I'm back to work on my usual weekly appearances on The Bill Handel Show on KFI Los Angeles (Fridays at 7:50a) and The John Donabie Show on CFRB Toronto (Saturdays at 7:50a). This week the big topics are, of course CES and MacWorld Expo. CES, The Consumer Electronics Show, is wrapping up today in Las Vegas. It's big with 140,000 attendees this year (down from a peak of 150,000) and major media attention (NBC Nightly News broadcast from the show floor) but many attendees are complaining that there's not much to see of interest among the 2700 exhibitors filling 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space. In fact, I'm tempted to rename it the Craptastic Electronics Show.
In between all the cheap knock-off iPods, and stereo speakers made to look like garden rocks, there were some products of interest. Pioneer displayed a new Kuro 50" plasma TV that's only 9mm thick - thinner than an iPhone - but it's only a "concept." No word on whether they'll ever make it.
OLED TVs garnered interest once again this year. In fact, Sony is finally selling one. The 11" Sony XEL-1, just 3 millimeters thick, costs $2,500. Never mind.
Panasonic showed a 150" Plasma screen - the largest ever - but if you have to ask how much... you can't afford it. It requires a 747 to transport it and you'll have to take the roof off your house to install it.
The biggest news at CES happened four days before the show began. Movie studio Warner Brothers announced that it would stop making HD-DVD versions of its movies and deliver Blu-ray only from now on. This is seen as a death blow to the HD-DVD format - only Universal and Paramount will continue to offer HD-DVD titles and rumors were flying on the show floor that those studios might soon defect to the Blu-ray camp, as well. Microsoft which had planned to preview an XBox360 with built-in HD-DVD quickly pulled that announcement, and the HD-DVD press conference scheduled for CES was abruptly cancelled.
Bill Gates also gave his last keynote at CES on Sunday night. Gates is retiring from day-to-day operations at Microsoft in six months. His speech, as usual, contained little news, but did feature a funny video of his "last day" at work which featured Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Clooney, and Bono.
One of the biggest players in consumer electronics, Apple, stayed away again this year. Last year Apple's iPhone announcement in San Francisco completely overshadowed CES in Vegas. This year, MacWorld Expo is a week later, so while Apple's not stealing attention from CES, it does feel a little like we're waiting for the other shoe to drop.
After a lackluster show like this, with high hotel prices, impossible cab lines, and very little news to take home, I have to wonder how long it will be before CES follows its late brother, Comdex, into the tradeshow graveyard.