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Microsoft is not 'returning' to CES 2014, it never left

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Windows 8 CES
Windows 8 CES

Recent reports have suggested that Microsoft is planning to return to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in a big way in 2014, after it decided to pull out of the keynote and show floor in 2013. "Microsoft is officially back in the International CES," Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, told BBC News in an interview this week. "They are taking out significant space in meeting rooms - it's actually a larger presence than I believe they have ever had." However, Microsoft is downplaying its 2014 plans, noting that it will simply have rooms booked like it did last year.

"We remain good partners with CEA, and as we did last year [January 2013] have reserved a substantial set of rooms for meetings with partners," says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. CES is typically used by companies to launch a range of new products and gadgets throughout the sprawling halls of the Las Vegas convention center. Microsoft announced its plans not to participate in the CES keynote or show floor space just before its final keynote in 2012. The company had no booth and a reduced presence the following year. Microsoft did show its presence during brief appearances at the Qualcomm keynote and Samsung's own event, but had no major announcements or events.

Microsoft was at CES 2013 with the Surface Pro

Microsoft appears to be booking more meeting rooms this time, but it still won't have show floor space or the lucrative opening keynote. It's possible the company may hold press events at CES 2014, but it's more likely to use the rooms for partner and business meetings. Earlier this year at CES 2013, Microsoft held private meetings with members of the press to demonstrate its Surface Pro tablet, but the company missed out on the opportunity for a more open event to showcase Windows 8 and the related hardware from PC makers.

In an interview with The Verge earlier this year, Shapiro detailed some of the decisions around Microsoft pulling out of CES. "We didn't end the relationship, we have a great relationship with Microsoft," he said at the time. Shapiro expressed discontent with the way the software maker chose to announce its CES withdrawal, despite noting Microsoft is a great partner. "How they chose to release that to the public would not have been our first choice." Shapiro explained that the CEA wanted to mix up the keynote presenters. "The reason they didn't do the keynote is that we made a decision that we could not have the same keynoter every year. The thing was unique to Bill Gates. Gates to me is like Steve Jobs, a legendary guy, and we could not have him so we had to end it." Shapiro also said Microsoft "were there in force" at CES 2013, a contradiction to his statement that the company is "officially back" for CES 2014.

So yes, Microsoft will be at CES in 2014. But it's not the giant return it's being made out to be.