CES 2022: “There is no innovation without risk”

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It was a tough déjà vu: When the first large companies canceled their presence at CES 2022 shortly before Christmas, this evokes memories of the dynamic that finally led to the cancellation of MWC Barcelona in February 2020. But the organizer of the CES, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) – embodied by its boss Gary Shapiro – stands firm: the show must go on. After all, this is Las Vegas.

So so far it looks as if CES 2022 will open its doors on January 5th for tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world, even if not as long as planned. Shortly before the turn of the year, the CTA shortened the trade fair – probably also to take account of the numerous cancellations. Officially, the CTA declares this as an “additional security measure”. CES will now close one day earlier on Friday, January 7th at 6 p.m. (local time).

The CTA addresses the concern that an international trade fair in times of the Omikron variant might become a superspreader event rigid security concept opposite. At the fair there is something like 1G +: Only those who have a vaccination certificate are allowed in, a mask is required and the organizer emphasizes its recommendation for daily tests with free test kits.

It is mainly large companies that can afford a short-term cancellation. The construction work for the CES has already begun, and there will be empty and half-finished stands in the halls. The following are missing: Amazon, AMD, AT&T, BMW, Google, General Motors, Hisense, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, Magna, Mercedes-Benz, Meta, Microsoft, MSI, Nvidia, OnePlus, Panasonic, Pinterest, Procter & Gamble, T- Mobile, TikTok and Twitter.

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The CTA is sticking to its plans because a rejection would primarily affect the numerous small exhibitors, for whom the trade fair appearance is the most important date in the year, on which they coordinate their entire planning. “I am thinking of these companies and founders,” Shapiro writes in one Opinion posted for the Las Vegas Review Journal, the largest daily newspaper in the gambling metropolis. “And I say: It is not time to pull the plug on CES 2022. CES must and will continue.”

At the last regular CES at the beginning of 2020, 3400 exhibitors came, who attracted over 170,000 visitors to the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) and hotels along the “Strip”. In 2021, CES was a purely virtual spectacle. According to the CTA, around 2,200 exhibitors have announced that they will be there for 2022. “There will be more small companies than large ones. There are likely to be large gaps in the exhibition space. It will certainly be different than in previous years,” writes Shapiro. Because there is more space with the newly built west hall, the south hall will remain closed this year.

Shapiro takes a pragmatic view: fewer people mean more space for “social distancing”. The CTA boss considers the measures coordinated with medical experts to be suitable for minimizing the risk. The messages coming in from different countries that the Omikron variant apparently causes less severe infections could play a role in the CTA. Shapiro also knows that there is still a certain risk: “We will all take risks. But without risk there is no innovation.”

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In addition, numerous US trade media have canceled their participation in the fair, including The Verge, CNET, Engadget and TechCrunch. The editorial offices of c’t and heise online do not travel to the USA either. The CES enables virtual participation in many events. To do this, the CTA uses the Summit Engine software developed for the Web Summit, which links online and offline events. In this way, we can also participate in the great innovations that the CTA promises us from our home office.

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