Google cancels CES in-person presence, event organizers going ahead with show

Update: CTA head Gary Shapiro has offered TechCrunch the following updated statement, 

Over 2200 companies are confirmed to participate in person at CES 2022 in Las Vegas. Our focus remains on convening the tech industry and giving those who cannot attend in person the ability to experience the magic of CES digitally. CES 2022 will provide an opportunity for companies from around the world, both large and small, to launch products, build brands and form partnerships. Given CES’ comprehensive health measures — vaccination requirement, masking and availability of COVID-19 tests — coupled with lower attendance and social distancing measures, we are confident that attendees and exhibitors can have a socially distanced but worthwhile and productive event in Las Vegas, or while experiencing it online.

Today started with big news from Lenovo, followed by Waymo and Intel. Now it seems that Google is extracting itself entirely from its in-person presence at CES. A spokesperson for the company tells TechCrunch:

After careful consideration we have decided to withhold from having a presence on the show floor of CES 2022. We’ve been closely monitoring the development of the Omicron variant, and have decided that this is the best choice for the health and safety of our teams. We will continue to collaborate closely with both CTA and our partners to identify and support virtual opportunities, and we look forward to sharing the latest Google innovations with you all.

Google’s decision to lean into a virtual presence isn’t entirely surprising, given the earlier news from fellow Alphabet subsidiary, Waymo. Still, the software giant has become a tentpole presence in recent years, as it has increasingly expanded its hardware footprint through its Nest line of home products and Pixel handsets. For the last several years, Google’s complex outdoor exhibits have been a mainstay in the Las Vegas Convention Center Parking lot.

As of yesterday, the show’s governing body, the CTA, remains steadfast in its decision to keep the event going in early January, though big name losses continue piling up. The list of companies staying away from Vegas amid omicron concerns now also includes T-Mobile, AT&T, Meta, Twitter, Amazon, TikTok and Pinterest, along with a number of media outlets, including TechCrunch.

We’ve reached out to the CTA in light of this latest news — a rough portent heading into a long holiday weekend. At the time of the organization’s last comment, cancelations amounted to 42 cancelations, comprising roughly 7% of the exhibit floor. That number has no doubt shifted since the last report, as both major players and startups have begun rethinking their presence at the show.

No one wants to be the first big company to remove itself from an event, but the parallels to MWC’s cancelation in the early days of the pandemic are becoming more difficult to shake off. Such rapid succession of big name losses tends to make way for even more.

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