We have been watching major events in the technology industry and beyond interrupted or moved to “online only”; issues for months. With the COVID-19 epidemic still raging in the United States, it seemed like a question of “when” instead of “if” CES would follow. “When” is now: CTA has announced that the Consumer Electronics Show will be fully digital in January 2021.
The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the first major technology conference to be suspended as early as February, when the virus began to spread around the world and countries rushed to protect their citizens. As the year went on, we saw pretty much everything follow, from smaller corporate events to giant extravagances like E3. Apple specifically debuted its latest software and announced its own internally designed silicon chips in a web presentation.
As recently as a month ago, the CTA still insisted that CES was scheduled for the first week of January in Las Vegas, where it has been held for decades. Hopeful surveys asked prospective participants what would be needed for them to feel comfortable traveling and attending the fair in person. Now these ambitions have been tamed, and a much reduced CES will be a series of streaming presentations and meetings from January 6 to 9.
From the press release issued a moment ago:
“In the midst of the pandemic and the growing global health problems over the spread of COVID-19, it is simply not possible to safely gather 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 to work, learn and connect during the pandemic – and that innovation will also help us reshape CES 2021 and unite the technology community in a meaningful way. By switching to a completely digital platform for 2021, we can deliver a unique experience that helps our exhibitors get in touch with existing and new target groups. “
With major conferences and announcements in so many industries turning into streaming events, not to mention a hugely accelerated transition to internships from the home of conventional office workers, the future of major technology conventions as a sustainable concept is questionable. We have to wait and see if exhibitors and participants are still willing to bear the costs and the journey after the coronavirus crisis has passed.