Gadgets galore inject energy into CES

www.wsj.com – It wasn’t long ago that consumer electronics companies seemed stuck in a funk, searching vainly for a new megahit like high-definition TV. Salvation has come instead from an explosion of “mini-hits,” and mobs of companies crowding into the gadget market.

The results will be on display this week in Las Vegas, at the behemoth trade show that most people call the Consumer Electronics Show—but which organizers insist on calling the International CES, as a sign of its broadening audience.

And broadening it is. Despite little overt participation from tech rock stars like Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. , last year’s show drew a record 160,498 attendees, up 5% from the prior year.
With preshow registrations strong and a waiting list for eager exhibitors, another record seems a strong possibility for the show, which formally opens Tuesday and closes Friday.

“I don’t know when I’ve ever felt so optimistic about our show and our economy,” said Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association, which organizes the show.
Part of his confidence comes from products that only recently reached consumers, including flying drones, smartwatches, 3-D printers, wearable health and fitness devices, home robots and Internet-connected video cameras.

Mr. Shapiro’s association says that the emerging-products category, which generated $1.7 billion in revenue in the U.S. in 2013, tripled to $5.2 billion in 2014.

Another factor is the participation of new companies. While CES has long been linked to familiar brands like Sony Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. , many startups have used crowdfunding and other techniques to jump into the gadget business. A special CES zone for such companies, called Eureka Park, is expected to feature 375 exhibitors, up 59% from last year’s show.

Other specialty zones will focus on topics like consumer robotics—with 18 suppliers expected to turn up—and a gathering at the Aria hotel called C Space that is targeted at marketing, advertising and other content-related companies. Senior ad execs from Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. are scheduled to give keynote speeches there.
One of the most active areas at CES for the past few years has been automotive electronics. The chief executives of Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG are taking two of four main keynote speeches at this year’s events, while many car makers and their suppliers plan to show off new options for vehicle entertainment and navigation.

Another industry megatrend called the Internet of Things—a catchall term for adding computing and communications capability to all kinds of everyday devices—is expected to feature prominently in the other keynotes by the chiefs of Samsung and chip maker Intel Corp. More than 900 companies in the category are expected to exhibit at the 2015 CES.
One key reason companies attend is the heavy media presence. Some 6,000 reporters attended the 2014 show, according to the CEA’s audited figures.

Don Clark
“Gadgets Galore Inject Energy Into CES”
www.wsj.com
January 4, 2015

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