Another nail in the coffin for CES

Another nail in the coffin for CES

Summary: Microsoft is pulling out of the Consumer Electronics Show, joining Google, Apple and Amazon on the sidelines. Here's why it spells trouble for one of the biggest trade shows in the world.

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After 2012, Microsoft will no longer be a major participant of the Consumer Electronics Show.

It's been a long time coming. The biggest names in tech have increasingly found that they don't need to come to people (and by people, I mean partners and press); people come to them.

When you're one of the belles of the ball, you don't need to expend energy to attract suitors. Apple has long known it. Google knows it. Amazon knows it. Hell, even Facebook knows it, despite not dabbling in consumer electronics per se.

Without these companies, CES has lumbered on, Microsoft leading the way. As more and more companies dropped out or collapsed, the CEA, the show's governing body, filled them with surprising additions -- most recently, automakers who want to highlight the technology of their vehicles while the vehicles themselves are unveiled at the nearly concurrent North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

We've been calling for the death of CES for awhile now; its labyrinth of halls and booths were either filled with odd, unheard-of vendors from overseas who had little shot of making it big or larger vendors who didn't need to bother. A tough economy has clearly given Microsoft reason to give a hard look at the show and its actual return on investment. (And no, the given reason that CES' timing didn't jive with Microsoft announcements is not the real reason it's pulling out.)

People descend upon CES to read the pulse of the industry; increasingly, that pulse is being set elsewhere, and CES is merely the place to commemorate it. What was once the place to debut your new product has become the victory lap.

And from a press point of view, the most vital parts of the show occur before it even opens. This year, I'll be bidding it adieu halfway through Day 2. (I can't speak for the partner implications, though; if you're reading this and are an annual CES attendee, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the show's utility in TalkBack.)

The question that remains is, what will come of CES? In my opinion, the show will soldier on without its biggest marquee names -- I'll be watching what Sony and Samsung do, I assure you -- but will eventually lose its role as the show that holds the most mindshare in the technology industry. Because technology is quickly ditching products for platforms, and the former just won't matter as much.

This year will come and go with little fanfare -- more on this in a forthcoming post -- but Microsoft's absence in 2013 will be felt.

Topics: CES, Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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36 comments
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  • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

    CES, Macworld, Comdex, they all were at one time a special place, now with one dead, and two on life support, the days of the tradeshow are coming to an end. Blame it on the economy, the ridiculous prices to exhibit, and stay somewhere, or the egos of the main players of the industry. It's sad. It was fun while it lasted, especially Comdex and Macworld. You got a chance to talk to engineers who made the cool stuff we use everyday. The free stuff they would give away back then was pretty cool. Now you're lucky if they give away pens with their name on them.

    Just depressing...
    hammeroftruth
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @hammeroftruth
      +1
      Ram U
    • Too much money for too little in return

      @hammeroftruth It's so much cheaper and easier for companies to get their message out and to have more control over it.
      otaddy
      • True, but......

        @otaddy The same could be said about staying home and renting a video vs. going to the movies, the experience just isn't the same. To have someone show you their product with enthusiasm and be able to answer your questions is so much better than dealing with an employee at a retail establishment who doesn't know the answer nor does he care about it.
        hammeroftruth
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @hammeroftruth It's depressing because this forced companies to be innovative year after year, and come up with new ideas to present to the community. When relying solely on their own internal buzz, the only commitment they have left is to themselves. No PS4 / X720 demos anymore? No look into the future of television and the gaming industry? People will expect less, and bi-proxy, I suspect, will get less from these companies.
      thoiness
      • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

        @thoiness Well the only thing we can hope for is that the economy recovers, and the public who has been overworked for so long just is so indifferent that they have to go back to the tradeshow days to get attention. History repeats itself and the good parts are worth repeating.
        hammeroftruth
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @hammeroftruth
      they are the victim of the internet success, just like their brick and mortar brethren. i miss going to borders just to browse and be with people that share the same passion for printed materials. kids have nowhere to go now to touch and browse at books that might kindle their interest in life, just like the grown ups have no more chance of seeing and touching future tech toys. well, that's the price we have to pay for tech advances, more time for us to browse the web and become full time couch potatoes!!! Alleluia...
      kc63092@...
      • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

        @kc63092@... What about Libraries for books. Also Bull Moose, Barnes and Noble, etc. Borders, unfortunately, was always more costly to purchase books from, so IMHO, I don't miss them....
        T-Wrench
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @hammeroftruth
      +high costs partly due to vendors being forced to use overpriced show services, including union services preventing companies from doing their own work. It's a major gouge. A fee for every little thing you want, and fees for some things you don't want. Trade show services co.'s are like modern-day Thenardiers. (lyrics: "master of the house")
      opcom
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @hammeroftruth

      Sounds a lot like Black Friday..You used to get a free gift that was worthwhile...now you get a McDonalds quality Snow globe with a what looks like a dog w/red nose instead of our favorite reindeer Rudolph.
      Rob.sharp
  • Small numbers of large buyers

    A lot of this has to do with consolidation in distribution. Time was, every city had a dominant, but local, "TV and appliance" retailer plus a dozen or so car stereo, high-end audio, and TV stores. Those are the buyers that the manufacturers wanted to reach at the show, and those are the guys who went to the show to see the new goodies, get drunk, and gamble.

    That's all gone now. Now, to make it in consumer electronics, you send one or two [i]very[/i] expensive salespeople around to a half-dozen places: Walmart, BestBuy, Fry's, Amazon, and H.H. Gregg.

    The same thing killed COMDEX. Remember computer stores? There were three on every corner. All gone.

    True story: Once upon a time the big computer show was NCC. All the big IT execs from around the country went to it. HP was the first to question what they were getting out of it, so they pulled out one year. Six months later they did a blind survey asking IT people which vendors they remembered seeing at NCC. A whole bunch said they remembered seeing HP's booth, even though there wasn't one. HP never went back.
    Robert Hahn
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @Robert Hahn
      I have to disagree with one item, there still some small computer stores in Portland Oregon, not many from a decade ago. The issues are the PC has become a mass produced commodity and the rise laptop and tablet.
      Still things have to change, the smart money is not on new sales except for niche market (industrial and gamers) but on service and the second had market.
      Richardbz
    • Great comment.

      @Robert Hahn That's a fantastic anecdote, Robert. Thanks for sharing.
      andrew.nusca
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @Robert Hahn
      To be a bit more precise to his comment about the NCC, as I recall, the SJCC and FJCC (Spring and Fall Joint Computer Conferences) were the big shows preceding and eventually replaced by the NCC. All were sponsored by AFIPS.
      Bruce_B2
  • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

    Sounds like trade show will go the way of West Coast Computer Fare
    Richardbz
  • International CES

    Here's CEA's statement on the matter. With 2,700 companies exhibiting at CES, we're a little surprised to see you define the success of CES by the 2013 plans of one company.

    Statement of CEA on Microsoft Participation in the 2013 International CES

    In the fourteen years that we have invited Microsoft to deliver a keynote address at CES, the company has unveiled some great innovations, from operating systems to gaming platforms to mobile technologies, Both CEA and Microsoft have agreed that the time has come to end this great run, and so Microsoft will not have a keynote at the 2013 CES.

    The International CES is widely recognized as the world???s best stage for technology debuts, and each year we experience incredible demand from the world???s leading technology companies for invitations to keynote at CES. We will announce our amazing lineup of keynoters for the 2013 CES beginning in the early summer of 2012.

    Microsoft has also informed us that, although their plans for the 2013 CES are not yet finalized, they will not request the Central Hall exhibit space that they have used in past years. Given the huge success of the 2012 CES, with more than 1.8 million net square feet of exhibit space (the second largest show floor in our history) and more than 2,700 exhibitors, we have received expressions of interest for that space from the long waiting list for Central Hall exhibit space. Exhibitors will choose space for the 2013 CES during the 2012 show, and in past years available Central Hall exhibit space has sold out within hours.

    Microsoft is an important member of CEA and we wish them all the best as they evolve their plans for new ways to tell consumer stories. We also look forward to their CES keynote on January 9, 2012.
    joxman
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @joxman The reason why it's important is when one big company decides to pull out, others surely follow. This is what happened with COMDEX and Macworld. The economy has put such a strain on these companies bottom line that they don't see the benefit of spending the outrageous fees to exhibit and have little faith that enough attendees will visit to justify such an expense.
      hammeroftruth
  • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

    The question I have is... with the rise of Steam/Origin/Game Stop's electronic distribution... is E3 far behind?
    jeffpk
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @jeffpk E3 did have a few years where they didn't do the lavish tradeshows like they used to. They went back to doing that after attendance dropped dramatically .
      hammeroftruth
    • RE: Another nail in the coffin for CES

      @jeffpk Don't think so ... its more of a 'happening' like ComicCon.
      john_gillespie@...