Does CES still matter?

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Today, like most of this week, is going to be spent picking through all the CES product announcements to find a few gems to summarize for you later. “Real” news is going to be hard to come by this week. Why bother announcing something when most of the tech world is focused on the goings on in Vegas? Buzzfeed has a contrarian view that CES, and all trade shows in fact, is only marginally important. So maybe we’re not missing out after all?

Matt Buchanan makes some pretty solid points about CES, and trade shows in general, in his post. Apple hasn’t been at CES since 1992, MacWorld since 2009. We knew last year that 2012 was going to be the last year for Microsoft at CES (can you name the keynote speaker this year?) Canon pulled out of the Photo Marketing Association show and it merged its show with CES this year.

Matt’s main point is that in the era of social media, we don’t need these giant shows to see what’s next. He concludes his post with this:

The decline and fall of CES as the world’s premiere stage for new technology is no tragedy. Consumer technology has simply outgrown CES, which was an exclusive club of buyers and sellers and journalists. The forces that have obliterated “electronics” and the “gadget” as the atomic unit of consumer technology, and rendered the trade show obsolete as the sole mechanism for launching them into the world, are the same ones that have made technology more powerful and accessible and human than ever before. If anything, we should be dancing on its grave.

Now, he may be right. We don’t need shows like this any more to learn about new gadgets. However, I think, as is noted in his post, this is a transition year for CES. I do see a place for getting people together to see new innovations, maybe it doesn’t need to be so lavish. Maybe it doesn’t need to be filled with a lot of bizarre gadgets that won’t ever be on shelves.

So if we don’t need a CES every January to learn what might be cool this year, what should take its place? The New Media Expo (formerly Blogworld Expo) is going on right now and I expect a lot more cool tech is being used there than at CES (tech that’s in the hands of people and has some real-world application). Should there be something more akin to TED for gadgets? WordCamp for tablets? What would you rather see and go to (and us spend a week covering)?

Update: Just after I hit “Publish” Mat Honan of Wired made some similar and interesting points about CES. Points that it’s software that dominates and hardware that follows. A different take on Matt Buchanan’s point, but a very similar view point. CES isn’t what it used to be, and might never be again.

Photo from The Verge.