Why Microsoft Will Make its CES Appearance Its Last

When the average business gets a booth at a convention, it normally consists of a single table with some pamphlets, possibly a multimedia display, and some friendly employees to greet people. When Microsoft gets a booth, it takes up half the exhibit floor and attracts big-money investors. No more, says Microsoft, which announced its intentions to stop presenting at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Microsoft's huge booth at CES 2011

It is nothing personal, according to Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s vice president of corporate communications. The January timing of CES is just wrong for Microsoft’s product releases. Rather than catering its release schedule, demos, and announcements to CES, Microsoft will hold its own events, in similar fashion to Apple, which has never participated in a CES event but still manages to make its presence felt.

In 2013, the absence of Microsoft will be no small omission from the CES schedule, which often featured a keynote address from a Microsoft executive and a “booth” that was about the size of an entire exhibit hall. The Las Vegas Convention Center will feel oddly empty without Microsoft, which still holds a tight grip on the operating system and office product markets. Add to that its successful enterprise divisions, a multi-million unit-selling game console, and its mobile phone  OS, and you have a company that pretty much has its hand in every technological cookie jar.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has to be disappointed, but there is probably little it could do to change the mind of Microsoft, which could conceivably host an event larger than CES filled with only its employees, investors, and business partners.

Microsoft views this as a PR opportunity rather than a loss. It can now focus its energy on fine-tuning its products and taking the time to create as much hype as possible before release dates, without having to work around a convention schedule. Microsoft will continue to send representatives to CES, but it will do little beyond that after 2012.

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