CES: Show’s over, nothing to see here

Overflowing ash tray in Las Vegas CES is over for another year. While exhibitor space hasn’t bounced all the way back yet, attendance returned to its pre-recession levels. Its traffic-paralyzing, restaurant-monopolizing, aisle-choking levels. Attendance wasn’t bad enough to make the show experience miserable, but the lines made everything take more time.

Here are a few quick notes from CES:

* CNet’s Best of Show award winner was the Motorola Xoom, an Android-based tablet that doesn’t actually exist yet. As a lovely lady demonstrated it at the Motorola booth, I learned that it’ll run an OS version that isn’t available, may or may not accept an SD or Micro SD card, and doesn’t have its default app set chosen yet. But when it’s finally ready, the Xoom is supposed to have great features.

There is ample precedent for such pre-production awards. In January 2009, CNet’s Best Home Video product from CES was the Dish Network 922 receiver with Sling technology. The 922 barely made it to market before the end of 2009. Turns out that it really is that good, though, so maybe a real Xoom will eventually be worth the wait?

* One of my blog posts won a contest at CES. No, it wasn’t the previous post about CES. It wasn’t anything from this blog. This was a contest run by the non-profit Internet Innovation Alliance, and those folks judged my post there to be better than anything else written at their booth. Woo hoo! (If you want to read Lawrence Lessig’s The Future of Ideas, you can learn how to download a free copy.)

* There was almost nothing about free-to-air satellite TV this year. Tele-Satellite magazine had a booth, although it was unmanned when I stopped by on the show’s last day. (More on that below.) Maybe one or two vendors on the regular show floor showed any equipment. That’s a big change from the days when new FTA set-top boxes would debut at CES.

* Sunday at CES is garbage day. For the first time, I stayed to the final day of the show to see whether exhibitors would dump all of their giveaways to avoid carting them home. Answer: Not very often. The best part was that the lines were short enough to let me see any show at any exhibit. The worst part was that many dealers were closing up early, and most of those remaining were feeling run down after a long show. There was little to suggest the enthusiasm that swirls around the opening of CES.

* I feel sorry for the folks who signed up for CEA’s new Tech Enthusiast program just to visit CES. That program benefit isn’t worth much; readers here know that anyone can get in to see CES for free with only a little work. And worst of all, that admittance is only good on Sunday.