Microsoft's announcement today that the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas will be its last took the tech world, and particularly tech journalists and bloggers, by surprise.
The kick-off CES keynote addresses by Bill Gates and then Steve Ballmer (who last January talked up Kinect, among other big product launches for the company) were always highly anticipated as agenda-setting events for the global consumer electronics industry, while a massive Microsoft booth typically dominated the show floor.
Starting in 2013, neither will be present.
In a blog post today, Microsoft VP of corporate communications Frank X. Shaw revealed that following some soul-searching about the right timing and platform for its product news and promotion going forward, CES 2012 will be the company's last hurrah in the spotlight:
"(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.
As we look at all of the new ways we tell our consumer stories – from product momentum disclosures, to exciting events like our Big Windows Phone, to a range of consumer connection points like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft.com and our retail stores – it feels like the right time to make this transition.
Microsoft has enjoyed a close to 20-year working relationship with the Consumer Electronics Association – and we look forward to working with CEA for many years to come."
The CEA has yet to respond on its website, Facebook page, Twitter feeds or blog, where it promoted the "400 automotive tech companies" attending its annual confab in January.
ZDNet blogger Andrew Nusca, for one, sees it as "another nail in the coffin for CES," adding that the move has been "a long time coming. The biggest names in tech have increasingly found that they don’t need to come to people (and by people, I mean partners and press); people come to them."