Microsoft switches off CES

December 21, 2011

Microsoft, one of the most visible superpowers at the Consumer Electronics Show, has decided its keynote and booth at the upcoming event in January will be its last.

The world’s largest software company, which has long tried to boost the profile of its consumer business, usually puts up a huge duplex on the floor to show off its games, phones and other gadgets running its products at the Las Vegas jamboree. CEO Steve Ballmer is a regular keynote speaker, as Bill Gates was before him.

But the company is now admitting what it has said privately: that a show right after the holiday season just doesn’t fit its consumer product cycle. That is to say, Ballmer rarely has much new to say, when all its Xbox, phone and software news is done and dusted for the year.

In the words of Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s PR chief: “Our product news milestones generally don’t align with the show’s January timing.”

It will certainly save Microsoft valuable time and resources getting ready for the show, which yields an uncertain return at best. Remember, Apple conquered the consumer electronics market without exhibiting at CES at all.

The company says it will still attend CES to meet up with customers and partners and will keep its relationship with the Consumer Electronics Association, the industry group which organizes the show.

It’s hard to see the upside for the association, which must fear further big-name defections from its marquee event. But it says it has already had expressions of interest from other exhibitors in taking over Microsoft’s show floor space, and is not bearing any grudges.

“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,” the assocation said.

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