Attendee Richard Glikes, executive director of the 47-dealer-strong, $450-million-grossing Home Theater Specialists of America group, says he and his board of directors are lucky to get half a day to actually walk the floor and visualize the product. "This show used to be a lot more about selling," says Glikes. "Now it's more about building relationships and planning marketing strategies with our vendors."

Even lower in profile are the estimated 20,000 or so other industry-ites not officially counted in CES' attendance figures, who are in town working at off-site product exhibits and events that piggyback CES, including "co-locates" like the Government IT Showcase (for homeland security gear) and the non-aligned Adult Video Show (yes, that kind of adult video).

Because of the sheer size and demands of the show, CES has developed quite the codependency with the uniquely convention-friendly city of Las Vegas. True, Chicago and Orlando have slightly larger primary convention centers, but "there isn't another city in America with anywhere near our 128,000 hotel and motel rooms less than a 20-minute cab or shuttle bus ride away," says Chris Meyer, director of convention center sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors' Authority. The city boasts two other mega-exhibit centers, the Mandalay Bay and the Sands, and gobs of hotel ballrooms and meeting facilities. That adds up to the city's staggering 9.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibition space. "We say it's more than anywhere else in the galaxy, and so far, no one's disputed it," says Meyer half-jokingly.

In staging a global-scale event like CES, it also helps that the city never sleeps, and that flights come in direct from Europe and Asia, says Karen Chupka, vice president of events and conferences for CEA. "So no matter when you fly in or what time zone you're on, you can get a lively welcome, even pick up your badge holder at the airport until 1 a.m., then get a decent meal when you get to your hotel."

To the locals, the International Consumer Electronics Show is what's known as a citywide, meaning it takes over virtually the entire town. And so determines things like how many cabs (1,500), shuttle buses (200), and limousines (every available stretch from the Las Vegas Valley back to L.A.) will be called into service. Talent bookings at the big hotel/casinos are also affected, but on the downside. Because so many of the exhibitors stage their own hotel and club parties with big-name talent - from Jay Leno to Crosby, Stills & Nash - some showrooms go "dark" during convention week.