If there's a place that's more of a sensory overload than Las Vegas, it's Tokyo, which makes it a perfect place to host what many say is the best consumer electronics show in the world: the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, or Ceatec, for short.
It's that time of year again, after IFA in Berlin and before the madness of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, when Ceatec gets its turn on the world's technology stage.
It's a huge show: just less than 206,000 people showed up to see the 895 companies show off their wares last year. The 2008 confab, which runs from Tuesday to Friday in Chiba, Japan, just outside Tokyo, promises to be even bigger.
While Ceatec offers a glimpse into the future of gadgetry, it's also a parade of practical products. Some tech exhibits can be merely a glance at what a company's R&D department is toying around with in a basement laboratory, with no practical application in sight. However, it's very likely that Asian and European consumers will see them in stores sooner than those in the United States.
From the standpoint of a manufacturer or marketer, this show can be kind of dramatic. It's often the last tryout before products get cut from a company's portfolio. Although many products shown are made especially for the Asian or European markets, it's also a final test in another way.
"The reception these products get at Ceatec will help decide if they will enter the U.S. market," according to Richard Doherty, a consumer electronics market researcher at The Envisioneering Group. Doherty hunts the halls every year at Ceatec looking for the best upcoming technology.
But just like at CES, not everything is designed to become an actual product. Both big and small names in electronics come to Ceatec to display a large portfolio of products so that investors, journalists, potential partners, and retailers can take a look.
While some of the products will already be in development, others are just strategic deterrents, designed to throw competitors offtrack from where a company's real product road map is going.
But Ceatec is probably a better show for consumers and gadget hounds, since much of what will be in a company's booth isn't so far from sitting on a store shelf. For example, according to Doherty, 60 percent of the products shown by electronics giant Samsung at CES this past January will become actual products by year's end.
"At the Japan show, more like 9 out of 10 products will make it to market within the year," he said.
And for the stuff that does make the cut, it will sometimes take two to five years before it appears on this side of the Pacific. … Read more