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CES’ Huge Growth Depicted—That’s What She Said


I know we don’t need another CES postmortem, so I’ll keep this short.

I’ve grabbed some images and statistics that give a sense of CES’ modern largesse as compared to twenty years ago.

Back in 1990 CES was dominated by the likes of Nintendo, NEC, Sega and Konami. The original Las Vegas Convention Center, in all its silver domed magnificence, had 90,000 sqft of exhibit space.  Today’s incarnation of the same convention center has 3.2 million sqft, or about 36 times the original. Oh yeah, and the above map doesn’t even take into account the significant official “CES spaces” allocated at 6 other major hotels on the strip. Today the biggies include Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, LG and Sony. These aren’t nerdy niche companies.

So is this enormity representative only of the growth of the industry or is it something more?

It’s SO big!

As a quick and dirty measure of the size of the tech sector, lets look at the NASDAQ Composite. Back in Jan. of 1990, the Composite was in the $430 range. As of closing day at CES 2010, it was around $2200. If you don’t have a calculator handy, thats about 5 times as large. So what accounts for the extra 30X growth?

This is where I’ll offer a few guesses and let you ponder. Pictures of CES 1990 show a sparse crowd of the kind of nerds you see shoved into lockers in brat pack movies. The largest companies there were making games for nerds and children, and portable devices were only just coming into existence (1990 CES was all about the Game Boy, for instance).

I’d be willing to bet that electronics in the broad sense are at least 30X more important to my life today than they were 20 years ago. every day my life is full of more devices with an electric pulse. That is to say, there are more things in all our lives that are classifies as electronics. I’d bet easily 30X more.

5 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. What would the experts say about the growth of the conference, Drake? Does it mimic the growth of the tech industry, or is there something else? How dependant is the industry on the conference? What'd happen if it closed? Love the graphic: can't make the growth clearer than that. Also, great links, specially the 1990 pics. Good post.

  2. well, the second half of the post was supposed to be a rough analysis of the industry as a whole vs. size of CES. Basically, I said that industry growth (as measured by the NASDAQ composite cant account for about 30x of the growth. My hypothesis, that would need to be tested, is that it is a combo of really good marketers working for CES, and a many-fold increase in the presence and importance of electronics in middle income lives. 20 yers ago middle income people had maybe one film camera per house hold. Now it is not out of the ordinary for each member of the family to have 2 or more (digi-cam, cellphone cam, webcam, etc.)

  3. What's your beat for Comm217, Drake? It's difficult to figure it out inductively

  4. Drake, dont forget to post twice — at least — per week. Cheers, GS

  5. Drake, your comment really helped make sense of what you are doing. Your antennae are superbly tuned, your technical chops are at the Jedi level, you write well, but you have an existential problem that affects many, including yourself — you have a very clear picture of how you are putting your complex knowledge, insights, research together, but you need to expend just a few more words conveying why what you are getting at is important to the reader.

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