Sporting a couple of 110-inch televisions and one of the biggest booths in the showroom, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. is making a bid to become the face of the world's largest technology show.
Roughly 130,000 people descended on the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday for the official start of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where several audio industry firms littered their booths with souped-up race cars and scantily clad "booth babes," and one company tried to attract attention by putting on a show of dancing robot vacuum cleaners.
But for all the glitter and gimmicks designed to differentiate the 3,000 exhibitors from one another, it is perhaps the company that is scaling back its presence that says the most about the future of the CES: Windows-maker Microsoft Corp., normally the convention's lead company, has all but abandoned the event.
In its absence, South Korea's Samsung appears poised to take over the spotlight.
CES has proven not to be worthwhile for companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft, in large part because those companies tend to release new hardware only once or twice a year, and like to do so at their own branded media events.
But CES is a more optimal setting for Samsung because the company has dozens of new and upgraded products to announce at any given time, but only a handful of them, such as the Galaxy smartphone, are significant enough to warrant their own media events.
"From the consumer's perspective, CES is off the charts," said Samsung Canada president James Politeski. "As long as the show stays big and strong, we'll be here."
Samsung's CES booth is typical of what many of the biggest manufacturers are showing off, with a wide selection of TVs, smartphones and other "smart" appliances – such as a touchscreen-enabled refrigerator that synchronizes grocery lists with a mobile device, and an oven range that can detect when a pot is about to boil over.
The most significant new visual presence at this year's show is the "ultra high-definition" television. The often massive screens have about four times the resolution of regular high-definition TVs. With screens in the 85-inch range and price tags of $20,000 (U.S.), they are prohibitively expensive for most consumers, but are quickly becoming commonplace on the showroom floor.
As in previous years, the show has not been without glitches. In lieu of Microsoft's annual keynote, a presentation from tech giant Qualcomm Inc. went badly after it was found that the presentation – which was all about Qualcomm's focus on mobile devices – could not be viewed on mobile devices.
"Microsoft's departure from CES, rather than leaving a void that will be filled by another company, instead highlights the confusion and uncertainty regarding the role of CES for many companies," said Forrester analyst James McQuivey.
"No longer just a trade show, the conference has bigger, wider ambitions than that. Yet the wider ambition is also a sign that the old focus on new tech or engineering announcements – the kind of thing that used to draw Microsoft and others – no longer carries the punch it used to."