Consumer Electronics Show 2010: attendance flat, prospects brighter?

After a 20 percent drop in attendance from 2008 to 2009, the Consumer Electronics Show 2010 holds the line at about 110,000.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Newscom
Workers set up products at the Microsoft display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in this January 2009 file photo. This year's attendance figures largely mirror 2009's, which might be a good sign for the economy.

The "great recession" hasn't turned the lights out on the Consumer Electronic Show, but it has definitely taken its toll.

The electronics exhibition is expected to attract approximately 110,000 people from around the world for its 2010 iteration, held Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas. That's on par with 2009, when more the 113,000 crowded the booths for the latest in TVs, smart phones, and other consumer electronics offerings.

But this year's attendance figure is well below the event's 140,000-plus totals registered between 2005 and 2008.

While conference attendance is a popular barometer of business confidence – cash-strapped firms don't pay for their employees to oggle the latest gadgets – attendance at CES might be a bit of a lagging indicator. After the financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008, the 2009 showcase bore the brunt of businesses' fear.

The fact that 2010 attendance hasn't declined further, despite the miserable year, may show that businesses foresee a better period ahead – and a more inventive one.

A record 330 companies are presenting products at CES for the first time in 2010, up from about 300 last year.

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