TOKYO--In the exhibition halls of a gadget trade show, the things that normally jump out are the wacky outfits the female booth attendants are forced to wear, the mammoth wall installations of TVs, and long lines for booth swag.
For better or worse, the enduring image of Ceatec 2009 has been the sight of suit-clad men waiting in twisting queues for the chance to don a pair of plastic 3D glasses for a five-minute TV demonstration. There are two reasons for that: because the major TV makers here couldn't miss out on the chance to show their prototype models of this trendy technology, and because there wasn't really much else going on this year.
There isn't yet a final, official count, but this year's show, which started Tuesday and runs through the weekend, so far seems far less crowded than in years past. Attendees could have been kept away by the sluggish economy, or the inclement weather, including a tropical storm that hit Tokyo midweek. Either way, the general vibe at the Makuhari Messe has been much more subdued.
In the past Ceatec has been known as the event where gadgets destined for store shelves showed up en masse, the last stop on the trade show circuit before they're packaged and ready for consumers during the yearly holiday sales period. However, the 2009 edition was shorter on practical products and very low on new stuff.
As at IFA in Berlin last month and at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, 3D was the dominant theme. Panasonic showed its very-close-to-being-ready 3D plasma TV here this week--this time, though, on a 50-inch set, a size that's far more practical than the 103-inch behemoth used at expos earlier this year. The 50-inch model, plus some sizes larger than that, will be unveiled along with pricing and shipping information at CES in January 2010. Sony is also readying its first 3D TV for the home, which is set to ship sometime next year, though the company wasn't specific about exactly when.