LAS VEGAS--What's the easiest way to tell you're at a trade show full of thousands of people who make a living writing on the Internet? The Internet doesn't work.
CES doesn't really start until tomorrow, but today's traditional slate of press conferences posed quite the challenge for anyone trying to document the goings-on. Press Wi-Fi, 3G cards, MiFi devices, tethered smartphones, pick a device or a carrier: finding a steady wireless connection at the Venetian Hotel was a difficult prospect.
Not impossible, as our steady stream of live coverage shows, but extremely frustrating and slow for those trying to get news out to the world. While CES is, of course, all about the gadgets, those gadgets are taking up a serious chunk of the wireless bandwidth in this part of Las Vegas, and it makes you wonder if network providers will ever be able to reliably service huge crowds in small spaces with multiple wireless devices.
After all, the whole point of these gadgets is to connect with the world, as Intel's Mooly Eden told an overflowing conference room of frantically typing journalists earlier in the morning. When everyone wants to connect at the same time, those gadgets can become expensive paperweights.
Tech industry gatherings are notorious for this type of thing, however. The huge backlash against AT&T coming off the South by Southwest conference in 2009 when thousands of iPhone-bearing geeks practically shut down service in Austin forced the carrier to make upgrades to its network, but these kinds of huge spikes in demand are hard to avoid and hard to anticipate.
So if your favorite tech blogger comes across a little shaky in their tweets, live blogs, and video streams coming out of Las Vegas this week, give him or her a break: I had to walk 1,000 yards away from the press area to the Venetian lobby to get a reliable Sprint connection to post this story. At least nobody yet has asked us to turn off our wireless devices so their demos will work.
Updated 1:25 p.m. PDT: Topsy, a real-time search engine, e-mailed in to relay that it counted 4,500 CES-related tweets in a two-hour span this morning, most of which were likely sent from this building. Also, it's not just the media that's having trouble: Nvidia's keynote was derailed by wireless problems similar to those that bedeviled Apple's Steve Jobs in the reference above.