Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Tech show bucks global downturn

By Mark Ward
Technology correspondent, BBC News, Las Vegas


Cuddly toys that purr, birds to be shot and tiny pc virus scanners are among gadgets unveiled at CES

The global economic downturn has not put many people off attending this week's Consumer Electronics Show.

About 130,000 people are expected to travel to Las Vegas for the show.

The show is the highlight of the hi-tech calendar and is a showcase for top gadgets of 2009.

"It will be a bright spot compared to the uncertainty in the rest of the economy," said Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association that stages CES.

Better times

Consumer Electronics Association's Tim Herbert on the demand for home entertainment

Mr Shapiro said he expected the 2009 show to be among the top two or three in terms of attendees and exhibitors.

In 2008 attendance was slightly higher at 140,000 but, said Mr Shapiro, the number of exhibitors at CES had held steady despite the wider economic woe.

"I think we will see positive feelings there," he said.

The 2009 show will see more than 2,700 companies showing off their wares across more than 1.7m square feet of exhibition space.

It is not clear how positive these statistics are because most firms paid well in advance for their stand space - most long before the global economic slowdown made itself felt.


In previous years Microsoft founder Bill Gates has opened the show but in 2009 Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive, will take on the task, delivering the keynote which will kick off the show on 7 January.

With rumours of Microsoft about to announce significant layoffs the opening keynote could sound a sour note.

Bill Gates and Slash, AP
Bill Gates gave his last CES speech in 2008

But, said Mr Shapiro, the technology industry had survived many previous downturns.

"They always seems like the worst when you are experiencing them," he said. "But as a tech industry we are doing very well and people want to buy things and want to invest."

He predicted that the technology industry would do well during the downturn as companies look to innovative products, be they in software or hardware, to cut costs and help their employees do more with less.

"Industry leaders come because they want to see how the technology will be changing their business, he said.

Location, location

The show, said Mr Shapiro, reflected some of those larger themes with areas set aside for green products and those to do with sustainable development.

Other big themes for the show included a big focus on mobile video, location services via handsets as well as net access and broadcast technologies for cars.

Said Mr Shapiro: "The bottom line of it is internet on the go."

Alongside this will be exhibitors showing off technologies that unite many different technologies or that try to make familiar ones easier to use.

For instance, he said, CES will see firms showing off software and services that make it easier to get more out of a TV, camcorder or other handheld device.

"And," he said, "there are always bigger, brighter screens."

CES is well known as a showcase for new display technologies and the 2009 show is expected to see the appearance of many more Organic LED screens as well as many 3D TV and film technologies.

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