Microsoft switches off CES

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.

Digital TV transition looms, CEA goes on free trade tour

tv-sets.jpgWASHINGTON – It is about six months until the United States faces a seismic event that potentially rivals the Y2K scare eight years ago — the digital television transition which could switch off millions of old television sets.

The television industry and government officials are doing a lot to warn consumers that if they don’t have a new television that can pick up the new, crisper pictures, don’t buy a digital-to-analog converter box or don’t have a subscription service like cable, they could be in the dark come Feb. 18, 2009.

So that would lead one to believe that the Consumer Electronics Association, whose mission in life is to hawk all those new fangled gizmos to consumers, would be on the road talking up the beautiful (and expensive) digital television sets its members want to sell.