What the heck is...

What the heck is… CES?

By Oliver Smith 3 January 2017
Photo from iStock/LPETTET.

Explaining the buzzwords of the moment: What is CES and what's going on in Las Vegas this week?

Our weekly series What The Heck Is sheds light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.

It’s that time of the year again, when the tech companies of the world unveil their latest wares (conveniently right after you’ve spent all your hard-earned cash on Christmas presents).

From Samsung to Siemens the Consumer Electronics Show (or CES) is a tech fest of epic proportions held every January in the heart of Sin City, Las Vegas.

It’s an annual pilgrimage of business executives, analysts and journalists looking for a glimpse of the future.

So what the heck is CES?

The world’s largest annual technology trade show started life in New York in 1967 with a paltry 17,500 attendees.

Today it boasts over 176,000 visitors, so many in fact that CES organisers have capped the numbers who can attend as the event strains both the capacities of Las Vegas’s conference centres and hotels.

The list of companies attending and exhibiting this week reads like a who’s who of the tech elite, Microsoft, Samsung, Google and others are all here.

But why is it important?

CES is divisive.

Some see it as the key barometer of the health of the global technology industry, with attendance and excitement both seen as crucial metrics.

Others see CES as a glimpse into the next big technology trends, watching the latest announcements of ultra-fast smartphones, huge super-thin TVs or virtual reality headsets for signs of what might be popular in 2016 and beyond.

Critics however see CES as far less important in the direction of technology, merely a multi-billion dollar marketing event for tech companies to launch a new wave of devices, the majority of which won’t end up changing anyone’s world.

The reality is that CES is somewhere in between, a glimpse at the future, but drowning in thousands of announcements that will do little to change your world.

This year much of the excitement will be happening outside the conference centres with a host of high-tech car announcements from Toyota, Nissan and a secretive electric car company called Faraday Future which will unveil its first consumer car.

When is it?

CES officially kicks off today, running from 3 – 9 January. Look out for the following press conferences which promise to be the most exciting ones to watch this week:

Honor 10pm GMT on Tuesday – The little known Chinese brand has exploded onto the smartphone scene in recent years with quality, affordable handsets, tonight its new iPhone-inspired “epic” smartphone is due to be unveiled.

Faraday Future 2am GMT on Wednesday – The chatter is that Faraday Future will unveil its first electric car, a challenge to the current electric car king Tesla…

Samsung 10pm GMT on Wednesday – Samsung had a difficult 2016, with its Galaxy Note 7 disaster, and is looking to recover its mojo in the new year. Typically for Samsung CES is usually a time not to focus on phones, but instead show off smart washing machines, dishwashers and other home appliances the company makes. This year Samsung has promised to unveil “the future of audio”…

Our weekly series What The Heck Is… exists to shed light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.