Apple still casts a long shadow over CES

For a company that hasn’t attended CES since 1992,
Apple dominates the show.
You can’t walk more than a dozen feet here at the
Las Vegas Convention Center without seeing an
iGadget or iAccessory of some kind. Apple’s
overwhelming presence by proxy is impressive, and
underscores the immense place the company
occupies in the consumer electronics sector.
Of the 3,000 or so exhibitors here at CES, nearly 500
reside in the iLounge pavilion, a section dedicated
specifically to Apple-related products. And then there
are the hundreds of audio, automotive, health,
gaming, and accessory companies hawking iOS and
Mac peripherals.
There are more iPhone and iPad adaptors, docks and
dongles than you could possibly imagine. Vendors
are showing off iPad camera rigs, solar-powered Mac
batteries and even an iPhone-connected plant sensor.
And then there’s the sea of bedazzled and bedecked
iPhone and iPad cases.
The biggest reason for this is, of course, Apple’s
dominating presence in the consumer electronic
space. It’s a lot easier for startups and established
players alike to ride Apple’s coattails than those of,
say, Google or Microsoft.
“We know that Apple is doing well,” said Howard
Cheng, Just Mobile’s director of operations. “We know
that it’s better to make Apple products than anything
else.”
Another advantage to going down the iRoute is
Apple’s tight focus on a few products and form
factors. It’s far easier to tailor accessories to Apple
than anyone else.
“Accessory makers can reach virtually the entire
installed base of iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch owners
with two products, determined by the connector,” the
30 pin or Lightning, said Charles Govin, an industry
analyst with Forrester. “Similarly, a case maker must
create many SKUs for the Android market, but
essentially only three (iPhone 3G, 4, and 5) for the
entire iPhone market.”
The relative ease with which companies can develop
peripherals for Apple is made all the more appealing
by the fact Apple customers have proven themselves
only too happy to shell out money to accessorize
their iDevices.
“Apple owners have a demonstrated willingness to
spend for accessories, cases, and other
customizations,” Govin said. “Essentially, the
potential return on investment is more promising for
Apple-related products.”
CES also shows just how willing people are to build
on Apple’s iconic “i” branding. There’s iLounge,
iBattz, iSkin, iConnectivity, iPort and even iCat all
within a few feet of each other on the show floor.
Spend five minutes walking the floor and it becomes
clear there’s no need for Apple to be here. Hundreds
of companies are only too happy to carry Cupertino’s
banner.
Apple’s presence here has grown rapidly. In the three
years since the iLounge Pavilion launched, the space
has quadrupled to 120,000 square feet, all but taking
over an entire hall and pushing the automotive
industry into another space.
But does anyone wish Apple were actually here? Not
really.
“I don’t care,” said Raymond Meng, president of
iSmartAlarm. His company is releasing an iPhone-
controlled home alarm system, which Meng says was
inspired by the burglary of Steve Jobs’ house this
summer. Meng said that it doesn’t matter that Apple
isn’t at CES with a booth or keynote, because CES is
already the most successful and popular show for
companies like his.
Cheng, from Just Mobile, agrees. “At this point, I don’t
think Apple needs to be here,” he said. “They have
their own events and that works for them.”
Just Mobile already has eight products in the Apple
Store and uses CES to expand into the international
market and meet clients. As for meetings with Apple,
“We visit them at their campus,” Cheng said.
Of course, CES could be a much hotter destination if
it had the hottest tech company involved. With
Microsoft dropping out, CES is losing even more of its
sizzle. But the CEA, the organization that puts on the
show, says that Apple skipping out isn’t a big deal.
“Apple is a CEA member. It’s just there prerogative to
not exhibit and they’ve found it more cost effective
to host their own events,” CEA spokeswoman
Danielle Cassagnol said. “They’ve never keynoted or
exhibited at CES, so them not being here isn’t really
a loss for us.”
That’s not entirely true, since Apple did introduce the
Newton at CES in 1992, but perhaps the CEA wants to
forget this fact. But the fact remains that Apple and
its products are the widely seen, and discussed, at
CES. It’s here, even if it isn’t.
“They have employees that attend the show, so in
that way, Apple sort of is here,” Cassognal said.

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