Are trade shows dead? My answer might surprise you

Harry McCracken, who used to be the lead editor over at PC World, notes that CES is getting smaller. 22% smaller this year.

I will predict it will be even smaller next year. Why? Because I know many of the marketers at the world’s largest tech companies and they say they are going to downsize their booths next year.

But, I’m also hearing enough people say that they are getting good value out of their investments here so they will increase in size or stay the same.

So, I was wrong to say that CES is going to die. It’s pretty clear that won’t happen.

On the other hand? MacWorld is in the midst of a death spiral. No one I know expects that show to be around in two years. They should have rebranded it iPhone World. That might have saved it. Now? I don’t know if it is savable. IDG is welcome to call me and tell me why it’ll be a strong show, but with Apple and other key vendors pulling out that sure looks dead.

Walking around Broadcom’s booth at CES also taught me a lesson. That the CES show is going back to its roots: interactions between tech companies and the buyers. That’s something that can only efficiently happen in a tradeshow: getting all those people to visit your company’s headquarters just won’t happen.

So, tradeshows won’t disappear. But they will definitely be smaller for a while. By the way the taxi drivers I talked to in Vegas said every trade show this year had smaller audiences than the previous years. Vegas is getting slammed by the downturn (the airport on Sunday was empty, I haven’t seen that in Vegas since the 1980s).

Enjoy this video from Broadcom’s booth
, they show me the chip that will be in the next cell phones coming next year.

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Exclusive CES video: Plug Pogoplug in and get your files anywhere

This is an example of a trend at CES I was talking about: that gadgets this year are getting very simple, even though they are doing pretty complex things. Here we have first video demo of Pogoplug. What is it?

You plug it into your wall. Plug ethernet into it. Plug a USB hard drive into it. And now you can get your files everywhere. Very minimal setup. Nothing geeky to know. Works through firewalls. Here we have the first video demo of this with the entrepreneurs who came up with this idea.

Lots of CES news — microblogged from last night's events

I have been posting a TON of stuff from the Consumer Electronics Show. How? iPhone and type a paragraph. It lets you see a lot of news very quickly.

Here’s the ones I filmed tonight at Pepcom’s Digital Experience event.

1. Microsoft releases new tag system for cell phones.
2. iRobot gutter cleaner, with photo. I also uploaded a separate video.
3. A video of some really cool OLED screens.
4. Video of Airbiquity who makes the backend of the new Ford/Microsoft Sync system that will get released tomorrow.
5. 3M pico projector engine. There were tons of these small projectors that are about the same size as an iPhone.
6. New OQO small PC with OLED screen.
7. Norton Online Family. Child protection software and service.
8. Easybloom device to keep your plants alive.
9. First DLP HDTV that doesn’t suck.
10. Energizer solar charger for AA and AAA batteries.
11. WowWee toy that reacts to touch.
12. AR Universal Remote.
13. MSN Direct service for GPS devices.
14. Sony Ericsson’s new W508Walkman clamshell phone.
15. Wireless video baby monitor.
16. New HTC cell phones (Windows Mobile smart phones).
17. GiiNii digital picture frame that has multiple digital panes.

How did I do these photos? I am using an iPhone and I emailed the photos to friendfeed using the mail2ff tool.

More from CES tomorrow.

Seagate avoids Scoble Blindness with new HD media sharing and storage device

Alan Wolk made an important point for marketers: do not get blinded by “Scoble blindness.”

What is “Scoble blindness?” Making products just for Scoble, or thinking that I, or my behaviors online, represent the mass market. Alan is right. They do not. But more on that later.

Here Seagate, our premier sponsor over on FastCompanyTV (they have sponsored my video shows for several years now, which lets me go around the world and meet the top tech entrepreneurs and innovators), shows they get this better than anyone with its introduction of Seagate’s FreeAgent|Theater HD media player (we have exclusive video to show you what the device does). The New York Times wrote up more on the device.

Did they make a geeky media center device that can do everything that geeks want? That will thrill me and my fellow geeks? No.

They saw that normal people (those people who don’t yet know what Twitter or friendfeed are) are having tons of troubles just getting the photos they shot on their new digital camera up on their big HDTV. Or, maybe they got a new FlipCam HD and they want to play their videos on their screen to show their neighbors.

They saw that normal people don’t yet care about playing YouTube videos or doing Internet stuff like I do on my MacMini (and you probably do too).

So, they designed a product for the rest of the people. Here’s why the geeks might care too. My dad, for instance, wants to see videos and photos I shot of our 16-month-old son, Milan. But he doesn’t want to go to the trouble of going to Flickr, looking through all the pictures I shot of tech execs and other things, just to find the photos I shot of Milan.

Using Seagate’s new FreeAgent|Theater I just bring a hard drive over with those videos and photos, plug it into the USB port on the new device, and they show up on his HDTV. It’s that simple. No setting up Internet accounts. No struggling with going through all my other stuff.

Will I have one attached to my TV? No, I already have a bunch of ways to view that content (and have had for years) but will I get my dad one? Absolutely! Now I can bring him new videos and photos just by bringing a hard drive over. Cost? $130 (plus the cost of the USB-hard drives). Comes out this spring.

That’s a good example of avoiding “Scoble blindness.”

Now, in regard to Alan’s post, I think he got a lot wrong about what I do. I travel the world and talk with tons of “normal people.” I understand them a lot better than you will ever get from my blog. But I am not passionate about having conversations with them about technology. They don’t read blogs, they don’t hang out on twitter, and they aren’t addicted to friendfeed yet. So, excuse me if I’ll stay focused on what I’m passionate about here and on Fast Company TV: bringing you the most interesting people and ideas in the tech industry.

You can’t serve everyone in a blog. If I started writing posts for “normal people” then the advanced people in the audience would get turned off. This morning I spoke to an audience at the Consumer Electronics Show that was very advanced. How do I know that? Most of the audience was using TweetDeck. If I started talking to them about basic stuff like “this is Google, here’s a blog, here’s a YouTube video” they would have laughed me off the stage.

So, I’ll take the “Scoble blindness” abuse in stride. That means that I’ve done a great job of serving the audience I want to serve: you!

UPDATE: Want to try one? We’re running a Twitter contest to get some into your hands. More details on that shortly.

Useful gadgets of CES past

I’m getting ready to go to CES right now. The big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. A group of eight of us are driving a small bus down there and we’ll be reporting along the way. But one thing I’m going to look for is useful small gadgets. See all the really cool gadgets will get lots of coverage. But what about the small weird gadgets off in the Sands Hall? Even Engadget or Gizmodo don’t get to all of them and, even if they did, you’ll forget them really quickly because during CES week they post six gajillion gadget posts.

What’s an example? Our Dymo DiscPainter. We store a lot of stuff on DVD because we shoot so much video and photo stuff. Making our DVDs look cool is mondo fun, but also makes us look professional if we ever need to send out video, etc.

Because it’s pretty pricey, $250, you probably won’t read about it too many places but it’s easy to use and prints right on the CD/DVDs. I just did one with photos of Milan. Seeing his smiling face on the disc looks a lot cooler than just writing on a label. The Dymo DiscPainter is a small footprint, single cartridge USB inkjet printer that does high quality printing directly onto the media. Goodbye stick-on labels! The printer comes with an ink cartridge, a few blank inkjet printable discs, USB cable and software that lets you add any photo and text you need. Just prepare your photo in your favorite editor, crop it to a 5.25″ circle, import and print. It’s that easy. High quality images/settings take only three minutes to print. Pluses: Small footprint, fast printing, great quality, easy to use. Minuses: A bit pricey. Printer is around $250.00. Ink is around $40.00.

Anyway, do you have any favorite gadgets like the DiscPainter? Ones that are a little more off the beaten path?

The "back to reality" CES and MacWorld

2009 is the year of reality. It’s the year when hype goes away (except for hype about Twitter). When many of us get back to the basics: health, happiness, fitness, family.

We might still believe that the one who dies with the most toys wins, but only a few of us can afford that this year. In previous years I would have already bought several new gadgets. I want a new Apple monitor. A Canon 5D MK II camera. A new Kindle. A new netbook. And on and on.

I have bought none of them, and am hardly alone. This is the year to get back to reality where we buy things when we have the cash and, even then, only after we’ve saved up enough to protect our families against layoffs and all that.

Fear is a powerful motivator and one that we’re all becoming accustomed to living with this year.

Back to reality.

That said, when the MacWorld and Consumer Electronics Shows start in next week you’ll see a new style of gadgets to take on our new “reality.”

In previous years we’d go to gawk at the acres and acres of huge big screens. This year we’re more practical. Plus the geeks who read this probably already have a big HD screen and you’re not about to buy a new one.

So, what will get Engadget, CrunchGear, and Macrumors, and GearLive hot and bothered this year?

Simple, low-cost gadgets that make you much more productive. I’ve already had a preview of several and we’ll have video up later next week about them.

Among them are:

1. Netbooks. Lenovo loaned me a netbook to take to CES, but there are a ton of them coming. Why are they a big deal this year? Well, if your kid needs a computer for school and you’re laid off are you going to buy a $1,500 Macbook or a $300 netbook? I know which one will win that fight in my home.
2. Simpler photo viewing. Your grandparents probably just got an HD screen. But how do you get your photos of your baby onto that screen in a way that grandma can handle? You’ll see several answers this year.
3. Networked “non-geeky” home storage. Nearly every house in the modern world now has a broadband line coming in, along with a router which usually is a wifi access point. Several companies will bring out unique, and easy for everyone to use, storage devices that’ll let you do lots of cool things, especially for photographers. Apple and HP both are rumored to be working on new home media servers and I’m hearing about other ones in the offing, too.
4. GPS is now mature. Thanks to our friends at Broadcom assisted GPS is now 1/8th the size of your thumbnail. What does that mean? Easy: GPS now will be built into everything. I’ll try to meet up with Ford’s CEO to discuss just that and what it means for the car industry. We’ve already seen how Nokia will use maps in cell phones and continue to add location to every datatype that the Nokia N97 will bring out (high res photos, videos, voice, text).
5. Music everywhere. I’m playing with a Sonos right now that they loaned me to prepare for CES. If I could afford it my favorite music could follow me everywhere in my house and, even, when I’m away from the house on my iPhone. So far making that happen was pretty geeky. Now it’s to the point where non-geeky users can do it. Nokia, too, is already delivering cell phones that have all-you-can-eat music subscription plans that are extremely popular in Europe and elsewhere. Will Apple follow? I think they will be forced to eventually.
6. Windows 7. This will be a bigger deal than people are expecting. When I travel I rarely see Macs. This “clean up” of Windows Vista is already getting praises from beta testers (something that rarely happened with Vista) and we haven’t even seen everything that Ray Ozzie’s teams are up to yet.
6B. The year of touch. Everywhere you look you’ll see UI’s that you control by touching them. Microsoft has been working with its OEMs to make the touch capabilities in Windows 7 pretty damn cool. Look for HP, Dell, and Lenovo to bring out new touch computers.
7. HD for everyone. When I bought my HD screen it cost $4,000. Today you can get a better one for $800 and if you are willing to go smaller or to a new brand from a discount chain you can get them for far less. This means that HD is going to be adopted by a whole range of people and they are going to want a gaming console (Xbox is winning) and a way to get their photos and videos up on that screen (several devices are coming out at CES). Apple is rumored to be bringing out a new MacMini, which I still think is the best accessory for hooking onto an HD screen (albeit a bit geeky). Also, I can’t find a FlipCam HD in stock in Silicon Valley, but Jeremy Toeman raves about his (he should know what’s a hot gadget, he has helped launch three “best of CES” companies in the past, including last year’s Bug Labs launch — he already admitted on Twitter that he’s helping Boxee with its CES debut — that’s gotten hot in the past year with 150,000 users).

Places to watch for news? CntrStg has a friendfeed room, I’ll be hanging out at their suite in the Wynn in the evenings. I just opened a CES room where I’m shoving RSS feeds and Twitter search feeds into. CNET did an CES preview. For MacWorld news I can think of no place better than MacSurfer, which does the best job at tracking industry news about Apple.

Another cool place to track videos and tweets about CES is the Consumer Electronics Insider.

What am I missing? I’ll be on Leo Laporte’s “This Week in Tech” show on Sunday afternoon to talk more about what’s coming this week and I’ll read the best predictions on air.

Why blogging comments suck

The other day, Gary Shapiro, the guy who runs the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, dropped by and left a comment here. There were a few problems:

1. My commenting system caught his comment in moderation, so people didn’t see it posted until I took it out of moderation right now.
2. No one probably knows who Gary is and thinks he’s just another random commenter. Some comments ARE more important than others, but there’s really no way for me to point out Gary’s comment without doing a new blog post. Even then, if you happen only to see the post that Gary commented on you’d never know that Gary’s comment deserves more attention than the other 54 comments left there.

How do you fix this? Not easily. I wish there were a system where I could tell my readers when a comment came in that deserves a lot more attention than the others. Also, I wish we could see the social network of the people commenting (I’d love to have their Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed networks show up linked into their comment somehow and also have warnings when people leave me comments that have a huge amount of social capital, like Gary does).

How did I know who Gary Shapiro was? I met Gary once and have heard him speak. His comment gives a hint at what he does, but his comment that he “runs the show” could be easily missed by an untrained eye.

Anyway, I’m interviewing Tim O’Reilly this afternoon (leave questions I should ask him here on this FriendFeed cluster) and I’ll definitely ask him about how we can improve our interaction systems on the web to better expose those who have real impact on all of our lives.

Thanks Gary for dropping by and defending trade shows and I’ll see you at CES.