My Adventures in Las Vegas: CES and Beyond

Before I write anything else, I need to say this: I love Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas! Yes! I know. You may be shaking your head and rolling your eyes about now. Isn’t Las Vegas gaudy, trashy, and phony? Isn’t it a combination of deafening noise with a blinding array of bright lights? And what about all that gambling? And naked women (as well as naked men, if that’s your thing)? Just sinful.

Yup. It’s all that and more. And yet…I love it. Maybe it has to do with my upbringing. Raised in the New York City area, I have fond memories of Times Square and Broadway and Fifth Avenue. The crowds, the noise, the lights — they energize me. Whatever. I’m here in Las Vegas to cover CES (the Consumer Electronics Show). It doesn’t officially start until tomorrow. But I’m already having a ball.

Well, not everything is wonderful. It turns out that when I chose a hotel back in November, I should have paid more attention. The scale of the map made the Las Vegas Convention Center (the main site of CES) look very close to the Mirage (where I decided to stay). Had I actually checked the distance, I would have discovered that it is nearly 2 miles away. What I thought would be a 10 minute stroll, turns out to be 45 minute hike. As the shuttle buses don’t start running until tomorrow, I had to either walk or take a taxi today. Over the course of two round trips, I did a combination of both. But even if I knew the true geographic layout, I’m not sure I would have done anything differently. It’s just too quiet and dull over at the Convention Center area. I like it better at the Mirage over on the Strip.

I might care more about the extra money I am spending on taxis — except that I wound up playing blackjack (more on that in a moment) and won over $150. So (unless I gamble it away later), I am way ahead here. By the way, in case I wasn’t clear up front, being able to play blackjack whenever you want, almost anywhere you happen to be, is one of the many things I love about Las Vegas.

But the main reason I’m in Vegas is for CES. So let’s talk about that. This is my first time attending (I was always too wrapped up in Macworld Expo, which took place at nearly the same time, to ever go). So all of this is new to me. As must happen to every newbie, I am a bit overwhelmed by the immense size of CES. This was not complete surprise. Everyone I know who has gone before warned me about the size business. But still — warnings can’t do it justice. You can’t really know how big the Grand Canyon is until you see it. It’s the same with CES. You know those road maps you get from AAA? The ones that unfold a zillion times before they’re completely open? CES uses this format for their map of the show floor. Or, I should more accurately say maps (plural). It takes six of these maps to cover everything. I’m not kidding. I’m staring at them right now. Even if I had a Segway and never stopped moving, I don’t think I could go up and down every aisle, and pass every booth, before the show was over. It’s that immense. And I’m saying this based only on a brief glimpse before the show has even opened. It’s like when you see just Godzilla’s eye glowing in the dark and you start to grasp how big the rest of him must be.

Oh well. I’ll just have to do the best I can.

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But the press gets treated to one every day of CES. Assuming they don’t run out of food before you get to the dining area. I was warned at registration to get there “early” if I expected to eat. This promises to be another adventure — one that I do not look forward to having.

On the walk back from the Las Vegas Convention Center to my hotel, I stopped at the Sands Expo Center. Here is where the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) opens tomorrow. Bree Olson will be cutting the opening ribbon. I picked up my press credentials for this Expo as well. I just couldn’t see going to CES without at least stopping in to see what this other event is like. They gave me a wrist band that I must now keep on 24/7 — at least until I know I am done visiting AEE. They assured me it was waterproof — so I can take a shower without ruining it. I was worried it would make me feel like I was walking around with a “Scarlet A” on my wrist. I was wrong. It turns out that no one in Vegas cares about such trivial matters.

I next returned to the Hilton Hotel CES site with the intent to hear Steve Ballmer’s keynote address. I was unwilling to wait in line to get in, so I arrived at almost the last minute, hoping to immediately walk in and stand in the back. I arrived a minute too late. The hall had just filled to capacity and the doors were shut. As it turns out, I didn’t miss much. The anticipated Microsoft tablet announcement turned out to be more virtual than real (you can read about it here).

Now with nothing to do, I considered heading back to my hotel. However, I had heard that there was a Polaroid press conference coming up here at the Hilton — and that Lady Gaga was going to be there. So I decided to stick around for that. I had 90 minutes to kill. This is how I found the time to play blackjack and make my $150 profit.

At the Polaroid event, I was disappointed again. Lady Gaga was not in attendance after all. She will be at the Polaroid booth tomorrow instead. Oh well. It’s not like I’m a huge fan or anything. (Actually, I’d rather see Garth Brooks at the Wynn while I’m in town. I had wanted to see him in concert back in the 90’s but was never able to do so.)

Lady Gaga was at least mentioned at the press conference. It turns out she is Polaroid’s new Creative Director. Is this for real? Polaroid is banking its future on Lady Gaga’s product ideas? All I can say is “Good luck with that.” Anyway, the rest of the conference was pretty much a dud. It took them until the last five minutes of a 45 minute talk to finally mention any new products. The big announcement? A larger size (4 X 6 inch) format of their PoGo Zink printer and camera. They did give everyone a PoGo printer as a parting gift; that was a nice touch. When I finally get to try it out, I’ll let you know what I think of the printer.

After that, it was back to my room (which is large and quite elegant; absolutely no complaints here). It’s now after dark. The lights of the Strip glow brighter than during the day. The crowds are bigger. The night is still young. Unfortunately, I am not. I’ve about had it for today. It’s off to bed.