CES, the annual mega-showcase for the latest and greatest in consumer technology, just lost an important member of its lineup, Microsoft. In a bit of odd timing, the software giant announced today that next month’s CES in Las Vegas will be its last.
For the past two years Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer gave a widely-covered keynote address where he previewed tablet computers running Windows and the company has long used big trade shows as a vehicle to preview and announce other new products. The company is expected to show further progress with its Windows 8 tablets at this year’s show, starting with a keynote Monday night, January 9.
The pull out is probably the most shocking related to a tech trade show since Apple announced a month ahead of time that the annual Macworld Expo conference in 2009 would be its last. Steve Jobs highly anticipated keynote was also cancelled with VP of Marketing Phil Schiller taking his place.
Apple said at the time it decided to pull out because trade shows had become a very minor part of the way the company reached customers and wanted to focus on other areas including its growing network of Apple Stores. Microsoft’s VP of Corporate Communications Frank Shaw gave a similar rationale in his blog post:
“As we look at all of the new ways we tell our consumer stories – from product momentum disclosures, to exciting events like our Big Windows Phone, to a range of consumer connection points like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft.com and our retail stores – it feels like the right time to make this transition.”
In January, 2010, Ballmer previewed an HP Slate tablet with a touch interface that was quickly forgotten after the debut of the iPad and HP’s $1.2 billion purchase of Palm, Inc. that led to the ill-fated TouchPad tablet.
Microsoft also showed off partner tablets from Asus and other at the 2011 CES, as well as Windows Phone 7 and XBox-related advances.
Per usual, Microsoft will kick off a series of CES keynotes when Ballmer & Company give theirs Monday night, January 9, but some other company will fill that lead off position next year.