It's time for Apple to go to CES

Yes, this time of year I'm typically mocking CES for its general silliness. That's because the "don't call it the Consumer Electronics Show" has lost its way. It used to be the most important tech event of the year — especially after the death of Comdex —but it's increasingly become all about quantity rather than quality.

The future is then

Once upon a time, Bill Gates was a legend of the CES stage. His opening keynotes were must-attend events, with long lines of eager press and analysts vying to get in early and glimpse whatever products the then-CEO of Microsoft would unveil. Xbox was one of them.

The only company and presenter that overshadowed it was — wait for it — Apple.

Steve Jobs never took the CES stage. And there was no Apple booth. But Apple's presence was always felt.

Macworld took place right after CES and, more often than not, it generated the buzz. If a big Apple announcement was imminent, press and analysts would drop CES, jump on a plane from Vegas to CES, and race to see what Steve had to show off.

iPhone was the biggest and best example.

Then, Apple stopped going to Macworld. Steve Jobs stopped taking the stage. Apple stopped announcing big new products on New Year schedule. iPad was still in January. So was the Verizon iPhone. But some years Apple didn't announce anything until March... even June.

When Apple called, everyone still rushed to answer. But what happened when Apple didn't call?

Products as vision

Steve Jobs at Macworld and Bill Gates at CES weren't just keynotes. They were states-of-the-union for the tech community. They weren't just about products. They were about visions.

Microsoft can't do that anymore. But Apple still can.

Tim Cook and Apple's superb executives could put together a keynote that showcases not just the company's products but its vision for the new year.

Yes, Apple now sees Apple Stores are the biggest and best way to reach the most customers, and not just at events but every day. But it doesn't have to be an either-or situation. A nearly trillion-dollar company can do whatever it wants.

Only Apple can go to CES

Think a lot of the chatter and buzz this year focused not on Apple but on Amazon and Google? That's not surprising, given Apple didn't even show up to play. If it did — well, you know what happens when the 800lbs gorilla jumps in the pool?

Now, imagine the splash Apple would make if it jumped in the CES pool.

It's time.

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.

  • Apple won't go. For them to attend would acknowledge that they have competitors. Apple don't want the world to see them that way, just look at how they have gone to great efforts to remove the competition from their devices (Apple Maps is a prime example).
  • Trade shows are only worthwhile for companies that need a PR platform because they are too small and in the case of CES, also for rint'l tech retailers and reporters to get to the Las Vegas . Apple doesn't need to waste money or time fighting with others for an audience and PR. Why spend $10 mm to essentially build an Apple store for 5 store when everyone at CES who wants to see Apple can just wander over to the mall. If you've ever been to CES, you'd realize 95% of the attendees are there to look and book products from 1,000 companies selling iphone cases and $15 headphones - Apple can call a press conference in Toledo in winter and people would Bottom line, Apple gets EXCLUSIVE days of free media coverage WORLDWIDE - literally BILLIONS of dollars of coverage (who else gets frot page coverage from the WSJ/NY Times and China) by staging a keynote on a stage with a giant screen and a black table.
  • Exactly! The entire premise of this article is ridiculous.
  • Ridiculous. CES has no value in the 21st Century. If you were a marketing guy, shame on you. CES provides no value proposition to a vendor such as Apple.
  • Apple is there. They are seeing what everyone else is doing...
  • Hey Michael, the 1980's called and they want their market analyst advice back. Seriously, the suggestion that Apple needs to attend an event like this is almost comical. Trade shows in general serve very little value in this day and age. Sure, it gives a platform for the very small time players to get some publicity, but these events are nearly meaningless for the larger players, especially Apple. Apple is far better served by demoing products when they are ready and controlling the media narrative around those products. This strategy has payed off for them in recent years. Apple very clearly illustrated in 2007 how their own events are far more relevant than all of CES to the media in general.
  • Those trashing this article would do well to read the highly respected and pro-Apple analyst Ben Bajarin's recent take on Apple's indirect presence (and its absence) at the CES this year:
  • Michael Gartenberg’s proposition is very vague in that Apple should participate but never says how. New product announcements? Give every booth iPads? Ben Bajarin talks about influence and how last year and this, so many booths are presenting Alexa or Google virtual assistant integrated devices.
  • Ben Bavarian is interested in you buying stocks. That's what an analyst does.
  • Apple will never go to CES, for two very logical reasons. First and foremost, CES is not about current products, what is available to buy TODAY. Not one thing that iMore or any other tech blog showed in the past week is available to buy right now. Every single thing was "pricing and availability unannounced". CES is all about what "might" be available at some point later in the year, or never at all, which most of the stuff turns out to be, i.e. vaporware. Therefore, since Apple does not tip their hand as to future products, there is no way they are going to get involved in an event that is not about currently available products. This is an easy one.
  • You mean like Apple's launches for products such as the HomePod? They may have a price but the release data is still MIA.
  • That was the first time Apple has pre-announced a product way ahead of time, and the delay proves they aren't good at that sort of thing and that, imho, it was a mistake to have done it. Best to just surprise people with a "one more thing" type announcement when you have a product ready for market that will appear in stores in a week or two like Apple's other products.