For well over a decade Microsoft has been a major fixture at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place every January. Microsoft has been involved with the show and its parent organization, the Consumer Electronics Association, for twenty years. The company announced this morning, however, that CES 2012, which begins on January 9th, will be Microsoft’s last. After 2012 the company will no longer give a keynote address or have a booth at CES.
CES has long been an opportunity for Microsoft to unveil new products. Their keynote and booth have offered conference attendees the chance to see what Microsoft had in the works, and provided the company a ready-made platform to make its biggest announcements. In today’s press release, Microsoft cited the changing landscape of the industry and the corresponding changes in the way companies communicate with customers as the reason for their decision. In effect, Microsoft no longer needs CES to launch its products.
In pulling out of the trade show at which it has been a major fixture for so long, Microsoft follows the lead of Apple, which stopped attending the Macworld Conference and Expo in 2009. Apple had historically used Macworld to make some of its biggest announcements. Apple cited some of the same reasons as Microsoft in its decision. In effect, it became easier and more beneficial to make announcements on their own schedule, rather than put forth the effort and expense of going to the conference.
The departure of Microsoft is not likely to hurt CES all that much, however. Though the company has been a major part of the show for many years, it is not central to it, the way Apple was with Macworld (which survived quite well without Apple, as it turned out). CES has been around in one form or another since 1967, and has become a major industry conference. Microsoft’s absence is not likely to be much of a detriment.