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CES 2022: Not Your Typical Consumer Electronics Show

Covid and the omicron variant caused a lot of major companies to skip CES, but there is still an in-person show in Vegas.

The Consumer Electronics Show generally serves as a way to check in on where technology is and where it might go. You always see things on the show floor in Las Vegas that never quite become mainstream -- think failed ideas like 3D TV and more fanciful ones like household robots.

That's, of course, what happens in a normal year. This year, CES has returned to an in-person event after the 2021 show was fully virtual. It's not, however, business as usual, as many of the major technology companies pulled out of the show due to the rise in Covid cases stemming from the omicron variant.

Because of that, the shortened show still has an in-person component, but it's a muted version of the normal show. 

Instead of clogging Las Vegas with more than 170,000 people, as it did for the 2020 show, the 2022 version of CES will have 2,200 in-person exhibitors with around 25% of the normal attendees.

"CES 2020 hosted 4,419 exhibiting companies across more than 2.9 million net square feet and attracted a total" of 171,268 attendees, according to the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES.

CES Opens With a Tech Forecast

CTA Research Vice President Steve Koenig kicked off the 2022 show, both online and in-person, looking at the state of the U.S. tech market.

"We've witnessed a whole bunch of innovation over the past year," he said, noting that innovators from around the world are attending CES, despite it being a smaller show than usual. 

He noted that 800-plus startups were at the show, which did have a number of major companies -- including T-Mobile (TMUS) - Get Free Report, Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Free Report, Alphabet (GOOGL) - Get Free Report, and more -- drop out.,

And while many of the growth-driving companies won't be at the show, that does not mean that the U.S. tech outlook for 2022 isn't bright.

U.S. Tech Market Still Growing

A chart shows U.S. consumer tech growth.

"Look at the growth rates. ... It's very rare to see growth rates this high in a mature tech market like the United States," he said.

People have been leveling up their tech, Koenig explained. When you look at the list of tech products that are growing in the U.S., you see the word "smart" a lot.

"Consumers are leveling up their tech and we expect to see more of that," he added. Once people buy one smart device, he noted, they tend to buy another.

Koenig also said that consumers also want premium experiences and they're willing to pay for them. 

He cited Apple's (AAPL) - Get Free Report Beats headphones, wireless earbuds, and the Nintendo  (NTDOY) - Get Free Report Switch gaming system as examples of premium products that people have been willing to buy.

CES Will Still Offer a Look at the Future

CES attendees always get a look at what is possible at the forefront of technology, but that does not mean those products will actually become common on even available. 

Robots and smart appliances that do everything from telling you your milk has gone bad to ordering groceries have been prevalent on the show floor for years, but have never caught on with consumers in a meaningful way.

That's also true of home automation, which has happened to a point, but not nearly at the level that has been on display at CES since the 2000s. 

With this year's show lacking some of the bigger players that usually break news there, attendees will likely get an even deeper look at some of the fanciful technology being shown off by startups.

Many of the startups that will make up a large part of CES 2022 are showing ideas more than actual products. 

The show floor -- complete with social distancing and mandatory masks for attendees who had to prove vaccination -- will offer a glimpse into a future that may or may not happen.  But it will likely preview some of the things that will be shown by bigger companies, assuming CES 2023 features a return to normal.