Despite CEA Chief's Excitement, Microsoft Says It's Not Stepping Up Its CES Presence


The head of the organization that runs the Consumer Electronics Show is all jazzed up about Microsoft stepping up its participation in next year's event. But Microsoft, oddly enough, doesn't seem to share his enthusiasm.

Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, the organizer of CES, told BBC News Thursday that Microsoft will be "officially back" at CES 2014, which runs from Jan. 7 to 10 in Las Vegas.

"They are taking out significant space in meeting rooms -- it's actually a larger presence than I believe they have ever had," Shapiro told BBC News.

[Related: Microsoft Offers Board Seat To Activist Investment Firm ValueAct Capital]

This is significant because Microsoft decided not to have a booth at CES earlier this year, and, for the first time in 14 years, didn't trot out an executive to give the opening keynote at the event. CEO Steve Ballmer made a cameo in Qualcomm's keynote, but otherwise, Microsoft was basically a CES wallflower from attendees' perspective.

Spencer Ferguson, president and CEO of Wasatch I.T., a Salt Lake City-based Microsoft partner, thinks that was a mistake. "Microsoft missed an opportunity to show off Surface tablets and Windows Phones to the CES masses last year. Anything they can do to get the message out is encouraged," he said in an email.

In light of Microsoft's recent corporate re-organization around devices and services, it would make sense for it to devote more time and energy to connecting with CES attendees, especially since more than 150,000 crammed their way into this year's show.

However, Microsoft insists that its participation at the upcoming CES won't be any different from what it did last year: The company won't be giving the opening keynote or running a booth.

"Microsoft stopped having a big booth and major keynote at CES last year, but continued to take advantage of CES as a great venue for meeting with customers and partners. Just like last year, they will be using CES 2014 to meet with key partners and customers," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

What is changing, the spokesperson told CRN, is that Microsoft is consolidating the meeting rooms it booked at several different locations last year into one place. This would presumably create the appearance of a more organized Microsoft presence at CES.

A spokesperson for the CEA told CRN Shapiro is preparing an updated statement on Microsoft's participation at CES 2014, but it wasn't yet available.

Microsoft needs to get back in front of people and get them excited about its products, Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing for Equus, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based system builder, told CRN.

"Going to CES could help Microsoft get the buzz back. It would also be a good place for them to talk about how they're going to leverage the assets from Nokia," Swank said.

When Microsoft announced in December 2011 plans to ditch its CES booth and pull out of the keynote slot, Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications, explained that its product milestones typically didn't take place in the January time frame. Microsoft would instead look to connect with customers through Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft's retail stores, Shaw said at the time.

By sending more people to the upcoming CES and talking in more detail about devices, Microsoft could start building some much needed buzz.

PUBLISHED Oct. 3, 2013