Jan 3, 2020

CES isn't what you think it is

Ina Fried
An illustration of a flashy sign that says welcome to CES.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

CES, the annual January trade show in Las Vegas, is many things: a great place to catch up with leaders from throughout the tech industry, a decent chance to spot broad trends and an opportunity to hear stump speeches from big-name CEOs trying to get their companies seen as tech leaders.

What it's not, though, is a place for the most important tech announcements of the year. Companies like Apple, Google and Samsung prefer to launch key products in a less noisy environment, at their own private events.

Yes, but: Of course there will be plenty of product news at the show.

The big picture: One key role for CES these days is as a showcase for companies and leaders who aren't known for being at the forefront of technology — but want to be.

  • This year's speakers include presidential daughter/aide Ivanka Trump, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Daimler Chairman Ola Källenius and Delta CEO Ed Bastian.

Between the lines: CES is traditionally devoted to the worship of novel tech. It will be fascinating to see how the show copes with today's changed environment, in which the public is increasingly interested not just in seeing new gadgets, but in how new products affect security, privacy and human rights.

  • Expect a lot of talk along these lines about the positive impact tech companies can have.

What's new: There will be a few new conference tracks added this year addressing topics such as gaming, voice, drones and tourism. The list speaks to how diverse (and perhaps how bloated) the conference has gotten. 

  • Axios will have you covered, with Joann Muller, Kia Kokalitcheva, Sara Fischer and me on the ground in Vegas and sharing our thoughts in Login and at Axios.com starting on Sunday.
  • And our own Mike Allen will be talking about brands, politics and the media.

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