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What CES Shows the World

In the early iterations of the internet, back in the era of AOL, Yahoo!, and Altavista, there were two major events in the United States that defined the cycle of the annual calendar, business development, and were considered in product releases.  In March, Silicon Valley found it’s way to Austin, Texas, for SXSW, and to hear from and connect with visionary ideas, creatives, professionals, and brands in the then converging world referred to as Interactive.  And in January, preceding the trip to Austin, much of the internet found it’s way to Las Vegas, for the Consumer Electronics Show.  

In my time at Yahoo! and then HP, at the turn of the millennium, at least in my mind anyway, the 2 conferences were bookends to the period in the beginning of a year, when the world planned for the coming months and beyond; exploring the very real and future of consumer technology. Notionally, CES was the hardware and SXSW was where the digital transformation of the economy was being realized as those brands and technologies found their way to and through the internet.

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The Show for Consumer Electronics

In the news lately, have been headlines about both Yahoo! and SXSW and that, admittedly, has made me more than a little nostalgic. MediaTech Ventures’ and the work we do today, is very much so a result of the shared experiences that we all had in events culminating in SXSW and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. MediaTech’s Ted Cohen has shared those experiences, and whereas my past draws more from the digital transformation of the world to the internet, his spent more time with the consumer hardware, and innovations in technology that have evolved how we interact with media offline as much as on.

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The deal marks the end of Verizon’s effort to provide a digital media alternative to tech behemoths Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

Matthew Heller; CFO

This week comes a conversation on connecTed with Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association which owns and produces CES.

Known well these days by most of us, as one of the reasons we all end up in Las Vegas, NV, the first CES was held in New York City in June of 1967.  Upwards of 200 exhibitors, even so long ago, hosted 17,500 attendees with then, a look at the latest pocket radios and how integrated circuits were changing our experience with television sets.

CES was a spinoff from the Chicago Music Show (reminding us of the tremendous and pivotal role Chicago plays in our experience with music); before then, the Chicago Music Show was one of the primary events in the world for the consumer electronics industry. Motorola chairman Bob Galvin holds the distinction of the first ever keynote at CES and while the show found its way through a few cities in the years following, for a host of reasons Las Vegas has been the permanent home for almost 25 years.

Exhibitions such as CES contribute to a total global economic impact of about $325 billion in direct sales and create around 3.2 million jobs, according to a 2018 study from Christian Druart and The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and with the recent past going on as many as 2 years keeping us from getting together on the conference floor, looking into the stories of CES has me anxious for January 2022; this is our industry uncovered:

  • Videocassette Recorder (VCR)
  • Laserdisc Player
  • Camcorder and Compact Disc Player
  • Digital Audio Technology
  • Compact Disc – Interactive
  • Digital Satellite System (DSS)
  • Digital Versatile Disk (DVD)
  • High Definition Television (HDTV)
  • Hard-disc VCR (PVR)
  • Satellite Radio
  • Microsoft Xbox and Plasma TV
  • Home Media Server
  • Blu-Ray DVD and HDTV PVR
  • HD Radio
  • IP TV
  • Convergence of content and technology
  • 3D HDTV
  • Tablets, Netbooks and Android Devices
  • Connected TV, Smart Appliances, Android Honeycomb, Ford’s Electric Focus, Motorola Atrix, Microsoft Avatar Kinect
  • Ultrabooks, 3D OLED, Android 4.0 Tablets
  • Ultra HDTV, Flexible OLED, Driverless Car Technology
  • 3D Printers, Sensor Technology, Curved UHD, Wearable Technologies
  • 4K UHD, Virtual Reality, Unmanned Systems

Two conferences pulled the internet out of the internet: CES and SXSW

Douglas Emslie, CEO of the B2B Event Platform, Tarsus Group, “Trade shows are mission-critical in rebuilding the economy: they’re the number one platform for companies to sell and to source,” he says. “One of governments’ key aims should be to get trade exhibitions going again as soon as possible, to allow people to get back out, start buying and selling and get liquidity going in the market. They should be a key part of any economic recovery plan.”

Getting back to normal (that’s the last time I’m going to say that), the Consumer Electronics Show is going to again accelerate our awareness and adoption of new consumer technology; but it’s not just Emslie’s observation of rebuilding the economy that struck me as important to share with you, it’s appreciating that such shows play such a pivotal role in our economy. CES, and SXSW, 20 years ago serve to bring the internet out of Silicon Valley, so to speak, as people like myself crept out of the offices of places like Yahoo!, to visit Las Vegas and Austin. These conferences are benchmarks in time that serve to introduce and celebrate the progression and impact that technology has on what we do in media.

“Zoom calls work best when complemented by periodic face-to-face meetings. The industry convention is a great place to set up multiple client meetings,” Bill Conerly; Chairman, Cascade Policy Institute, with Forbes. “For many good sales programs, the booth on the trade show floor is minor compared to the one-on-one appointments made to existing customers who attend the show.”

CES 2021 was a fully digital event in collaboration with Microsoft Teams and featuring guests such as Billie Eilish and Ryan Seacrest and being virtual, at such a substantial scale, is in and of itself incredible, but it’s the impact of this show throughout it’s past that matters. One of the most anticipated technologies in 2016 was device charging without wires, something now commonplace with smartphones. 2011 witnessed 3D TVs while 1981 is when we first experienced Sony and Phillips’ CD Players. Microsoft found their way into gaming with their release of the Xbox, at CES, in 2001.

2022 should see us together again and we’re excited about what Las Vegas holds in store. Of course, your work as entrepreneurs, and in venture capital, with us, looks to CES with even more enthusiasm, given the revolutionary changes we’ve witness in media of late. It’s with that in mind that I’m looking forward to Gary’s conversation with Ted this week. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association and CES, a New York Times bestselling author, whose books include “Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation” (HarperCollins, 2019), “Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses” (HarperCollins, 2013) and with Mark Cuban, “The Comeback: How Innovation will Restore the American Dream” (Beaufort, 2011).

We have a lot to learn about the past, and the future, of consumer electronics, in CES. Join us Gary join Ted Cohen on connecTed and join us here, on MediaTech Ventures, as we venture into media technology.

Paul O'Brien

Silicon Valley technology and startup veteran, Paul O'Brien is affectionately known as SEO'Brien for an extensive past in the search industry. Today as CEO and Founder of MediaTech Ventures, O'Brien works in Venture Capital Economic Development, serving the investment and venture capital economies directly, through thought leadership, consulting, and startup development. More, a regional Director of the Founder Institute incubator and mentor in DivInc, Galvanize, and various startup Accelerators.

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