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Google cancels personal CES presence, event organizers continue with the show

To update: CTA chief Gary Shapiro offered TechCrunch the following updated statement:

Over 2,200 companies are confirmed to attend CES 2022 in Las Vegas in person. Our focus remains on bringing the tech industry together and giving those who cannot attend in person the opportunity to digitally experience the magic of CES. CES 2022 offers companies large and small from around the world the opportunity to bring products to market, build brands, and form partnerships. With CES’s comprehensive health measures – mandatory vaccination, masking, and availability of COVID-19 tests – coupled with lower attendance and social distancing measures, we’re confident that attendees and exhibitors will be hosting a socially distant but rewarding and productive event in Las Vegas or while you experience it online.

Today started with big news from Lenovo, followed by Waymo and Intel. Now it seems as if Google is completely breaking away from its personal presence at CES. A company spokesman told TechCrunch:

After careful consideration, we decided not to have a presence on the exhibition space at CES 2022. We have closely watched the development of the Omicron variant and decided that it was the best choice for the health and safety of our teams. We will continue to work closely with CTA and our partners to identify and support virtual opportunities and look forward to sharing the latest Google innovations with all of you.

Google’s decision to turn to a virtual presence is not entirely surprising given previous news from the other Alphabet subsidiary, Waymo. Still, the software giant has grown into a tentpole presence in recent years as it has continued to expand its hardware footprint through its Nest line of home products and pixel phones. For the past several years, Google’s complex outdoor exhibits have been a mainstay in the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot.

As of yesterday, the show’s governing body, the CTA, stood firm in its decision to continue the event in early January, although losses continue to pile up among big names. The list of companies staying away from Vegas amid omicron concerns now includes T-Mobile, AT&T, Meta, Twitter, Amazon, TikTok, and Pinterest, as well as a range of media outlets including TechCrunch.

We reached out to the CTA with this latest news – a rough omen for a long holiday weekend. At the time of the last statement from the organization, the number of cancellations was 42, which is approximately 7% of the exhibition space. That number has undoubtedly shifted since the last report as both big players and startups began to rethink their presence at the show.

Nobody wants to be the first large corporation to withdraw from an event, but the parallels with the MWC’s cancellation in the early days of the pandemic are becoming harder and harder to shake off. Such a rapid succession of big name losses usually leaves room for even more space.

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