On my way to CES

by Steve Blum • ,

The first official CES events are today. There are a couple of CEA press conferences about the state of the industry, then at 4:00 p.m. CES Unveiled begins. It’s the first of three PR group gropes. Tomorrow evening is Pepcom and Tuesday is Showstoppers.

All three follow pretty much the same format. They set up a ton of small display stands in a big ballroom, lay out some food and set up a bar. The place is packed with company PR people and, frequently, executives, reporters and analysts. I’m in the latter category these days, although in my years at CES I’ve filled all of those roles at one time or another.

These three press events are time well spent. In a couple of hours, I can see dozens of start-ups and new products and talk to people who can talk intelligently about company plans and strategies and answer questions about core technology. That’s priceless. Out on the show floor later in the week, booth staff stick pretty close to their sales pitches – that’s why they’re there, after all – and it’s often difficult to find people who are both authorized and able to talk about something else.

Monday is the official press day, but that’s becoming less and less valuable as time goes on. It’s packed with people and most of the companies do a bland presentation and take few, if any, questions. But it’s still a good chance to get a handle on a company’s positioning, particularly when you compare what they’re saying (or not) this year to what they’ve said in past years.

There’s a track of broadband sessions going on at the same time, plus Showstoppers is starting an afternoon beauty pageant for start-up companies and investors. You have to make hard choices at CES: there are a lot more good things to see than there are hours in the day. My tentative plan is to start Monday at the convention center, sit in on a couple broadband sessions, then grab a shuttle bus over to Mandalay Bay for the rest. I’ll finish the evening at Pepcom’s event at the MGM.

I’ll blog and tweet some updates as I go, while vacuuming up as much information as possible for posting later this week and next. The fun is about to begin!