CES 2014 Preview: Time to Learn Mandarin (and Korean)

Vegas gears up for electronics show

As of Monday's pre-show, CES 2014 in Las Vegas is off to a bumpy start, with so many delays out of New York's JFK and LaGuardia airports that vendors and exhibitors flying west are having to make do without members of their teams. If you're flying east, however, your main problem is going to be crowding.

The exhibition hall in the Venetian has a huge section marked "Korea" and "China" and even down into fairly specific sections of the latter—there's a clutch of "Hong Kong" booths and a lengthy row tagged "Shenzhen," and folks showing off everything from audio equipment to consumer-grade 3D printers were busily unpacking boxes and giant television sets and headgear that looked like something you'd use to pilot a spaceship.

Some early birds were ready to go: Jesse Pliner and Lloyd Gladstone, of electronics company Prong, had signage, product samples, and prominently displayed complimentary bags of M&M's at a table for their new device, the PocketPlug—an iPhone case that plugs into the wall. The Venetian ballroom and Hall D are frequently where the scrappier tech companies go first (much of the rest of the hotel is taken up with private suites for exhibitors who want to show off, say, a wafer-thin sound system in a place where thousands of people aren't screaming about their new products). This year, though, the gallery of inventors has gone macro.

Forklifts and guys carrying huge crates clogged the walkways while vendors chatted in every language—one attendee said that he'd seen an "English only" rule instituted in a casino poker room so that players couldn't tip off their countrymen in Mandarin or Japanese (the rule gets enforced, too, he said).

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at what Samsung, Sony, and other tech giants have planned for the new year, as well as what VivaKi and their fellow agencies are looking for in monetizable tech. Today, it's about setting up your wares, playing a few hands of blackjack late at night, and frantically texting your colleagues to make sure they got on the last flight out of Newark.