Two overlapping trends have chipped away at CES and events like it: First, software and services have become the soul of consumer technology. Hardware (seriously doesn't the word "electronics" in the conference's dusty title make your eyes instantly droop a bit?) has become increasingly commoditized into blank vessels that do little more than hold Facebook and Twitter and the App Store and Android and iOS. And the best and most interesting vessels, increasingly, are made by the very companies making the software.
The second major trend threatens not just CES, but all the gatherings like it, including the increasingly moribund political conventions. The social web has replaced the trade show as a platform for showcasing and distributing products and concepts and ideas. When major tech companies —and new, tiny tech companies! — have a product to launch, they host their own events and rely on the press, Facebook and Twitter to do the rest.