More companies are pulling out of CES over health concerns: Both GM and Google announced Thursday afternoon that they were canceling their in-person presence at the trade show. Lenovo announced Wednesday that it won’t be participating in the show anymore, followed by a similar announcement from Alphabet-owned Waymo.
GM's plans had included the unveiling of the company's new Silverado EV during a keynote of CEO Mary Barra, which the company now plans to do during an online-only version of Barra's keynote.
Lenovo cited the pandemic as the reason for pulling out of the show, which begins Jan. 5. “CES UPDATE: 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,” the company said in a tweet.
"The safety and wellbeing of our team is our top priority, so based on quickly evolving COVID infection rates, Waymo has made the tough decision not to participate in person at CES’22," the self-driving car company tweeted Thursday. "We are aiming to still virtually participate in some CES-related events."
Intel announced Thursday that it would "move to a digital-first [...] experience with minimal on-site staff," and Hisense told Protocol that it canceled its in-person keynote, but will still have a booth at the show. This follows similar announcements from AT&T, Amazon, Meta, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter and others, as well as news that T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert canceled his keynote speech, with the telco also announcing that “vast majority” of its team wouldn’t be attending in person.
Most of the companies pointed to health and safety concerns as the reason for pulling the plug. Amazon, for instance, said that the company and its Ring subsidiary wold “no longer have an on-site presence at CES" due to "the quickly shifting situation and uncertainty around the omicron variant,” while TikTok simply pointed to “the increase in positive COVID-19 cases across the country.”
iHeartMedia announced this week that it was canceling its popular CES party; MediaLink pulled the plug on its CES events, which in prior years had been must-attend events for media insiders. A large number of tech media outlets, including the Verge, CNET, Engadget and TechCrunch, also announced that they wouldn’t send any reporters to Las Vegas. (Protocol will be covering the show remotely as well.)
Following those cancellations, CES organizers still put on a brave face. In a statement to the Verge, the Consumer Technology Association pointed to the fact that it had only received 42 exhibitor cancellations thus far. “Registrations for both our digital access and our Las Vegas event are continuing to show strong momentum, with thousands more registrations in the last few days,” the group said.
After going all virtual in 2021, CTA had planned CES 2022 as a hybrid event, with a digital component accompanying the in-person trade show and conference programming. To keep attendees and exhibitors safe, CES is requiring proof of vaccination for any in-person attendance. CTA also announced that attendees must provide a negative COVID test result to enter the show, and that it will pass out free rapid tests to attendees.
Still, a looming winter COVID surge and international travel restrictions already stopped many companies from attending even before omicron became a major threat. Ford, Haier and its GE Appliances subsidiary as well as GoPro were among the companies that never signed on to the show to begin with.
Others began scaling back their CES plans weeks ago: TCL switched its keynote to a virtual format. Samsung, whose show floor presence had long been a major CES magnet, attracting thousands of onlookers, opted to make its booth open by invitation only.
Creative Strategies President Carolina Milanesi pointed out on Twitter this week that it is a lot harder for smaller companies to bow out of CES. “It's a much bigger investment for them with less flexibility to take a hit by dropping out,” she said. Some nonetheless announced this week that they decided to skip the show.
EV charger manufacturer JuiceBar, which was scheduled to show off a new product, canceled its in-person plans Wednesday. “CES is by far the most influential tech event in the world,” the company wrote on LinkedIn. “But with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, we are prioritizing the health and safety of our employees and other attendees.”
Update: This post was updated Dec. 13 multiple times with details on GM's, Waymo's, Hisense's and Intel's plans for the show, and again Dec. 27 to include more information on Hisense's presence at the show.