Diary of a CES virgin

by Marc

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Believe it or not the preparations for the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas start well in advance of the January exhibition date. The decent hotels will sell out long before the end of the year and companies are already booking exhibition space.

Why mention this now? Well here at CG we’re going through the press registration process for CES 2008 and that reminded me that I made a few notes from my first CES in January this year. It was fun, but don’t let anyone kid you that it wasn’t hard work! On re-reading the notes it seems that we spent an awful lot of time just walking to where we needed to be, and it also looks like I have a slight pre-occupation with food! An unintentional insight into my personality I feel ;-)

Anyway, if you’re interested in what it was like trying to cover the world’s largest consumer electronics show with two people read on… (it might take a while to load though, there are a fair few photos)

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Saturday 6 Jan

This diary starts with 10 hours of boredom on a plane. Land at Las Vegas international airport, collect bags and get taxi to hotel. We land at about 1300, get to hotel around 1500 give or take. Turns out the hotel offers wifi to the rooms for a nominal fee, which we immediately sign up for.

1700 – After dumping kit in room and freshening up it’s time to find our way to the first event of the show – the “CES Unveiled” event.

1710 – Pick jaw up from floor. It’s my first time in Vegas and the CES unveiled event is at one of the more impressive casino hotels – the Venetian. If you’ve been there then you’ll know what I mean. If not, I’m not sure words alone can describe the scale of it. It’s big! First order of business is to *find* the convention center inside the Venetian (easy enough as long as you don’t get lost in the sea of slot machines!). Next job is to register our attendance at CES and pick up our press bags and badges.

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The Venetian…

1800 – Hit “unveiled” and head straight for the buffet – it was a long flight! After taking care of the body’s immediate needs we circled the show floor, seeing what was about. Took various product photos and collected some press info. Bumped into someone from LG who told us about the press conference tomorrow morning. Was unsure whether I’d be up for an 8am start though!

2300 – We find ourselves back in the hotel, writing up the day’s events and trying to work out when the last time we slept was.

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The “CES Unveiled” event
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Sunday 7 Jan

My body clock’s now well and truly wrecked so I wake up at about 5am. Doze and snooze for a bit, then come about 0630 I chuck some clothes on, kick start the body with breakfast at Denny’s and head to the show to check out the aforementioned LG press conference (0800 start). I’m queueing for about 15 minutes before that conference starts – it’s a busy event! They’re announcing the world’s first and only combined HD-DVD/Blu ray player which has got the assembled press buzzing.

0900 – I have found through necessity (My pen gave out) that taking notes on a laptop as someone is speaking is actually far preferable to trying to write them down longhand. I shall be using that method in future! Anyway the press conference is over and I spend the rest of the morning walking around the various floors and halls at the Venetian, trying to match my printed maps to the real world and getting a few bearings. I still get lost in the casino though, it’s just ways to lose money as far as the eye can see… There are wall to wall press conferences for the whole day if you want to attend but I figure that I’m better off trying to get my bearings for when things get really busy tomorrow.

1200 – Back at the hotel and I meet up with Al to discuss the day. We decide to head back to the Venetian as Al also wants to get his bearings. We decide to take laptop and camera too. We’re learning at this point that being anywhere without either is asking for trouble since you never know when you’ll need them. As luck would have it there are still some cookies and muffins left in the press room so at least that’s lunch taken care of! We also find out that we have to get vouchers to confirm attendance at the Gates keynote, which we duly collect.

1700. So we’re queueing in the line for the keynote. It’s a l-o-n-g queue. We eventually get seated about 1730 give or take, and then there’s some waiting around as the room fills before the keynote starts at 1830.

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The queue to get into the Gates keynote, after the other queue to register for it!…

2000. The keynote was set up like a rock concert – video screens, spotlights and a large stage up front. Shame Gates didn’t say anything particularly new really! The Xbox 360 TV stuff is very impressive but it’s all going to be service based so you’ll pay for the privilege. We go back to the press room to type up the keynote but it takes longer than either of us thought and they kick us out at 2100 when the room closes.

2110 – We’re lost! We took a wrong turn somewhere on the way out and ended up in Venice, watching a gondola punt down the canal under a clear blue midday sky as a band plays music to the people seated in the plaza. How surreal is that?

2200 – One thing the Americans know how to do well is cook steak and the temptation is too great. The notes I’ve made are on my laptop, so the plan is to type them up when we get back to the hotel and post using hotel wifi.

2330 – Disaster. The hotel’s wifi is dying under load. Even if you can get on to it, there’s no bandwidth to be had. After a futile couple of attempts to post the keynote we call it a night and crash about midnight.

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Monday 8 Jan

Up at 6am – mainly because body clock’s still bust. fire up laptop, connect to crappy hotel WLAN (because nobody else is stupid enough to be up at this time in the morning) and post initial keynote speech from last night.

0800 – Press room in the Venetian. I Wasn’t expecting this but it seems that they lay on food for us, so the day starts with coffee and bagels and we finish posting last nights stories using the press room wifi. There’s already a clash on our time as I’ve got a meeting booked at the same time as the MS / Toshiba press conference so we have to split for that.

0900 – hit the show floor. Al splits to take a cab to the MGM grand for the MS / tosh press conference while I walk around sands expo getting a feeling for what’s where and also trying to orient myself on the printed map that I have showing companies of interest! Find a few things to post about, chat to a few companies, take some photos.

1000 – Time for my meeting and demo with Trimersion. The company is having huge problems with interference from all the other wireless devices the show is full of. I walk away to give them some more time and walk the floor some more.

1020 – Back with Trimersion, still no joy on the wireless front so I get an abridged demo, ask some questions (actually quite a few) and get a press pack.

1100 – Back in the press room, digesting previous couple of hours. Download and process photos from camera (crop / resize for web) and make a few posts to CG covering morning’s products. Don’t let anyone tell you that posting a story is a five minute business – it can quite easily take 15 or 20 mins to get even a small post up to the site, by the time you count processing photos, researching web links and of course actually typing the words up.

1200 – Lunch arrives in the form of pallets full of boxes containing sandwiches. I grab one and meet up with Al to discuss his press conference and what we’re doing in the afternoon.

1300 – Walk halfway across the venetian to visit another company I had my eye on. They’re in the towers, which is a completely different set of suites on another floor. They are also having first day show problems (Logistical this time rather than technical) so arrange to meet tomorrow to get full demo.

1400 – having trudged back to where I started, I meet back up with Al to take shuttle bus to LVCC. This is to attend the CNET “Next Big Thing” session and also to reconnaitre the LVCC since neither of us has been there before.

1420 – LVCC is *big*. Get slightly lost (again) but manage to orient ourselves eventually!

1500 – It’s taken us the past 1/2 hour to find and walk to the meeting room. We’re not late (just) but it’s a busy session so we find one of the last seats in the back row.

1630 – More recon around the LVCC show floor. Find out that although car stereo section has great looking models there’s not a lot going on that would interest CG readers. Take a wander outside to see what’s happening in the tents across the road. Al’s hops finding gene kicks in and we find free beer at the concierge tent so decide to take the weight off our feet for a bit :-)

1730 – There were some stupid queues for the coaches back to the various hotels, but we seem to have struck lucky and there’s no queue for ours so although we get caught in the rush hour traffic we at least have a seat on the coach. Get back to venetian and immediately follow crowd of people over to the Wynn for “Showstoppers“. We only found out about this last night when it was recommended by one of Al’s contacts, so we don’t know what to expect.

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Inside the Venetian, on the second floor at about 9pm!

1930 – Yes, we’ve been on our feet for the past couple of hours. First the walk to the hotel, then the walk through the hotel (that’s not as insignificant as you’d think) and *then* stuck in registration queue for what seems like an eternity. Showstoppers is a pre-registered event but it seems like 200+ people (including us) have turned up hoping to get in on the door and the organisers are checking each and every one for eligibility. To top it all, the wifi they’re using goes down so the people on the door can’t check our details… Kudos to Al for persevering, I’d have abandoned hope about 20 minutes ago but we eventually manage to show them the site on a mobile phone(!) and they agree that we are qualified for entry and let us in. Next year we pre-register for this one!

2000 – It was worth persevering just for the food. When your hotel has gourmet chefs, even finger food is special but when they then put on a carvery… you can imagine! Unfortunately I’m starting to feel the effects of the day so I can’t really appreciate it. After all it’s over 12 hours since we got up and we’re still working. This isn’t a complete holiday – we’re here for a reason :-) Off to work we go, walking the floor to see what’s here. We do come across a number of cool things so we prepare the posts on the laptops ahead of time ready to post when we get some internet access back.

2100 – There must be something wrong with me. A waiter-propelled tray of the largest cookies I have ever seen has wandered past me, followed by similarly sized chocolate brownies and I don’t want any. All I want to do at this point is finish writing up the things I’ve seen so I can post them and get to bed.

2200 – Al agreed that we’d put in enough hours for today so we’re at the pub next to the hotel. We dissect the day over a drink and plan (or at least sketch out) tomorrow.

2300 – Back in the hotel, downloading photos of the day for processing into tomorrow’s posts (see, work never stops)

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Tuesday 9 Jan.

Once again I wake up at 0530 for some reason, so come about 0600 I get bored and start finishing off yesterday’s unposted content. It’s going to be a spread out day – I want to see asimo at the LVCC but I also have meetings at the venetian and the travel time is going to eat into the day.

0900 – Visit Neosonik to see if they’ve resolved their logistical problems yet. Nope, still waiting for kit :-( Time for me to get to LVCC to see Asimo.

1000 – I’ve been sat in traffic for 30 mins trying to get to LVCC from sands on the shuttle bus. It’s the monorail to get back I think

1030 – Asimo demo – Way cool! Busy too – I think this was one of the highlights of the show judging by the crowds…

1130 – Monorail worked but dropped us off at harrahs, which is yet another hotel I’ve not been in. So once again I get lost in a sea of slots on the casino floor looking for the exit to the strip.

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Crowds waiting to see Asimo strut his stuff

1200 – Meet Al for lunch at press room. Check site and discover incoming link from CESBloggers.com. Who are they we ask ourselves. Turns out that they’re an aggregator of – yes you guessed it – bloggers at CES! They work with the industry to help sort and filter relevant blog posts and it looks like they like us – thanks guys!

Anyway there’s mention of a get together at the Atomic testing museum later tonight – should be interesting. right now I need to write up Asimo though.

1600 – we’ve just come back to the press room from another tour of the Sands show floor and decided to walk to the museum. There are some posts in the bag, we’ll do those later.

1900 – So we’ve been walking for about 40 mins. To be fair Al was right on the money with his directions (unusually!) but possibly the distance estimation needed some work! Still, we’re here and given the state of the traffic we probably beat any cab we could have taken.

The museum is pretty cool, and there are also some interesting people to speak to. This shindig is partly sponsored by OQO so of course I get to have a play with one of those. I want, I want…

2100 – Turns out a few of the people we were chatting to headed over to “Bloghaus” at the Bellagio. We have no idea what this is but we attach ourselves to the party anyway and soon enough we’re enjoying beer and pizza at a suite reserved for bloggers. Boy do I feel old in this crowd! This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve not been working past showtime so we take the opportunity to kick back. Talk is about macworld (not that surprising given the demographic) and it looks like Steve has once again managed to redefine a product by putting OSX onto a phone.

0200 – Bed. I may have enjoyed the evening a little too much – we’ll see how I feel in the morning ;-)

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Wednesday 10 Jan

Up at 7, so an improvement on the time of day if not the number of hours slept. Fairly clear head too which is handy!

Full day at the show floor. Still the Sands, we’ve not even touched the LVCC in any depth yet. What to say – it was a lot of walking, a lot of photos and a lot of typing. Myself and Al split up to cover different areas but even so it was way to big to sensibly get everything that was going.

One thing we decided to do yesterday was not cover the press conferences. Those things eat into time like you wouldn’t believe – there’s an hour of “this is what we do” which includes a 10 minute segment on the thing that everyone’s there for. Interesting stuff and doubtless worth reporting on but with only two of us we can’t spare a person to spend his whole time going from press conference to press conference. Also, as you may have gathered by now this place is big so when two press conferences are scheduled back to back you’re physically not going to have time to get from one to the other.

1600 – I give Neosonik one last chance but they’re still having problems and the promised 5.1 audio and video fails to materialise. Ah well, these things happen – it would be a rare show when nothing went wrong!

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“Paris”, one of the other casino hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard

We decided to spend the evening walking the strip as we’d not actually seen any of Vegas yet and the day was exhausting enough without working into the evening too. Important note for non US residents – make sure you have photo ID with you at all time! Neither of us look like young whippersnappers but we still got turned away from Coyote Ugly as we’re not in the habit of carrying our passport with us…

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Thursday 11 Jan

0930 – after a relatively late breakfast we take a final walk around the show floor to see if we’ve missed anything. OK, so we’re slacking today by starting late – it’s the last day of the show and it closes early so a lot of people are already packing up. As it happens we did miss a few really neat things, so we collect press kits and take a few photos for the final posts. In fact I’m sure we missed more than a few things – the show floor seems to magically transform itself so that you keep wandering into new stuff, even though you think you’ve covered the isles before.

Lunch is a pretty poor affair this time – expectations were high from the previous few days to so only see the vegetarian option left was a real downer for me! We bump into Charlie from Gizmodo as we’re eating and swap stories about the show. It’s pretty much the end for us, once we’ve done these final few posts we can finally be “off duty” and go and enjoy ourselves!

1600 – The AVN show traditionally overlaps with CES and this year is no exception so we take a couple of hours to wander around prior to the blue men concert which marks our final night in Vegas. “Interesting” is the word of choice!

And that’s it for this year! Fun, exhausting and a huge learning experience for both of us. Even though I’d been hearing about the show for years I still wasn’t prepared for the scale of it when I finally got here. It looks like we managed to rack up nearly 50 posts from this event which isn’t bad at all for two people who were making it up as they went!

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