Officials of the annual CES tech conference in Las Vegas are trying to stay strong as Omicron spreads, maintaining that the show will go on – but On The Money has discovered that some big names have already withdrawn.
Nvidia, JPMorgan, and PepsiCo all confirmed to On The Money on Tuesday that they will not be attending in-person CES events.
“Nvidia quitting at CES is like Moderna cancelling at a healthcare conference,” one individual close to the conference told On The Money, emphasising the convention’s bleak outlook after the exhibitor backed out.
Meta, Twitter, Pinterest, and iHeartMedia have all stated that they will not be attending.
Nonetheless, organisers of the annual Las Vegas electronics expo said the event will take place – in person — from January 5 to 8. The gathering was last held in person in January 2020, right before the pandemic’s worst months; the 2021 event was cancelled.
The event routinely attracts more than 100,000 visitors to conference centres and hotels throughout Sin City, as gadget companies compete for discounts and deploy extravagant exhibits to attract media attention.
They’ll have a tougher time doing so this year, with CNN, The Verge, Forbes, MarketWatch, Engadget, TechCrunch, and The New York Times’ Wirecutter all announcing this week that they’ll be boycotting the event due to coronavirus worries.
Gadget makers utilise CES to gain media attention, yet many journalists avoid the event.
“If you have a large booth, you have it so journalists write about it,” tech publicist Ed Zitron explained to On The Money. “What are they selling their booth owners at this point?”
“I believe the show floor will resemble a bizarre ghost town,” Zitron added. “They should’ve cancelled by now, and every day they don’t makes it more expensive and inconvenient.”
Zitron’s firm, which represents technology entrepreneurs, usually leases out a penthouse at the Venetian Resort for a taco and open bar party. He had made a reservation for this year, but cancelled on Tuesday due to COVID concerns — and an expected paucity of attendees, he added.
The CES indicated in a statement to The Washington Post that thousands of people were still attending. “We are convinced that guests and exhibitors will enjoy a socially distant, yet worthwhile and productive event,” said CES.
Organizers will require guests to provide proof of vaccination and will distribute free quick coronavirus tests that they “recommend” attendees utilise before entering activities.
Given the recent outbreak of coronavirus cases among vaccinated people, several potential attendees argue that the optional testing plan does not go far enough.
“I reviewed the health and safety protocol and said, Nope,” Boost Mobile founder and CEO Peter Adderton told On The Money. “The whole point of going to CES is to meet people.” There’s no sense to go if you can’t do it securely.”
Behind the scenes, executives at the Consumer Technology Association, which organises CES, are conducting a charm offensive to keep guests on board, reassuring them that the coronavirus is being properly monitored.
According to officials, Google, Roku, and the Federal Communications Commission are all still going to attend in person.
Still, according to LightShed Partners analyst Rich Greenfield, attending the conference isn’t worth the risk.
“There are just so many Covid users,” he explained. “Who wants to be quarantined in Vegas?”