Microsoft's MIX, CES Pullouts Hint at Broader Strategy

NEWS ANALYSIS: Microsoft's decision to kill its MIX developer conference, and pull out of CES, could be part of a broader strategy.

Microsoft seems in a conference-killing mood.

First the company decided to pull out of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) after this year, where for years it had maintained a sizable presence. Now it plans on eliminating its MIX developer conference, in favor of an event later in the year.

"We have decided to merge MIX, our spring Web conference for developers and designers, into our next major developer conference, which we will host sometime in the coming year," Tim O'Brien, Microsoft's general manager for Developer and Platform Evangelism, wrote in a Jan. 24 posting on The Official Microsoft Blog. "There will be no MIX 2012."

That upcoming developer event will likely feature not only a deep dive into Windows 8, but also Windows Phone and the Windows Azure cloud platform.

MIX's elimination comes barely a month after news broke that Microsoft would pull out of CES. An official Microsoft blog posting in December portrayed that decision as unilateral on the company's part. "We have decided that this coming January will be our last keynote presentation and booth at CES," Frank Shaw, Microsoft's corporate vice president of corporate communications, wrote in that posting. "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 Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which hosts CES, has insisted repeatedly that the separation was mutual. Certainly Microsoft's departure leaves a sizable hole in the show's lineup, considering how either Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer has given the opening keynote for a number of years.

That aside, is Microsoft's near-simultaneous nixing of MIX and CES indicative of something larger? Microsoft definitely has some big projects in the pipeline, most notably Windows 8, which will arrive in the latter half of 2012. In turn, those projects could be driving Microsoft to adjust its entire conference schedule, timing shows for optimal impact with both consumers and developers.

Either that, or else Microsoft just happened to eliminate one major conference, and its long-running presence at another, for two completely different reasons. Even if that's the case, the company's moves again reinforce how 2012 and 2013 will prove a pivotal period in its history.

Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter