Microsoft's CES Swan Song: 10 Reasons Why It's Ending Long Relationship

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2012-01-09

Microsoft's CES Swan Song: 10 Reasons Why It's Ending Long Relationship

Microsoft has announced that its 2012 CES appearance will be its last. From here on out, the company will instead focus on other shows, including events it produces itself to market its many products. As one might expect, Microsoft's decision was a blow to the Consumer Electronics Association, the organization that puts on the Consumer Electronics Show, but it also speaks to how CES, in particular, and trade shows, in general, fit into Microsoft's overall marketing strategy.

The fact is, Microsoft has several (understandable) reasons to leave CES. Over the years, the show, which has become one of the most important consumer technology shows of the year, has also become a bloated and poorly focused venue where too many products are vying for attention. Not only does this make it increasingly difficult for the top products to get noticed, but many of the products that do get attention are those that have little-to-no chance of becoming a major sales success or even making it to store shelves. All these factors weighed on Microsoft's decision to back away from the show after being a highly visible participant for many years.

Read on to find out why Microsoft is leaving the Consumer Electronics Show after this year:

1. It's at the wrong time for Microsoft's launch cycle

January is a tough time for a company like Microsoft to announce new products. Typically, the software giant launches new products towards the end of the year, and January either falls after those launches or long before it's ready to unveil details. Windows announcements are one thing, but for all other products, introducing important new products just doesn't make sense in the early days of a new year.

2. Other events are appealing
Over the last several years, Microsoft has been heading out to more events, like the E3 Gaming Expo, to show off products. Those shows are far more appealing to the software giant, due to their timing and scope. As a result, CES has faded in importance when it comes to reaching specific consumer product markets.

3. It's better to have your own show

Microsoft has also done a fine job of holding its own shows and events to attract attention to its products. The move makes a lot of sense. Why share the spotlight with a mob of companies all vying for attention when your own show shines the spotlight on you and your selected partners. In today's hotly contested technology industry, it's far better to have your own show.

4. Announcements get lost in the other news

The biggest problem with CES is that there are a host of companies making major announcements. So, when Microsoft talks about one of its new products, it doesn't take long for it to get lost in the news. The CES keynote Microsoft holds every year costs significant money and time. Why should Microsoft want the news that comes out of it to get lost amid all the other press releases?

The Influence of CES Is Waning


5. "Off-season" announcements spend more time in front of people

Regardless of whether Microsoft makes an announcement at an event or through a simple press release, the software giant is more likely to have its announcements hold the spotlight a bit longer when it's not CES time. That's important. The more headlines an announcement can make, the better. The chance of making more headlines is far greater when it's not CES season.

6. Apple's strategy makes sense

Microsoft might want to be a bit more Apple-like. The iPhone maker has been following a PR strategy for years that rebuffs CES and instead focuses on private announcements made around its own major shows and media events. Although some have criticized Apple for that strategy, it makes some sense in light of the other reasons presented above. Now, it seems Microsoft is seeing the value of that.

7. Too many people make CES a less-desirable destination

With the passing years ago of COMDEX and other super trade shows of its ilk, CES is one of the last surviving massive technology trade shows. But, ironically, the more people that attend CES, the less desirable it becomes for those that either have an established following and popular products, or those that are trying to develop a following for a promising new product. It's great for the CEA that more than 100,000 people attend CES each year. But is it really best for the companies? Products get lost in the shuffle. Companies can't show off everything they want in the booths, and sometimes, the wrong media outlets come knocking. Overcrowding has made CES a less-desirable destination for Microsoft.

8. The show is on the decline

It's also important to point out that behind the huge attendance numbers is the fact that the overall influence of CES is declining. Sure, it's a major event with boatloads of announcements coming out of it each year, but it's also a place where fewer big companies make their most important announcements of the year. Some companies, like Microsoft, are even walking out. Like COMDEX before it, CES could soon die. And Microsoft rightfully doesn't want to go down with the ship.

9. Being first is not always a good thing

At times, being the first company to announce something is great. At other times, however, it's a liability. Over the last several years, it appears that Microsoft's CES keynote has become a liability. Microsoft discusses major products, only to watch other companies both at CES and at subsequent events show off something similar or even better. It has happened in the gaming space, in software and in computers. Perhaps Microsoft simply wants to be the second or third company to announce a new product category, and not the first.

10. It's too much pressure

Worst of all, Microsoft's keynote every year puts undue pressure on the software giant and its CEO Steve Ballmer. Each keynote is compared with the last and it's always judged by the quality of the announcements. Who needs that? CES puts too much pressure on Microsoft. And it's about time the company decided to take the pressure off and leave CES for good.

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