by Richard Velotta, Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 24, 2021
Microsoft Corp., one of the most influential exhibitors at CES, has joined the ranks of technology companies that have opted not to attend the 2022 show.
But organizers of CES say vaccination requirements, masking and the availability of free COVID-19 test kits — and the fact that there will be fewer people coming — will keep show attendees safe next month.
A representative of the Washington-based Consumer Technology Association, organizers of CES, affirmed Friday that the show, Las Vegas’ largest annual convention, would go on Jan. 5-8 as planned.
Microsoft became the latest company to withdraw from the show, notifying by email a respected tech publication of its plans.
“After reviewing the latest data on the rapidly evolving COVID environment, Microsoft has decided not to participate in-person at CES 2022,” said a Friday email sent to The Verge, which first reported the company’s decision.
Microsoft executives have been frequent presenters of keynote addresses at CES over the years. Company co-founder and former chairman and CEO Bill Gates was the keynote speaker at CES 12 times in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Six large technology companies announced Thursday that they are withdrawing from the in-person show, joining four others said earlier in the week that they were backing out.
Among the companies not planning to attend in person are Google, General Motors, Waymo, Lenovo Group, Intel, AT&T, T-Mobile, Amazon, Twitter and Meta (formerly known as Facebook).
Those companies cited the rapid spread of COVID-19 resulting from the omicron variant as the reason for staying on the sidelines.
Association officials on Wednesday said that since a week ago, 42 exhibitors had canceled their appearances, but that 60 new exhibitors had been added.
“Over 2,200 companies are confirmed to participate in person at CES 2022 in Las Vegas,” CES spokeswoman Katie Castillo said in a statement issued late Thursday. “Our focus remains on convening the tech industry and giving those who cannot attend in person the ability to experience the magic of CES digitally. CES 2022 will provide an opportunity for companies from around the world, both large and small, to launch products, build brands and form partnerships.”
Castillo said the association is working closely with Nevada health experts to keep the show, which usually attracts more than 170,000 people, as safe as possible. It’s unclear how many people will attend CES 2022.
CES, the largest annual trade show in North America, is staged at multiple Las Vegas convention venues every year. It usually takes a month to set up.
“Given CES’ comprehensive health measures — vaccination requirement, masking and availability of COVID-19 tests — coupled with lower attendance and social distancing measures, we are confident that attendees and exhibitors can have a socially distanced but worthwhile and productive event in Las Vegas, or while experiencing it online,” Castillo said.
“We are also working with leading health experts in the state of Nevada who support the best practices we have put in place,” she said.
Among the health experts the association is working with is Tony Slonim, president and CEO of Renown Health in Reno.
“With the recent climate, many people have been working remotely and creating virtual relationships,” Slonim said in a statement. “That’s okay, the work gets done, but for me, nothing is better than meeting in person.”
Slonim said Las Vegas is better prepared than ever to keep large groups safe when they meet.
“I am impressed that the Consumer Technology Association, our hotels, the Las Vegas conference venues and the City of Las Vegas have worked diligently to put every contemporary safety practice in place to ensure a healthy and successful in-person meeting this year,” Slonim said. “I encourage you to join me in attending CES 2022, adhering to the requirements, building new relationships, and supporting the innovators, professions and industries integral to our future.”