CES 2012 May Be Last Of Its Kind

Since 2003, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has played host to both a dizzying array of gadgetry and more serious presentations from major computer manufacturers. The fusion occured after Comdex, which had been the major yearly computing show for decades, faltered and was folded into CES. CES remains a major draw each year, but some of the same troubles that ultimately took down Comdex are brewing.

In late December, Microsoft announced that CES 2012 would be the company's final show. Redmond has anchored CES, with either Gates or Balmer giving the keynote address, for nearly 20 years. The company's presence at the show has always been massive.

In a blog post on the topic, Frank X Shaw wrote: "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...  it feels like the right time to make this transition.

Microsoft's pull-out is a demonstration of how the goals of the show's presenters and those of attendant buyers don't always align. As Forbes puts it: "vendors want their own shows or vertical events that attract particular buyer segments. Buyers want horizontal shows that allow them to see everything in one go." Combining so many disparate companies in a single convention gives visitors what they want, but forces companies to jockey for position with both their direct competitors and the booth babes down in Aisle 3. The top-tier vendors like Intel and Microsoft that contribute to CES have shows of their own.

Fees are reportedly another major problem. Every year, more and more companies desert the showroom floor in favor of private suites at various hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. This apparently cuts down on costs, but requires a great deal more coordination from us journalists who diligently charge from one end of Vegas to the other to bring cutting news to you faithful readers.

Booth babes or adult stars? It's surprisingly hard to tell sometimes

On a less serious note, there's the fact that the Adult Video Network (AVN's) award show, which is normally held at the same time as CES, will kick off several days after our more boring technological expo closes. This alone could lead to uprisings.

On a more serious note, this CES is already expected to be the year of the ultrabook--definitely Intel's territory--but it's surprising that MS won't be a major force at CES 2013 given that Windows 8 should launch around that time frame. Microsoft pulling support and rising vendor dissatisfaction could be the one-two punch that sinks the large-scale version of the show that's been the norm for nearly a decade.