CES – Life After Microsoft

After 20 years, Microsoft is walking away from the International Consumer Electronics Show…well, sort of.

The story, broken by major outlets yesterday reported that Microsoft would no longer be carrying the presence at the International CES like it has over the last two decades.  With Bill Gates having delivered the annual keynote speech for 11 years; and his successor, Steve Ballmer, delivering the speech for the last four, thinking of a Consumer Electronics Show without Microsoft in the forefront is almost unimaginable.  However, in a blog post yesterday, Microsoft had made some very valid points regarding their departure as the steward of the biggest consumer technology event of the year.

“Our industry moves fast and changes faster. And so the way we communicate with our customers must change in equally speedy ways. To ensure it does, we constantly challenge our assumptions. For example:

· What’s the right time and place to make announcements?

· Are we adjusting to the changing dynamics of our customers?

· Are we doing something because it’s the right thing to do, or because “it’s the way we’ve always done it”?

After thinking about questions like these, we have decided that this coming January will be our last keynote presentation and booth at CES. We’ll continue to participate in CES as a great place to connect with partners and customers across the PC, phone and entertainment industries, but we won’t have a keynote or booth after this year because our product news milestones generally don’t align with the show’s January timing.” the blog reports.

In the video game arena, this rings true.  The original Xbox and Xbox 360 were announced at the Game Developer’s Conference (March 2000) and during an MTV event (May 2005) respectively.  While some announcements for the console have occurred at CES, they have mainly been about updates to keep the Xbox product fresh.  The most recent example of this being last years announcement regarding the Kinect update to allow facial tracking.

For other products, the story has very much been the same.  Windows Phone 7 was announced at the Mobile World Conference in February of 2010.  Windows 7 was first shown off at the Professional Developers Conference in October 2008 alongside Office 2010.  For Microsoft, CES has really been not much more than a progress report of products already announced and sales numbers.

Speculation remains as to whether or not Microsoft will begin holding its own events, or attending other notable expos and industry events much like Apple does.  Microsoft has stated that they will continue to maintain a presence at CES to connect with partners and consumers, however, what the full impact will be on the Consumer Electronics Show remains to be seen.  Video games, which were at one time a large part of CES (starting with the introduction of Nintendo’s Entertainment System in 1985) have taken a back seat in the show with only Microsoft, Sony and a few partners attending in recent years. 

With Microsoft’s absence, one wonders if the remaining video game partners will simply break away entirely to hold their announcements for events more directly related to the industry such as Gamescom, the Game Developer’s Conference, and of course, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).  Hardware manufacturer’s such as Nvidia, AMD, Intel, and more will likely continue to maintain their presence at the CES because it makes sense to be there, however, companies such as Razer and Steelseries that are geared towards gamers may be more likely to save a few budget dollars and concentrate more “gamer-centric” events like the aforementioned E3, or perhaps the Penny Arcade Expos which are open to the public.

In any event, it’s clear that Microsoft’s reduced role in the biggest technology event of the year makes the International CES less pertinent in the world of gaming; an industry that’s estimated to be worth over $65 billion dollars today and will continue to grow as more people adopt video games in their homes with every generation of hardware.

Follow Wanderson75.net as we cover this year’s Consumer Electronics Show on site in Las Vegas, Nevada in just two weeks!  We will be attending Microsoft’s final keynote and taking a look at some of the hottest technology coming to the video games market for 2012.

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