Update: Waymo has officially added its name to the list, become one of the first notable automotive companies to do so. In a blogpost, the Alphabet subsidiary noted, “Based on quickly rising COVID-19 infection rates, Waymo has made the difficult decision not to participate in person at CES 2022. We are aiming to still virtually participate in some CES-related events.”
The list of exhibitors backing away from an in-person CES was small but mighty yesterday. What it lacked, however, was a big name on the hardware side. As of yesterday, Google, HTC, John Deere, TCL and BMW had all confirmed with TechCrunch that they were still in for the big Vegas event, albeit “continuing to monitor the situation.” Samsung, meanwhile, issued a press release around its in-person keynote.
We were, at the time, still awaiting word from a handful of big names, including Lenovo. This morning, the PC giant confirmed that it will “suspend” in-person activities at the Consumer Electronics Show. Following an announcement on Twitter, the company tells TechCrunch in a statement:
After closely monitoring the current trends surrounding COVID, it is in the best interest of the health and safety of our employees, customers, partners, and our communities to suspend all on-site activity in Las Vegas. While this is a change in plans, we are excited for you all to see our latest technology launching as scheduled on January 4th and January 5th.
Yesterday, we noted similarities to Mobile World Congress, which had the misfortune of hosting an event in Barcelona as the first wave of COVID-19 was hitting Europe in 2020. Once major hardware players began backing out, it was the beginning of the end for that year’s show. There have been some big names so far for CES — most notable on the sponsor side is T-Mobile, followed later by fellow carrier AT&T, which opted to “forego in-person participation” at the show.
A number of media outlets — ourselves included — have made similar announcements, as have Meta, Twitter, Amazon, TikTok and Pinterest. Though, while all big names, none traditionally have had a major presence at the hardware show. Lenovo, on the other hand, is a big player in the space.
As of yesterday evening, the CTA — the governing body behind the event — remains steadfast, telling TechCrunch, “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, as well as a rewarding experience on our digital access.”
The organization also cites a thus-far limited number of cancelations. One can’t draw an exact parallel to MWC — certainly things surround the pandemic are different than they were nearly two years ago. We know far more about its transmission and have since seen the arrival of multiple vaccines and — in many place — boosters. The CTA has, notably, been transparent about its health protocols, as well, including vaccine mandates.
Omicron, meanwhile, while raging in parts of the U.S., may have a silver lining in the its relative severity, according to some early figures. Plenty of questions remain, however, including a likely spike in numbers from holiday travel, just ahead of the big event in Vegas. An abundance of caution is understandable, and likely Lenovo won’t be the last company to change its plans.