CES 2009: bring it on


— 10:22 AM on December 23, 2008

Christmas is a scant two days away, yet I can't stop myself from thinking about what's coming in two weeks: it's not MacWorld! How many times do I have to tell you guys that I'm not an Apple zealot? No, I'm referring instead to CES 2009. From January 8 through the 11 in Las Vegas, gadgets, extravagant booths, and thousands of slack-jawed gawkers will come together for one of the most exciting trade shows of the year. Wait, now I'm thinking of AVN's Adult Entertainment Expo down the street—oh well, the description applies to both events!

I can't speak for Scott or Geoff, but for myself at least, the planning has already begun: what booths to visit, what swag to go for, and maybe most importantly, what suites to party in. Step one, however, is getting there. With Las Vegas only 280 miles away and gas prices back under the $2 mark, I'll be hopping in the car with a couple of friends and gumballing my way out there. The plan is to leave early in the morning of day one and arrive at the convention center just in time for the booth-crawling.

I've only done something like this once, and I'll be honest, it didn't turn out too well: I left at 3AM on the first day of the Game Developers Conference and proceeded to drive five hours to San Jose. Then, it was time for the show. I spent ten hours running between appointments, four more hours making appearances at parties, and a final four hours in my hotel room writing for deadlines. I was hating life. Thankfully, my schedule isn't nearly as demanding for CES 2009, so the morning road trip shouldn't prove too troublesome.

With my plans slowly coming together, here's a look at what I'm most looking forward to at the show:

  • Nokia's N97: I love Nokia phones—I'll admit it. Sure they're not perfect, but for my purposes I think they're the best handsets on the market. And if I can say it without my sanity being questioned: Nokia's new N97 is dead sexy, and I can't wait to get my hands on it at the show. Now if only it weren't so darn expensive.

  • Sony's PlayStation booth: We don't care about Home and we never will. Stop embarrassing yourself and show us something we actually want on the PS3, like God of War 3.

  • Next-generation Android handsets: If you follow this blog, you already know that I was less than impressed with T-Mobile's G1, the first cell phone powered by Google's Android platform. However, most of my issues lie with the hardware itself, leaving the door open for the next wave of handsets to blow me away. CES should reveal if my hopes are misplaced.

  • Netbooks: I'm still not convinced that a netbook is right for me, but I'm always open to new technology proving me wrong. With the netbook craze in full effect thanks to pioneers like Asus and MSI, I'm interested to see what some of the more mainstream PC vendors like Dell and Sony bring to the table.

  • Less expensive Blu-ray players: With Sony's Blu-ray as the only disc-based format left for high-definition content, there's never been a better time to get the price of entry down and get more consumers on board. HDTVs are finally within most shoppers' price ranges, yet a Blu-ray setup will still set you back around $300. Every month that Blu-ray players stay at that price point is time for streaming solutions from companies like Netflix to gain more traction.

  • The big surprises: The rumor train is going full steam ahead right now about some of the more interesting products that might be unveiled at CES. Stories about everything from a Zune phone to a Blu-ray drive for the Xbox 360 (that one just won't die) have been circulating the web, and we'll know soon enough who guessed correctly.

How many of you are planning on being part of the 130,000+ crowd that is expected to show up, and what are you most interested in? Some of the folks I'm going with have never been to CES (or any trade show) before, so in case there are any other first-timers out there, I've compiled some tips for the convention:

  • Make an itinerary: There are over 2700 exhibitors spread across 1.7 million square feet of floor space. Seeing everything isn't easy, so do yourself a favor and come up with a plan. It doesn't have to be a rigid schedule, but at least know where the exhibitors you want to see are located and plan a somewhat efficient order to visit them in. There's no sense in running back and forth between exhibit halls, let alone taking more cabs or shuttles than you need to.

  • Dress comfortably: Remember all of that floor space I just mentioned? Well don't expect to cruise between booths on a Segway. You'll be getting plenty of exercise, and unless you're meeting with some high-placed executives, don't bother dressing up. Most importantly, wear shoes that you can walk in for several hours. Just don't go too casual and show up in a wolf t-shirt and Birkenstocks with socks. Even at CES, you'll look like a dork.

  • Go to the Sands: It's worth it—trust me. Besides being home to the Innovations 2009 Design and Engineering Awards, there's a certain, other expo (that I've already mentioned) going on there that's at least worth glancing at.

  • Go to the Hilton: You've never seen so many cheap, knock-off products and cell phone accessories under one roof! You know that little cart at the mall with all of the faceplates and LED antennas for phones? Take that cart, and amplify it by about a billion. That's the Hilton's exhibit hall in a nutshell. For added discounts, go on the last day of the show when vendors are desperate to get rid of their remaining stock. Haggling is absolutely recommended.

  • Sustenance is key: Trade shows can take a toll on your body, so be sure to stay well-hydrated and nourished. Water bottles and granola bars are my recommended snacks, but the less healthy Snickers and Coca-Cola are always viable alternatives. Just don't let yourself starve for the sake of technology.

  • You don't need the swag: Put it down—it's crap, all of it! About the only good things I've taken home from CES in recent years have been the rare flash drive or two, and photos of my friend Eric getting tased at the Taser booth. Ah, memories. Even the really cool knight figurine I received from MSI (which seemed to have very little to do with electronics, but who was I to question?) broke after a week or two. Save yourself the extra bags to carry and suitcases to pack and just leave it at the show. Do you really need a Google frisbee? Well actually, that one was pretty cool.

That's it for now, campers. If you've got any requests for me at CES (booths to visit, questions to ask) leave a note in the comments, and as long as it's not going to get me arrested or beaten up, I'll see what I can do. Until then, enjoy the holidays and have a happy and safe New Year's!

   
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