January 10 2011
by Todd Hixon

Rule The Air

CES 2011 is over, I write with relief as I await the plane home.  Observations follow; this is part 1 of 2.

It’s So Big!

Various reports put attendance at between 140,000 and 160,000, up from 120,000 in 2010.

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The display floor was so vast (36 acres) and crowded that it’s hard to find what you want to see, even to move.  I waited an hour to buy a greasy hamburger for lunch, 30 minutes to board the monorail or get a cab.  Every Starbucks had a line 20 deep.

Is CES just too big?  Should they bring back Comdex and split the show?  Problem is, the boundary between commercial and consumer electronics is gone.

Can CES be virtual?  A colleague argued that the exhibits are best experienced through engadget.  Most people spent 75% of their time meeting in hotels.  Could we can all just agree to be available for vid calls for a few days and skip the flight to Vegas, amusing as that city is?  Problem is, all the important people are there, and there’s no substitute for face-to-face and full dedication of time to the event.

AT&T Network Melts Down

Full dedication to the show was made easier by the abject failure of the AT&T wireless network in Las Vegas during CES: AT&T subscribers, including me, experienced dropped calls, failure-to-connect, and no data bandwidth from the moment they turned off airplane mode.  Ironically, I found myself texting with my Google friends, as texts worked best:  quite a throwback.  Verizon subscribers said their service was OK, and my Verizon wireless modem bore this out:  a bit slow, but kept working.

The 150,000 most important people in the global consumer electronics industry were mostly present.  AT&T already has a bad reputation for network quality.  Verizon is expected to announce its iPhone launch tomorrow.  And mobile carriers have transportable cell sites they can bring in for major events, as AT&T did at SxSW last year.

I’m amazed AT&T let this happen.  Verizon really does rule the air.

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