Cynical tech pundits and journalists have been declaring CES dead for years. And yet, the annual confab in Las Vegas still attracted 200,000 attendees willing to brave never-ending taxi lines and cavernous exhibit halls to find the latest the tech industry has to offer. Even without many blockbuster announcements, CES still manages to get people talking because of its sheer size and reach. As technology infuses itself into every industry, from cars to cannabis, the show has become a lot more than just a place to see the newest smartphone.
CES is a giant stage, and the tech behemoths treat it as such. Apple covered the entire side of a hotel looming over the main convention center with a message aimed directly at Amazon, Google and Facebook, all of which have business models that rely on amassing huge amounts of consumer data. The conversation around privacy that’s dominated the tech world in the past year has been front and center at CES, showing it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.
As the tech and automotive industries continue to blur together, CES has become a major platform for car companies to show off. The main event space is packed with vehicles from well-known global brands and upstarts alike. Aptiv, a self-driving car technology company, partnered with Lyft to give attendees hands-free rides on the Las Vegas Strip in automated BMWs. The cars still had backup drivers, though, pointing to the fact that despite all of CES’s hype, the technologies that people are most excited about are still a ways off.
Byton Ltd., one of a rush of Chinese electric-car startups that have emerged in the past few years as the country’s new-energy vehicle industry has taken off, made a splashy debut at CES a year ago. Its first model, a sport utility vehicle called M-Byte, is back in 2019, this time to give consumers a sneak peek at its bold cockpit design. A 49-inch wraparound screen stretches across the dashboard, and drivers also will have a display and tablet on the steering wheel.
Byton says it’s aiming to start production of its first electric SUV by the end of the year. In addition to the M-Byte, the company has its first sedan concept, the K-Byte, on display at the show.
Google was out in full force at CES this year. The company covered the Vegas Strip in ads and occupied big sections of both the main convention area and a side conference focused on advertising. The search giant highlighted its AI-powered voice assistant, announcing partnerships to bring it to devices made by Samsung, KitchenAid and a raft of other electronics and home-products makers. It’s all about pushing deeper into consumers’ homes and making sure competitors such as Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. don’t get there first.