Attendance at the Consumer Electronics Show, which wrapped up in Las Vegas on Sunday, was reportedly down about 23 percent, from 141,150 last year to 110,000 this year.
This is a lot fewer than preliminary estimates from CES officials, and it doesn't surprise me at all. I didn't count heads at the show, but I did the next best thing by talking with cab drivers who universally told me that their business was considerably lower than previous years. It was also obvious from the thinner crowds at the show and the fact that hotel rooms were available at the last minute for less than $100 a night.
We're also getting some dismal financial news from the industry. The latest round of layoffs come from hard-drive maker Seagate, which announced that its laying off 10 percent of its workforce. To track the latest layoffs, check out CNET's layoff scorecard.
None of this, of course, is surprising to me, but it does contradict the optimistic words of Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro, who told me the eve of CES that "consumer electronics is actually taking a greater role than it has in the past...people are cocooning." He also said he thinks people will buy big-screen TVs instead of taking vacations, and that laid-off workers will be buying equipment for their new home-based businesses.
Nice try, Gary. As cheerleader for the industry, I suppose that it's your job to see the glass as at least half full, but the reality is that it is going to be a tough time for consumer electronics. Just ask the people at Circuit City, which is in bankruptcy and up for sale.
But the news isn't bad for everyone in tech. Although people will be buying less equipment and software, I'm guessing that they will spend more time online, which could be good news for Facebook, Twitter, and other online hangouts.
Speaking of Facebook ads, Burger King is running a promotion that rewards Facebook users with a coupon for a free Whopper, if they are willing to publicly drop 10 of their Facebook friends.
The Whopper Sacrifice campaign is a Facebook application that lets you decide which 10 of your friends to let go in exchange for 680 calories worth of burger and bun. I, for one, have decided not to participate in this program, so my friends are safe--unless, of course, they throw in fries and a coke.