Organizers of the usually trend-setting trade show CES are determined to play chicken with surging COVID-19 case rates, but their biggest brands and keynote speakers are dropping out minute by minute.
In a normal year, the first week of January marks the annual tech pilgrimage to a Las Vegas trade show called the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where the best and brightest industry leaders, PR flacks, and booth babes get together to tell themselves “Oh, this is definitely the year people will start buying those curved TVs!” (Seriously, they’re still trying to make curved TVs happen.) But even though 2022 hasn't started yet, we can already tell it will not be a normal year. Yet the CES conference is determined as hell to still do an in-person event, despite more of their biggest names all pulling out with each passing hour.
A CNN report on KPIX notes that Amazon, Meta (Facebook), T-Mobile, Twitter and Pinterest have all pulled out of CES 2022 due to the Omicron variant COVID-19 surge. That report was published 13 hours ago. Since then, at least four of the conference’s homepage-listed “Featured Exhibitors” have also bailed.
CES and desist https://t.co/h5jU0DcNaz— Kelsey D. Atherton (@AthertonKD) December 23, 2021
And bizarrely, the CES Conference home page makes absolutely no mention of any COVID-19 protocols, requirements, or any reference to COVID whatsoever. Nor does it mention any keynote speakers, which is a big part of any conference. For that information, you have to go to the CES Instagram page.
Oooh, the president and CEO of T-Mobile! Sorry, he announced Tuesday that he’s not going, nor are his employees. “We are prioritizing the safety of our team and other attendees with this decision,” T-Mobile said in a statement. “Additionally, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert will no longer be offering a keynote in-person or virtually.”
Sure, but look at all of these other exhibitors currently listed on the CES website! Again, not so fast. Several have pulled out just this morning. Intel is not going, Lenovo pulled out Thursday morning too, Google‘s Waymo canceled their plans, and TV Maker Hisense pulled out Thursday as well. That’s all in one morning.
CES expectations vs. reality pic.twitter.com/0LXAhpQ9TZ— Ari Levy (@levynews) December 23, 2021
A CES spokesperson told The Verge, “While we recently received 42 exhibitor cancellations (less than 7% of our exhibit floor), since last Thursday, we’ve added 60 new exhibitors for our in person event. Registrations for both our digital access and our Las Vegas event are continuing to show strong momentum, with thousands more registrations in the last few days. “CES 2022 will go forward as important innovation for world health and safety, mobility and solving problems will be exhibited.”
“World health and safety.” “Solving problems.” That’s not just a spokesperson with their head up their ass, that’s an entire major conference operating cognitively from within its rear end. And what’s tragic is not the loss of a hard-partying conference in Vegas, what’s tragic is that many participating companies’ employees will be forced to attend, and will spread COVID, despite wishing they could avoid the whole thing.
Related: Dreamforce Returns as Much Smaller, Mostly Outdoor Conference in SoMa This Week [SFist]
Top image: Attendees walk near a full-scale mockup of the Bell Nexus 4EX air taxi concept at CES 2020 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 8, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bell’s new fully electric air taxi concept is designed to carry four or five passengers for a distance of up to 60 miles at a speed of around 150 mph. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)