Another nail in the coffin for CES

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.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

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.

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