Commentary

Big Names Go Virtual For CES 2022

One can honor a major consumer technology event of the year by wrapping it in the technology that allows us not to attend: virtual.

The Consumer Electronics Shows in Las Vegas 2022 starts in just about a week, running January 5-8 -- the first scheduled in-person event since 2020. The January 2021 event was totally virtual.

But as Omicron looms, who is really going to show up? And what, if anything, does that mean for the business for the rest of 2022?

The event usually pulls 170,000 attendees, like in January 2020 -- just two-and-a-half months before the pandemic really got going. The Consumer Technology Association, which runs the event, expects much less now -- an estimated 40,000 to 60,000.

All this comes as big-name technology and media companies will not be attending. The latest major company to opt out is Google, which is pulling up stakes as an exhibitor.

Other headliners on the sidelines include General Motors, T-Mobile, Amazon, Meta Platforms and Microsoft. In addition, AMD, AT&T, Casio, Hisense, HP, iHeartMedia, Lenovo, Nvidia, Pinterest, TikTok and Twitter will not attend in person.

Still, the show must go on for those not so big.

A communications rep for the Consumer Technology Association told Investor’s Business Daily: "We have 2,200 companies that want to have a show. So we are having a show."

The executive said that while some “large” companies are hitting pause, there are small to-medium-sized companies whose business depends on the show.

No doubt. But at what risk? COVID-19 hasn’t yet devolved into a flu-like yearly thing -- risky but manageable -- which some experts predict is where things are likely going.

For its part, Google says it's going virtual. That's not exactly a surprise, since the event was always designed to be a hybrid thing -- in person and virtual.

The CES event has been a growing platform for entertainment, technology, advertising and media platforms for years now.

If senior-level executives from these key industry groups cannot get together, is that such a big deal in the short term? But what changes will become permanent if these ongoing on- and off-pandemic periods continue?

Some take comfort knowing Zoom activities give us a sense of closeness -- at a safe distance. All with an air of aloofness. No hugging, no fist pumps. Perfect for time-sensitive, tech-savvy media/entertainment executives.

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