Microsoft pulling out of Consumer Electronics Show after 2012 event

Laura Rauch - FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2010 file photo, Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division President Robbie Bach speaks at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The technology industry’s biggest show-and-tell event — the Consumer Electronics Show — is losing its anchor company, Microsoft.

Microsoft said it decided to pull out of CES after the January 2012 show because it no longer fits its needs and its timing does not always mesh with its product announcements.

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“We asked, ‘Are we doing something because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’s the way we’ve always done it?’ ” Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s vice president of communications, said in a blog post.

With the decision, Microsoft follows Apple and other Silicon Valley giants that have preferred more exclusive product launches over the expensive, days-long Las Vegas blitz in which thousands of companies compete for the spotlight. And it shows that events such as CES, run by the Arlington-based Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), is no longer the only way to meet partners and show off new gadgets.

Instead, companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.com are hosting their own high-profile events for the launch of new products, and they are using social media services such as Facebook and Twitter to get the word to users.

“These companies don’t want to be run by the show, and the show’s schedule, when they know they can run their own shows,” said Rob Enderle, an independent high-tech analyst based in San Jose.

CEA, which has put on the convention since 1967, played down the end of Microsoft’s two-decade run at CES. For the past 14 years, Microsoft executives have opened the event with the keynote speech. Chief executive Steve Ballmer will deliver it again next month.

The trade group said it expects 150,000 attendees from around the globe, and trade floor space will be bigger than last year’s.

The massive and expensive booth space Microsoft typically occupies “will be snapped up in about 30 seconds” by other firms in 2013, said Jason Oxman, spokesman for CEA.

Microsoft said it will still send employees as attendees, and many Web firms said the show is a rare chance to reach deals outside Silicon Valley.

Pandora founder Tim Westergren said in an interview that the firm is renting more hotel suites at the next show to showcase how its online streaming radio service is integrated into consumer devices and automobiles.

“It’s the one global assembly of this huge number of partners whom we work with,” Westergren said. “It’s a busy and effective meeting spot.”

But in recent years the show has also become too broad, some industry executives said. It has expanded to highlight new technology from major makers of appliances, cars and smartphones in what can be an overwhelming assortment of booths displaying everything from iPhone accessories to refrigerators.

And the hottest executives in the industry are choosing to speak elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital conference in recent years hosted rare interviews with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

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