Microsoft dropping CES – part of Steve Jobs’ legacy?

Steve Ballmer.

Earlier this morning, Microsoft made waves by announcing that it would be pulling out of the Consumer Electronics Show. The announcement was made by Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s head of communications, on the company blog. CEA, the organization that runs CES, claims the opposite, that they chose to give Microsoft the boot. In any case, this is a pretty serious blow to the trade show, and it points to the growing sentiment that trade shows have lost their relevance. As I’m sure some of you remember, Apple did essentially the same thing when it backed out of MacWorld in 2008.

Really, it doesn’t much matter who dropped whom; the end result is the same. CES just took a huge hit, and it’s a hit the CEA should have seen coming. For my part, I’m willing to bet Microsoft backed out. As the company stated, their product releases haven’t lined up with CES keynotes, which is certainly true. There was this other company that held its own keynotes for major product releases, where it would show off finalized versions of products that were ready to ship the same day. You know, that company with the second largest market cap in the world. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about.

Also, as the CEA, why kick Microsoft off the keynote? Who will take their place? Remember, this is the CES. This isn’t a developer’s conference. There won’t be major web properties making keynotes for CES. So who fills Microsoft’s space? More importantly, who forks over the cash to do so knowing the CEA may give them the boot next year? No one. That’s who.

If anything, Microsoft is trying to take control of its hype cycle, in exactly the same way Steve Jobs took control of Apple’s. There is one key difference – the products. Microsoft hasn’t gotten into the hardware game, which makes a product keynote much duller than the Apple counterpart. So much of Apple’s product launch success is tied into showing off a complete product. Microsoft can’t do that, at least not without the help of manufacturers, and manufacturer issues remain a huge source of complaint against Microsoft products. Still, I think moving to Microsoft-sponsored events gives the company a chance to more closely connect with its own fanbase, which Microsoft could really use.

The idea that the CEA would kick Microsoft just makes no sense. Trade shows have been losing traction for years. The last thing the CES needs is a disappearing act from one of the biggest draws for the show.

  

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