We’ve been watching major events in the tech industry and beyond cancelled or moved to “online only” streaming affairs for months. With the COVID-19 epidemic still rampant in the United States, it seemed like a matter of “when” instead of “if” CES would follow suit. The “when” is now: the CTA has announced that the Consumer Electronics Show will be all-digital in January, 2021.
Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the first major tech conference to be cancelled way back in February, when the virus was beginning to spread worldwide and countries rushed to protect their citizens. As the year progressed, we saw pretty much everything follow suit, from smaller company-only events to giant extravaganzas like E3. Apple notably debuted its latest software and announced its own internally-designed silicon chips in a web presentation.
As recently as a month ago, the CTA was still fervently insisting that CES was scheduled for the first week of January in Las Vegas, where it has been held for decades. Hopeful surveys asked prospective attendants what would be necessary for them to feel comfortable travelling and attending the trade show in person. Now those ambitions have been tamed, and a much-diminished CES will be a series of streaming presentations and meetings from January 6th to the 9th.
From the press release issued moments ago:
“Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “Technology helps us all work, learn and connect during the pandemic — and that innovation will also help us reimagine CES 2021 and bring together the tech community in a meaningful way. By shifting to an all-digital platform for 2021, we can deliver a unique experience that helps our exhibitors connect with existing and new audiences.”
With large conferences and announcements in so many industries transitioning to streaming-only events, not to mention a vastly accelerated transition to work-from-home practices for conventional office workers, the future of big technology conventions as a sustainable concept is in doubt. We’ll have to wait and see if exhibitors and attendees are still willing to bear the expense and the travel after the coronavirus crisis has passed.