Gadgets, Insomnia, and the Shadow of Apple iTV Over CES

For the first time in years, I will not be attending CES. It’s a strange yet relaxing feeling not being part of the massive crowds that converge each January on Sin City.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is the epicenter for the launch of new gee-wiz tech gadgets, TVs, phones, tablets and all sorts of weird crap that just makes you scratch your head.

More than 100,000 journalists, industry professionals and tech execs converge on Las Vegas, all trying to find a way to stand out from the noise. There is a constant rush of press conferences and parties to attend, which probably explains why some companies pay lots of money to try out celebrities for their booths.

Oh, and if you’re lucky, you leave the place with a bag filled with tablets and cameras.

I’ll admit, I miss being part of the action on the ground. Being at all the product launches is exhilarating, even if it does wreck your sleep schedule. Meeting with the CEOs of tech’s biggest companies is always interesting, even if you don’t get more than 20 minutes with them. And some of the booths are just epic.

But the truth is that I’m relieved not to be attending CES this year. The show is draining, especially if you’re a reporter or a person trying to round up reporters for your products.

The bigger problem I have with CES is this, though: it has become an echo chamber for companies positioning themselves as the Apple alternative. I felt this last year when I was covering the dozens of Android tablets jockeying for position against Apple’s iPad. The Motorola Xoom won that battle last year, thanks to Android Honeycomb, but CES did nothing to boost its weak sales.

Apple famously ignores CES, and for good reason. Apple is just as large as CES — perhaps larger — and that reality marginalizes all of the companies that exhibit at the show. This will become especially true when the iTV gets released this year.

(It’s real, by the way. Sony and the rest of the electronics industry ought to be shaking in their boots.)

This year I decided to skip CES (and Sundance) to work on the startup and take investor meetings. And while I intend to come back next year, I think it’s going to feel like a vastly different show, thanks to iTV and Microsoft’s departure.

CES 2011 image courtesy of Mashable