CES: Tech throws a party, and Apple stays home
The tech industry is throwing its biggest party of the year, and the coolest kid on the block isn't coming.
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the industry's mammoth trade show and product premiere event, opens Thursday in Las Vegas. Tech heavyweights ranging from Microsoft to Sony to Samsung will gather to showcase their latest and greatest wares. But this year, with tablet devices being all the rage--Motorola, LG and Research in Motion (makers of Blackberry) are all expected to debut new devices or new models--there will be a notable absentee. Apple, maker of the popular iPad tablet, not to mention iPod, iPhone and the updated Apple TV, will yet again not make the trip to CES.
While rumors have abounded in past years that Apple might stoop to appearing at the annual confab, they never materialize. Instead, Apple chooses to host its own product premieres--carefully staged, highly secretive events planned with plenty of choreography from Steve Jobs himself.
By doing so, Jobs retains meticulous, complete control over his product roll-outs. But to preserve the mystique of Apple's brand, does Jobs have to skip CES? Or does their annual boycott simply make him and his company seem more elitist and inaccessible?
The latter question doesn't really matter. Whether or not Apple attends CES, Apple does position itself above the fray and, in many ways, is closed off. But that hasn't hurt its success one bit. Going to CES might improve its standing among techies who don't buy the company's products on the principle that it doesn't always play nice with others. But it won't make a lick of difference to the millions of consumers who've gobbled up Apple's sleek new gadgets and gizmos.
The more interesting question is whether attending CES would actually hurt the mystique of Apple's brand. Theoretically, even if the company attended the annual trade show that wouldn't mean it had to launch its latest iPad there, or divulge big news at the Las Vegas event. It could still reserve those announcements for its own Steve Jobs-starring premieres, and could simply use CES for networking, speech-making (Jobs has received invitations to make keynotes) and product showcasing. CES already devotes thousands of square feet on the floor to Apple- and Mac-related products, after all. And most average consumers don't attend CES, so they wouldn't know Apple had deigned to mingle among the tech proletariat.
That said, I still believe neither Jobs nor his company should ever set foot in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Jobs doesn't need the platform of a Consumer Electronics Show keynote to make news; all the Mock-Turtlenecked One has to do is breathe funny to turn the tech industry press corps a-twitter. Apple also isn't in much need of product showcasing--the company already has more than 200 gleaming i-temples to design, otherwise known as its retail stores. And Jobs' carefully orchestrated product announcements have long been successful at creating not only news, but months of pre-announcement coverage simply anticipating the news.
What makes Apple successful isn't just the design, the technology or the innovation, although all of those things play a role. What makes Apple successful is the cult behind its brand, its history of standing apart from the rest of the tech industry, and its status--now potentially in question as millions flock to buy its products--as the cool alternative to the mass-produced gray and black boxes from other tech giants. Jobs knows this, and runs Apple (for the most part) in a way that tries zealously to preserves that mystique. Why bother showing up at someone else's massive bash when you could have your own private party?
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January 6, 2011; 10:26 AM ET |
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