Microsoft takes issue with the CEA's language that it's "back at CES"; it says it never left

In a somewhat bizarre and noisy display, the Consumer Electronics Association and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) seemed to engage in a head-scratching spat in late 2011 over Microsoft's support of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Held annually in Las Vegas, Nevada in January, the CEA's Consumer Electronics Show is one of the largest industry trade shows.  Last year saw 150,000+ attendees.

Traditionally, Microsoft was a big supporter of CES delivering flashy keynotes.  But in Dec. 2011, Microsoft made a surprise announcement that it was dropping support for the show, writing:

We'll continue to participate in CES as a great place to connect with partners and customers across the PC, phone and entertainment industries, but we won’t have a keynote or booth after this year because our product news milestones generally don’t align with the show’s January timing.

Thus it appeared that the 2012 CES would be Microsoft's last year to have a major presence at the event.

2012 CES
Microsoft was at CES 2013, but hasn't given a keynote at the show since 2012.
[Image Source: ComPixels]

Indeed after a modest presence at CES 2012, Microsoft had a minimal presence at this year's show.  Microsoft's absence may have been dangerous for the company, for it was at the show that we saw Windows 8 criticisms hit a fever pitch, with one top OEM revealing to us that approximately 75 percent of their customers were rejecting the new operating system (after either immediately downgrading to Windows 7 or briefly trying Windows 8, then opting to downgrade instead).  It seemed almost as if Microsoft had rejected CES and many at CES had rejected Microsoft.

Earlier this year, CEA president Gary Shapiro had revealed in an interview with The Verge that Microsoft's decision to abandon the show might not have been as one-sided as it seems.  He recalls:

We didn't end the relationship, we have a great relationship with Microsoft.  The reason they didn't do the keynote is that we made a decision that we could not have the same keynoter every year. The thing was unique to Bill Gates. Gates to me is like Steve Jobs, a legendary guy, and we could not have him so we had to end it.

In other words, having a yearly Bill Gates keynote was okay by Mr. Shapiro's reckoning, having his successor Steve Ballmer every year would not be.  Mr. Shapiro didn't appreciate the way Microsoft broke its pullout, commenting, "How they chose to release that to the public would not have been our first choice."

But here we are with the 2014 CES not that far off and with Mr. Ballmer soon to be in the rear view, Microsoft appears to be returning to the fold -- or at least is offering up enough of a commitment to create confusion.

Gary Shapiro 
Gary Shapiro this week ignited controversy when he announced Microsoft was "back" at CES.  Microsoft contends it never left. [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

Mr. Shapiro told BBC News in an interview this week:

Microsoft is officially back in the International CES.  They are taking out significant space in meeting rooms - it's actually a larger presence than I believe they have ever had.

But before you can say not so fast, a Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge

We remain good partners with CEA, and as we did last year [January 2013] have reserved a substantial set of rooms for meetings with partners.

What is unclear is whether Microsoft will deliver a keynote at CES 2014, after taking 2013 off.  Part of that may hinge on whether Microsoft can find a new CEO by then.  Ford Motor Comp. (F) CEO Alan Mulally and former Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V) CEO Stephen Elop are considered two top contenders for the job.  If a CEO is appointed by January, he or she should have plenty to talk about -- Microsoft will have just released Windows 8.1/8.1 RT/Windows Phone 8.1, as well as the Xbox One.

Sources: BBC News, The Verge

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