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CES leaving Las Vegas after 52 years due to COVID-19

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One of the longest-running technology industry traditions is coming to an end after more than half a century, as the Consumer Technology Association today confirmed the 54th iteration of the Consumer Electronics Show won’t be returning to Las Vegas, its host city for 52 consecutive years. The organizers have been mulling over the idea of canceling CES 2021 for over half a year at this point, but with the novel coronavirus pandemic still raging on across the world, they ultimately had no other option but to give up on the Las Vegas Convention Center.

That isn’t to say the world’s largest showcase of (primarily consumer) electronics innovations won’t be happening at all; just that it’s going full digital for the first time ever. No specific dates have yet been announced, but the CTA confirmed it’s planning to stick with the early January window it usually targets.

As if CES tradition wasn’t complicated enough already

In a lot of ways, an online-only CES makes sense, but still feels wrong; the LVCC is essentially synonymous with the event itself at this point, having been its venue of choice on all but one occasion… kind of.

To be more specific, the seminal iteration of the happening took place in New York City, having been launched as a Chicago Music Show spin-off back in ’67. One event is all it took for the tech industry of yonder to conclude that Broadway and IT engineering simply aren’t a good fit for each other. The aforementioned complication is that CES was actually a bi-annual happening from ’78 to ’94: Las Vegas hosted it every January as the Winter Consumer Electronics Show, after which the CTA would head toward Chicago which had its very own Summer Consumer Electronics Show every June.

These days, everyone is pretty much pretending WCES and SCES weren’t pretty much the same thing, which is why the latter ended up being abandoned as attending enthusiasts and industry professionals caught on to that fact.

Further adding to the CTA’s coronavirus-induced headache is the fact that a completely digital CES will likely be a financial disaster compared to any potential physical alternative. Of course, neither is the century-old trade union desperate to turn a quick buck on CES, nor is anyone seriously critical of this call given how an economic slump is way more preferable to role-playing the plot of The Division. It’s not like this year’s CES wasn’t already under scrutiny over the role it might have played in enabling the original COVID-19 wave that swept over the world.

The point is that all major CES conferences have already been live-streamed to the world free of charge for a good long while now, so if the CTA ends up chasing its usual demographic with a pitch amounting to several “highly personalized” broadcasts – which is exactly what it seems to be hinting at – 2021 may be even harsher on the legendary trade show than this year was.

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