Everyone is pulling out of CES 2022, but it has not been cancelled (yet)
The Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, has been held every year in Las Vegas for most of recent history. The event was held virtually last year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with companies simply announcing their new products and services online instead. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the organizers of CES, was hoping to have an in-person event in January 2022 — but those plans are now rapidly falling apart.
Even though global access to vaccines for COVID-19 has improved in recent months, cases are rising due as more variants evolve, namely the ‘Omicron’ variant. Omicon is rapidly spreading across the United States and Europe, partially because it’s more transmissible than most other previous variants, and partially because most Western countries and states relaxed their distancing and masking regulations during the summer and have been slow to restart them. Even though vaccinated people don’t appear to become as sick as unvaccinated people, not everyone can be vaccinated (young children, some immunocompromised people, etc.), so the uptick in case numbers is causing many companies to think twice about attending CES 2022.
T-Mobile, Meta, Twitter, Pinterest, and iHeartRadio, all announced this week that they will have a limited physical presence at CES 2021, or won’t attend the event at all. Nvidia told Bloomberg that its press conference will be virtual-only, while AMD will have a scaled-back physical presence. Amazon and Ring are also out. Despite so many important attendees pulling out of the event, CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro reaffirmed in a LinkedIn post on Wednesday that the event is still on:
“CES 2022 will take place January 5-8 in Las Vegas and digitally around the globe! CES is the world’s most important innovation event, and innovation is more important now than ever. Hundreds of companies will showcase healthcare tech, including testing and treatments for COVID-19, alongside amazing innovations in food, space, robotics, connected homes and more.”
Shapiro also minimized the impact of T-Mobile, AMD, Nvidia, and other large companies dropping out, saying “[the] media has focused on a few dozen cancellations.” CES will still require face masks on the show floor, and attendees are required to be vaccinated (but a booster is not required).
Many news outlets have also announced they will not send reporters to Las Vegas out of safety concerns, including CNET, Engadget, TechCrunch, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide, and The Verge. That will likely continue the domino effect — with fewer and fewer people on the ground to cover announcements, the return-on-investment for companies to set up physical booths and shows is diminishing rapidly.