Reflections on CES 2008

I’ve just returned from CES 2008, my first time attending the largest consumer electronics trade show in the world.  My primary goal in attending was to get smart on technologies related to my new Forrester coverage area, mobile marketing.  My overall takeaway: it was a world of paradox.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the convention, yet underwhelmed by the dearth of ‘aha’ stuff on display.  You can get a quick recap of the good in c|net’s Best of CES; you can also find out more about the bad and ugly in Engadget and Gizmodo.  Walking the floor, you’ll find well-produced booths like Intel, Nokia, and Sony but transition quickly into what seems like a super-sized Best Buy, then into sections that seem like they took everything for sale on the long tail of eBay and put it on display.

The general storyline in play was paradoxically "more AND less."  More capacity.  Less physical space.  More processing power.  Less energy consumption.  More functionality.  Less environmental impact.  But what was missing was the breakthrough innovation I’ve associated with CES in the past – the most relevant announcement to me was Yahoo’s Go 3.0 and open mobile apps platform.

Here are some of the lessons I learned as a CES n00b:

  1. Having a bicycle rules.  Learning from the experience of Charlene Li, I rented a bike.  Getting to the LVCC was a breeze, judging by all the car traffic and tales of cab lines.  Riding at night seemed a bit more dicey, but still not so bad.
  2. It’s easy to underestimate distances and hard to get anywhere quickly.
  3. By the end of the day, the press room is a disaster.  I heard that the free lunch line was a spectacle and I was not disappointed – the one day I was camped out doing work through the lunch hour, people were queued 20 minutes before the buffet line opened and then kept streaming in from the hallway like two streams of roaches looking for food.

I’ve got three days in pictures up on Flickr; would love to hear your lessons as well.