There are two things you need to know about this CEATEC 2009 show report right from the off. First, I'm going to open it with another weather metaphor like I did last year. Sorry - I just can't help myself.
Second, the report doesn't go on for nearly as long as last year's, for reasons that will become apparent in due course.
Anyway, having, um, whet your appetite, it's time for that promised weather metaphor. Last year, my extreme literary genius had me drawing comparisons between the gloomy, heavy, misty sky hanging over Tokyo's Makuhari Messe and the gloomy state of the global economy. So this year the fact that it chucked it down during pretty much my entire week in Japan seemed all too reminiscent of an AV industry that's had its firework well and truly urinated on for the last 12 months.
And before you start accusing me of being melodramatic to make the whole tortured rain metaphor thing work, I can assure you that the proof of an industry with its tail between its legs was also all too obvious on the show floor.
Creative Use of Space?
Right away it was blatantly obvious that Hall 3 East, where the main AV action was at, was much less crowded with stands than it was last year. Two corners were completely empty; areas where big, glamorous stands once sat were replaced by tawdry little cardboard sideshows banging on about CEATEC's eco credentials; and it seemed to me that the chill wind of industry depression was blowing down inter-stand walkways markedly wider than last year's.
The CEATEC show is always pretty small relative to the sprawling monsters of Berlin's IFA and America's CES, so it took all of five seconds to spot why its show floor seemed so much emptier this year. Basically, no less than three massive Japanese brands who all put on expansive stands in 2008 - JVC, Canon and Pioneer - were this year nowhere to be seen.
From an AV fan's point of view, the fact that neither JVC nor Pioneer could muster a stand on their home turf really rammed home just how tough things have got - as well as reminding me that it really won't be long before it's impossible to buy a new Pioneer KURO TV unless it's second-hand off eBay. Sigh.
The reduction in companies showing their wares isn't the only reason this feature is shorter this year, either. For it also became apparent quite quickly that there just wasn't as much exciting new stuff to talk about as there was last year. For the most part, everything of interest seemed like an incremental development of stuff shown before, rather than there being really anything of significance that was truly new.
It remains to be seen whether this reflects an understandable dearth of imagination from AV brands struggling to recoup R&D budgets this year, or is just a sign that we're reaching the end of what has, after all, been a really frenzied era of AV progress. But there's certainly no doubt that really there was only one major story from CEATEC 2009. And that - as you'll doubtless guess - was 3D.