After going virtual last year, CES, a mega-conference in Las Vegas that’s the traditional launchpad for many of the tech industry’s latest gadgets, is trying to make a comeback. On Wednesday, the trade show will open with approximately 2,200 exhibitors.
However, major tech companies continue to present mostly virtually despite the Omicron variant of coronavirus becoming increasingly contagious.
It’s a sign that decisions to hold big in-person events at this phase of the pandemic remain far from clear-cut, the DealBook newsletter reports. Yet the organizers of CES — like those of the Winter Olympics and the Australian Open, which are set to begin soon — have decided it’s time to gather in person again.
Canceling the show would “hurt thousands of smaller companies, entrepreneurs and innovators” who depend on the show to introduce their products, Gary Shapiro, the chief executive of the Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that organizes CES, wrote in an opinion column in The Las Vegas Review-Journal. (The conference is also crucial for Las Vegas. It reaped an estimated $291million in 2020 from spending tied to it. Mr. Shapiro pointed out that the conference had adopted pandemic protections such as requiring attendees to be fully vaccinated, and that they must wear masks while on the show floor. Testing was also readily available.
But many large companies have chosen to attend remotely, including Amazon, AMD, AT&T, General Motors, Google, Intel, Lenovo, Meta, Nvidia, Pinterest, T-Mobile and Twitter. That will leave “big gaps on the show floor,” Mr. Shapiro said. CES will be ending a day earlier than planned, according to organizers. This was a concession to safety.
Other large events are delaying their return for in-person gatherings. Organizers of the Grammys are reportedly considering delaying this month’s music awards show, while the World Economic Forum postponed its annual confab in Davos, Switzerland, which was set to take place this month.
Is it safe to host live events in person again? Omicron cases are less severe than those from previous variants. Vaccines and new treatments are now available. More governments are moving towards managing the coronavirus rather than containing it, and are becoming less reluctant to impose restrictions. This could indicate that some areas may soon see a return of mass gatherings.
Source: NY Times