Friday, January 12, 2007

Closing it out

CES is always a complete madhouse, with 140,000 people showing up and wandering 3 million square feet of convention center space. Goliaths like Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, and others dominate the landscape with advertising in the airport, on top of the cabs, covering entire sides of hotels. CES exhibits are now spread across 3-4 convention and expo facilities throughout the city. Everyone is pitching some product or service and competing for a limited amount of mindshare from the press, buyers, dealers, and trade reps who flock to this show. Interviews are given, meetings are held, and everyone's voice gets pretty gravelly after talking with visitors from 9 AM to 6 PM four days in a row.

It can be a tough place to work, filled with distractions in other booths, not to mention the allure (occasionally seamy though it may be) of Las Vegas. "In many ways, CES is too big. It's like holding meetings in Disney World," Ian remarked today. "People come with every intention of having serious meetings and in the end, they just want to go on the rides."

In spite of the challenges, the show went well for KVH and we actually did manage to have those serious meetings. We'll be in the post-show follow-up and assessment period for some time, seeing where else we show up in the press, which of the prospective dealers we met actually sign on to sell TracVision, and how well we can keep the momentum generated with our reps, distributors, and dealers going into the year and our national sales efforts.

In many ways, our position now at CES is reminiscent of how things have also changed over the years at the METS show in Amsterdam. "People are taking us extremely seriously at CES," Ian observed. "We're part of the 12V industry fabric, part of the mix of core companies for dealers, reps, and people looking to get into the business. That's a satisfying feeling."

And not at all a bad way to wrap up CES and kick off 2007.

The KVH team celebrates a successful show

TracVision A7 named one of best auto products at CES by and Fortune Small Business

Just a quick Consumer Electronics Show update:

The TracVision A7 has been named one of the best automotive products at the show by and Fortune Small Business.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Alright, Mr. DeMille. I'm ready for my closeup.

The news media flocks to CES – bloggers, TV crews, freelancers, stringers, radio shows, tech writers, consumer trend reporters. They all spread out across the convention center in waves (or in the case of many of the radio shows, sit encased in temporary, pseudo-soundproof studios tucked away in the corner, surrounded by clear plexiglass like bizarre media terrariums. "Ooooh look, Mommy! It's a live radio reporter. Can I feed him?")

The coverage actually starts before the show with energetic previews of what's to come at the show, followed by the live or taped demos, the interviews on camera in the booth, at the vehicle, in the press center. Reporters want to cover the cool, the up-and-coming, the wild and wacky. Columns are filled with observations on consumer trends, technological innovation, and often (and sadly) incorrect or misapplied information. You end up developing a thick skin on these but sometimes you just have to shake your head. How a reporter could come away from our demo vehicle and describe the TracVision A7 as "bathtub-sized" or "monstrous" is beyond me! And don't even get me started on the writer who claims he was told that an A7 was once installed on a Corvette!

Getting in front of the media hordes is a major goal for virtually every company here. From our perspective, KVH is in a great position with regard to getting attention. Our products are cutting-edge and definitely offer a "wow" factor; they tie in with the trends the the media is following (mobility, Internet access, entertainment); and they look good on TV. It's an unusual TV reporter or editor who would turn down the opportunity to show his or her TV program on the TV screens in a car. After all, the more eyeballs are watching that channel, the higher the ad rates!

Our team works hard on getting that story out and making sure we make a strong pitch (sometimes starting months in advance) to inform reporters that we're at the show and why we offer a story that their audiences will appreciate. That's how the "Good Morning, America" segment came about.

GMA was great in that we saw the results immediately. Same thing with Yahoo News. The results of other interviews carried out in our exhibit this week – with Mobile Electronics, Rolling Stone, Popular Mechanics, for example – may not show up for weeks or months.

Of course, the Internet makes it easy to see those other immediate results, whether on a blog link CNET or Crave, or in an online version of a newspaper that picked up the story.

Then of course, there are the bluebirds, the unexpected visits from media that require you to be on and available with zero notice, like Motor Trend Radio. Not much prep time for these, no makeup, and it all happens with the noise and bustle of CES going on around you.

Marketing VP Jim Dodez (left) goes on the record with CBS Radio. It's amazing what they can do with handheld digital recorders these days.

FOX News gets the scoop on the TracVision A7 from Marketing Manager Chris Watson (right) as Joe Hendershot looks on

Being flexible is a survival skill, especially when speaking to the media. Anyone in the booth is a target, especially if the PR and marketing guys have scampered off somewhere else. Don't forget to look for the Home & Garden TV program next June featuring regional sales manager Ken Lokey, caught on camera and doing his best impression of a hand model!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A visit from an old friend

It was a bit of a surprise this afternoon when an old friend, Joe Barhoush, KVH's Lebanese distributor, showed up in our CES booth in Las Vegas. We last ran into Joe during the Marine Electronics Trade Show in Amsterdam, just a few months after featuring him in a press release concerning his work with TV news crews during the most recent conflict in Lebanon. It turns out he's been in Las Vegas with his new bride for an extended honeymoon (congratulations, Joe!) as well as a visit with family in the area that just happened to coincide with CES. And they say some people don't know how to have a good time...

Good lord, they're everywhere! Well, not quite but we're working on it.

While CES 2007 doesn't have quite the same saturation of TracVision-equipped vehicles as at the SEMA show back in November, KVH's products are definitely around and about at this show and not just on our own show vehicles. Plus we've seen a few TracVision-equipped SUVs tooling around the Las Vegas streets over the last several days.

On a Lincoln Navigator in the Microsoft Automotive Exhibit

Aboard the showstopping International CXT by TREO Engineering, right in front of the main entrance to the North Hall

In the Vizualogic booth, also in the North Hall near KVH's exhibit

And on the Girls Gone Wild Tour motorcoach. Surprisingly, no one seemed to be paying much attention to the motorcoach.

If you've got it, flaunt it

We're not shy, we're not bashful, and if anyone at KVH ever tells you that we don't enjoy winning awards for our technology, well they've probably also got a bridge to sell you. Not that we're obnoxious about it (or at least I hope not) but we put a lot of time, energy, and sweat into our products and when someone says "bravo" – whether for the technology, the reliability, the performance, or the world-class service we offer – we really do appreciate it. With that in mind, we were thrilled to learn a month or so ago that the TracVision A7 had been selected as a 2007 Innovations Honoree by the Consumer Electronics Association. This is the second time we've received this honor, the first being for our original TracVision A5 satellite TV system. What's especially nice is that the Innovations Honoree award was the latest in a string of awards for our new products as well as for the automotive TracVision product line itself.

I finally had a chance to take the free shuttle to the Sands Convention and Expo Center, which is hosting not only another huge section of CES but also the Innovations Plus pavilion, where the honorees are being highlighted. (Yes, you read that right...CES has gotten so big that the 3.2 million square foot Las Vegas Convention Center can't hold it anymore. Instead, it's in the Convention Center, the Sands, AND the Venetian. It's rather daunting, actually.) Anyhow, the TracVision A7 is prominently located in the Innovations Plus pavilion and definitely catching visitors' attention.

The TracVision A7 on display in the Innovations Plus Pavilion

"I have got to get me one of these!" Yeah, we know it was Will Smith who said this in Independence Day but we're pretty sure that's what this CES attendee was thinking.

Within our own booth, we've also made sure our track record of industry recognition is on display thanks to the new KVH trophy case. With the 2007 Innovations honor front and center, we also highlighted the other awards our automotive TracVision line has earned over the years.

Two Innovation Awards, the GM Design Award, finalist plaque for the Automotive News PACE Award, and the Frost & Sullivan Market Leader Award all on display in the KVH booth. To paraphase Sally Field, "You like the TracVision! You really really like the TracVision!"

Great Caesar's Ghost! DIRECTV is Offsite!

Visitors to CES looking for DIRECTV are in for a surprise...the satellite TV provider isn't here at the convention center. This year, our collaborator in automotive satellite TV elected instead to create "The DIRECTV Experience" in a large ballroom at that Las Vegas mainstay, Caesar's Palace. While we've had a TracVision in the DIRECTV exhibit each of the last few years, it's never been on display quite like this:

Yes, that's a real TracVision A7 mounted on a photo of a minivan

Apparently, DIRECTV's original plan called for literally slicing a minivan in half and mounting it to the wall. I guess the picture of the minivan with a real roof rack and TracVision A7 was apparently viewed as slightly more practical, not to mention easier to install!

Almost feels like you're riding along, enjoying live DIRECTV in the car, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Keeping busy at CES

With a team of 11 KVH staffers – ranging from CEO Martin Kits van Heyningen to key members of our sales, marketing, engineering, and tech support teams – here at CES, we'll been well prepared to handle a huge variety of meetings with existing dealers, prospective dealers, investors, the press, distributors, and many others.

Technical Support Rep Jack Cahoon (right) discusses the TracVision A7 technology with two prospective dealers at the Yukon Denali demo vehicle stationed outside the Central Hall

OEM Key Account Manager Joe Hendershot and a customer discuss the TracVision A7

West Coast Regional Sales Manager Ben Bettelli (left) meets with two dealers as a TracVision M3 nearby

Good morning, America (and an early morning it was, too)!

It seemed like it took all night to make it happen but the live Good Morning America segment ran yesterday with a nice, solid plug for KVH and our TracVision and TracNet products. We had to get our demo vehicle to the convention center at 2:30 AM, run a gauntlet of overly aggressive and moderately cranky security guards (though it was cold and 2:30 AM and to be honest, I wasn’t a ray of sunshine at that hour either), drive the Yukon Denali XL through the convention center displays (hope no one noticed the dent I left on that exhibit…just kidding), and then get it all set up in the temporary studio along with the other products that were being featured.

The KVH TracVision/TracNet demo vehicle in GMA's temporary studio inside the Las Vegas Convention Center

Kudos to our outstanding PR team at XPR Public Relations. Companies pitched more than 600 products to GMA and despite the competition, XPR landed a segment for both of ours. Nice work, guys.

Finally at 5:15 local time, the live segment kicked off following some banter between Diane Sawyer and Becky Worley, ABC’s reporter on the spot.

After Becky shot some additional footage for Yahoo News, we eased the demo vehicle back out into the early morning and into its prime location at the front of the Las Vegas Convention Center just in time for sunrise.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Coming soon to a morning show near you

Heads up, all you early birds out there. It looks like the KVH TracVision A7 satellite TV system and the TracNet 100 mobile Internet will be featured on the broadcast of ABC’s Good Morning, America, coming to you live from the CES broadcast center on Monday morning sometime between 7AM and 9AM Eastern. This will be a nice way to kick off CES 2007!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

KVH Brings Mobile, High-tech Entertainment & Internet to CES 2007

The 2007 Consumer Electronics Show kicks off on Monday, January 8, 2007, in Las Vegas, NV, and KVH will be there in force. Highlighting the show will be our flagship TracVision® and TracNet™ products for satellite TV and Internet on the go for cars, boats, and RV, including:
  • the all-new TracVision A7 automotive satellite TV system and the DIRECTV® Total Choice® Mobile satellite TV programming package, a 2007 Consumer Electronics Association Innovations Honoree;

  • the small, simple, powerful TracVision M3, the world’s smallest fully stabilized marine satellite TV antenna and winner of both the NMEA Industry Award for marine entertainment systems and the marine electronics category in the 2006 DAME Award competition;

  • the groundbreaking TracVision R6 satellite TV system for RVs and the satellite TV system for choice for sportscaster John Madden; and

  • the exciting TracNet 100 mobile Internet receiver, which offers high-speed Internet access on the go via the MSN TV service and a mobile WiFi hot spot.
KVH representatives attending CES will include company executives, national sales managers, our media and PR staff, and senior members of the engineering and product development team. Please stop by our booth or contact us in advance if you're interested in meeting with us and discussing how KVH's technology is fueling the trend towards live mobile media in cars, boat, and RVs.

We'll also be providing regular updates from the show floor to keep you current on all the news and events at this exciting show.

Where: Booth #4633, North Hall, Las Vegas Convention Center

When: January 8 – January 11, 2007