You Think Macworld's Big?

Las Vegas is a big place. Hotels are several blocks long, many with replicas of some of the greatest (and largest) engineering feats of humankind. Cab lines snake longer than Disneyland rides. And just the leftovers from the enormous buffets could feed all extras in “Troy,” “Braveheart,” and most of Cecil B. DeMille’s epics put together.

But the Consumer Electronics Show (aka CES) puts the rest of Vegas to shame. I’ve been to the National Association of Broadcasters trade show here many times before, and I thought I knew what big was. CES, however, is ginormous — so big, in fact, it needs a silly, made-up word to describe it. CES takes up every inch of the South, Central, and North Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Companies like Samsung erect what can only comically be called booths, which resemble small cities in both size and complexity. The show spills out into the parking lot, where inflatable structures make room for more exhibitors, a Gibson guitar tent complete with musicians playing Ramones songs, and fake ski ramps launching snowboarders into the air. The Las Vegas Hilton (which is connected to the Convention Center) houses even more sights and sounds, and there’s a shuttle outside the Convention Center to take you over to the Alexis Park, another hotel, for 200 more pro audio companies. A hall filled with nothing but car audio vendors, and so much thumping bass it makes your bowels rumble. And don’t forget the people — roughly 140,000 people come to Vegas to show off, see, buy, film, and write about everything at the show. And every single one of them seems to be directly in front of you when you want to walk somewhere, talk to a vendor, buy some lunch, or use a restroom.

Now imagine trying to see everything in one day, and you’ll understand how utterly tired I am.

But the hugeness of CES is also what makes it so fascinating. Companies spend tons of money to impress people with their new products. Jackie Chan kicked off the launch of some products for the SSD Company, Monster held a private concert with Rod Stewart for 4000 people, and celebrities such as Cal Ripken and Bill Walton appeared for satellite radio vendors. Companies handed out inflatable aliens and chocolate bars.

In short, it was quite amusing to see the lengths companies will go to in order to enter, or just remain, in the competitive world of consumer electronics. And now, it’s time to take off my shoes.

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