Oddities of CES

Standing on the long cab line outside the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) at this year's Consumer Electronics Show afforded me plenty of time to ponder a number of things — Las Vegas, the trade show, CES's apparent success, the likely comparison to the lack of success (I won't say failure) of Comdex, and, last but not least, why in the world I had to wait two hours for a cab.

With at least 110,000 attendees (a conservative estimate, I think), CES was a bona fide success. But on the way to making a splash, it left many confused, frustrated, and sometimes angry attendees to contend with everything from general overcrowding to a labyrinthine floor layout to the aforementioned two-hour cab lines.

So why the long lines? Well, as one cabby after another explained to me, no one wants to make a pickup at the LVCC, drop the person off at a hotel, then return to the convention center with no fare.

Instead, drivers shuttle vacationers and, as the evening wears on, show attendees, among hotels, leaving thousands stranded at the LVCC. It gets to the point where you'll count maybe two taxis every 20 minutes. There are shuttle buses, but the lines for them are also very long, and the routes have so many stops that the commute back to a hotel can burn at least an hour.

My advice to Mayor Oscar B. Goodman: Fix this before next year's show or deal with the absence of conventioneers like the one who told me he's never coming back.

Lost in the Labyrinth

The show floor was a mess as well. There were signs aplenty, but they did little to keep you headed in the right direction (none included arrows).

Booth numbers, which ran from 7,000 to over 27,000, often seemed to go up and down at the same time as you'd walk in one direction. Hanging signs would indicate you were heading in the right direction for the next section of booths but told nothing about what lay beyond.

Finding your way through the grid layout, with numbers seemingly running arbitrarily throughout, was difficult. If you needed to find booth 11,017, for instance, the banners were of no assistance. The signage could make you long for a Los Angeles freeway.

Striking Differences

Frustrations aside, you can't argue with success; the difference between CES and fall Comdex was startling.

Back in November, my suspicions of trouble were confirmed when an announcement over the Las Vegas airport speaker system proclaimed we were attending "year one for a new Comdex," going on to explain that the show covered seven areas important to Information Technology (IT) pros.

Immediately following that, booming laughter came over the system. The guffaws were part of an unfortunately placed promo for a Vegas comedy club, but the effect was to mock Comdex. The show coasted downhill from there. But getting from booth to booth and between the LVCC and any other Las Vegas local was a breeze.

CES was a different story. I squeezed through hundreds of people crowded around LCD and plasma flat panels and DLP projectors at booths hosted by Daewoo, Philips, Sharp, and others, and I noticed that people seemed unable to get clear looks at any of these 35- to 45-inch images from more than 10 inches away.

Everyone was looking at these things, so I decided to haunt the outer edges of the show — which was so big it filled the South, Center, and North Halls and countless meeting rooms — in a quest for other cool products.

It was a good move. Here's some of what I found.

Looking Glass Video

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