Over at VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi is reporting that this year’s Consumer Electronics Show drew 110,000 employees, down 22 percent from last year’s event. The official, audited attendance figures won’t arrive for a few months, but unless they’re sharply higher it looks like this may have been the smallest CES in a decade or more. For those of who made the trek to Vegas, smaller is in some ways better–it’s fewer bodies to compete with in taxi lines, and fewer bodies trying to elbow their way by you on the show floor. But it may also be one more piece of evidence that the era of humongous trade shows is coming to a close. We’ll know for sure next year, if the economy is in at least slightly more robust shape and CES 2010 shows a similar decline in attendance.
I’m not predicting the imminent death of the show, and if it goes away I’ll miss it. But in my time in this business I’ve seen the death of Comdex (which was once held twice a year), PC Expo (ditto), and Macworld Boston–and hey, the first CES I attended was the last Summer CES in Chicago, which was held back in 1994. I fully expect to outlive the current CES, too–at least in its current overwhelming and exhausting form.