WHAT could be more exciting than a new case for an iPad?
The so-called 'Booth Babes' have been around for decades, paid by companies keen to spice up their wares and appeal to the largely male crowds of buyers, journalists and analysts who crowd the show floors.
Now, let's not get too het up: Vegas is full of dancing girls in casinos who are wearing a lot less, as well as vans that drive round with billboards saying "Girls! Girls! Girls! Want to meet you!". They are not advertising a dating agency. A brave technology journalist could even argue that being a booth babe is among the more conservative career choices for Las Vegas's beautiful, young and female. It's not news to anyone here that sex sells.
But, as the argument goes, the babes demean the brands that hire them and the whole technology industry. At best, it's claimed, they're a distraction, at worst they're an offensive interloper into a workplace that ought to be equally welcoming to men and women. People coming to Vegas for CES aren't choosing that Sin City atmosphere. And if I were being particularly grand, I'd argue that the babes demean me too: how dare people assume a journalist's imperious judgement would be swayed by something so tawdry as a perfectly proportioned, incongruous cheerleader.
But what’s the real problem, and could there really be a solution? One thing at least is for certain: if the babes are offensive, then having half naked men as well won't help. Two wrongs can't make a right, even to a gadget-crazed feminist.
And at what point can anyone start providing clothing regulations anyway? Short skirts are fine but hot pants are outlawed? This is America; some amendment or other will get in the way of that...
CES is run by the Consumer Electronics Association, whose chief executive Gary Shapiro argues that what was once perceived as a gadget show is now about the full-grown innovation that is making the phones and tablets and televisions and computers that are shaping all our lives. Normally very shrewd, he's previously argued that the babes are a trivial issue. He's wrong, but not because he should be fighting some age old sex war. He should know that any brand which needs buxom babes to make people buy its products doesn't deserve a place at the show.
At Panasonic's opening keynote for the show, the hostess was Lisa Ling, a well-known journalist who is also seven months pregnant. (It's supposed to be the prospect of sex that sells, not the evidence of it.) At Samsung's, Bill Clinton showed up. Innovators don't need booth babes. But let's not ban them - their presence makes it a lot easier to weed out the wheat from the chaff. If you're at CES and you see one, smile - and walk on by.
Matt Warman, Telegraph.co.uk