Vegas gadget show gets smaller

Sun Jan 4, 2009 6:09pm EST
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By Gabriel Madway

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Even amid the flash and sizzle of the world's premier showcase for consumer electronics, the reality of the economic recession will be hard to ignore.

With shoppers in a funk and companies scaling back, the annual Consumer Electronics Show extravaganza in Las Vegas this week is likely to be subdued, with fewer manufacturers, retailers and people expected in attendance.

The focus is likely to be on smaller, more connected and greener devices that can help consumers save on bills. That is a change from years past, when companies trafficked in excess, offering items such as massive 150-inch TVs that were beyond the financial reach of most consumers.

"In tough times, the emphasis maybe shifts from cool and neat to how do you make things work better," said NPD analyst Stephen Baker.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts CES, estimates that 130,000 people will attend, down from 141,00 last year. Hotel rooms in Las Vegas, usually scarce at this time of the year, can still be found.

The show's 2,700 exhibitors will be spread over 1.7 million square feet, a smaller footprint than last year's 3,000 exhibitors.

The tone will be different as well, with many tech companies focused on sealing sales rather than just making showy exhibits on the convention floor.

"A lot of companies are asking us for meeting rooms that haven't done so in the past," said Jason Oxman of the Consumer Electronics Association. "Companies are looking to do business at the show that they would otherwise do with individual customer visits."   Continued...

<p>People listen to a band in the lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center at the end of the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) January 7, 2008. REUTERS/Steve Marcus</p>