CES 2021 is going digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Written by Jennifer Allen

July 29, 2020 | 13:00

Tags: #ces-2021 #covid-19 #pandemic

Companies: #ces #cta

Announced with plenty of time to spare, it seems that CES will be going digital in 2021 with no physical presence in Las Vegas in early 2021 like usual.

It's the latest in a string of computing shows that have been delayed, cancelled, or converted to digital only presences. Computex was meant to be moved to September before being cancelled entirely this year, but this is the first show to admit to no physical form in 2021. 

Usually, CES is the world's biggest consumer electronics show with up to 180,000 attendees and over 4,400 exhibitors. It also tends to draw in multiple exhibitors to nearby locations in Las Vegas meaning it's a huge, huge show for consumers and professionals alike. 

Originally scheduled to take place between January 6th and 9th 2021, organisers CTA has declared that this coming year's event will be an 'all digital experience' with the hope of a comeback in 2022. CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro explained, 'amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it's just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,' and who can blame him? Numbers are still rising across many countries with the USA in particular suffering a lot right now, and it seems like a responsible move to cancel anything that could attract thousands of people from around the world.

Typically, the physical show gives many people the chance to get hands-on with devices for the first time with some fantastic innovations to be seen as well as more typical hardware upgrades. It's not clear yet how the all-digital transformation will come about here which is almost certainly why the shift has occurred with 5 months to spare, hopefully giving exhibitors plenty of time to come up with a contingency plan that we're guessing will involve a lot of streaming content. 

As Shapiro explained in his statement, 'technology helps us all work, learn and connect during the pandemic — and that innovation will also help us reimagine CES 2021 and bring together the tech community in a meaningful way' which suggests that if anyone is well placed to make this work, it's a bunch of tech innovators. It also seems pretty likely that many of the innovations we'll see in 2021 will be pivoted towards the work from home crowd as well as providing means to improve life during these strange times. 

Either way, don't count on many physical events for the foreseeable future if companies are moving things digitally this early on in the calendar. 

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