These days the semiconductor industry seems to have a conference every week, but two that stand out in the consumer arena are the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the Freescale Semiconductor Inc. Technology Forum (FTF) in San Antonio.
I go to CES almost every year, and it was very frustrating this last time around. This year I decided to partake in the panels that went on throughout the week, and was sorely disappointed in how lacking in foresight many of the speakers were. I've written about my disappointment with CES here on EBN. (See: Battle of the Digital Ecosystems and The Agony of Digital Rights Management.)
In contrast, this year's FTF was refreshingly forward looking. It was my first year, and from what I can tell, if you have to choose just one consumer conference to attend, you should pick FTF. One of the main benefits was being able to speak directly to designers and engineers on the floor as they scouted new technology demos. Since they aren't looking to sell you anything (unlike at CES), it's a wonderful time to learn their thoughts about the market.
I wasn't sure what to expect during my first trip to FTF. My colleague, Tony Massimini, told me to "wear comfortable shoes," a bit of advice that made me worried FTF would mimic the chaos of CES a little too closely. But, I was pleasantly surprised at how manageable FTF really is.
A day at FTF starts off with a buffet breakfast right before a keynote. Freescale puts a high production value into its opening keynotes each morning, and they were well worth attending. This year CEO Gregg Lowe had only been in office for 13 days, so he handed off much of his speech to vice presidents who were able to give in-depth views into their segments and what new innovations they are all working on.
After the keynotes the day becomes a mixture of technical sessions, market overviews, one-on-one briefings, and networking breaks. Dinner takes place in Freescale's Technology Lab, where attendees are encouraged to look at new tech and network with each other.
While CES does have its own technical sessions and market overview classes, these sections are dwarfed by the large showcase rooms filled with hundreds of vendors and thousands of products. And while I've been assured CES does serve lunch in various locations, I've never been able to find those rooms (mostly because I get lost in paper bags, let alone at large Las Vegas convention centers).
Needless to say, after attending FTF for one year, it's the one I prefer of the two. Because FTF is smaller, it's better organized and easier to navigate, but more importantly, the information available at FTF was far more accurate and forward looking than that available at CES.
For those who follow our Twitter feed (@semicoresearch), there was a striking difference between our tweets about CES vs FTF. But what about you? Do you have a conference preference?