CES 2021, America’s biggest gadget show, is going virtual. Using cloud tools and platforms from Microsoft, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)– the trade organization behind the annual event — plans to build a virtual experience to replicate the real-world experience of attending CES, including an exhibitor showcase, media events, conference programming, networking events, and more.
Clearly off the table: Stale sandwiches, aching feet, and handshakes of any kind.
The CTA announced on Monday that its upcoming event would be powered by the Microsoft Teams collaboration environment, the Azure cloud computing service, and Microsoft Power Platform, a data analysis and manipulation system that can be used to build apps, data dashboards, and all sorts of fun stuff.
“CES is a truly global event, unique in its scale and audience diversity,” said Karen Chupka, executive vice president of CES. “For an all-digital CES, we sought a platform that allows attendees from around the world to participate easily and securely.”
Microsoft claims deep experience in large-scale events. Just ahead of its Build Conference in May, which we described as “pretty intuitive” at the time, Microsoft touted its leadership role: “We’ve already conducted more than 15 large-scale virtual events, including a partner summit for over 4,000 attendees and a Microsoft employee town hall with our CEO, Satya Nadella, and the senior leadership team,” Bob Bejan, who runs global events at the company, wrote in Fast Company.
Since then, Apple has shown the world just how polished and choreographed events can be, and the folks behind the Web Summit and Collision conferences blew us away with a custom platform they built, which we called “the stunning future of tech conferences.”
Overall, the technology world has tied itself into knots in its efforts to replicate the events and meetups that traditionally define it. At these events, new products are launched, new features are shared, and business deals of all shapes are inked. Smaller but still important shows, such as ShowStoppers and Pepcom, have built online platforms as well, and new ones have sprung up overnight, like the recent Techfluence event. Some have been more successful than others; the CTA clearly thinks Microsoft’s expertise will help here.
“After a rigorous search process, we selected Microsoft for its technical expertise, global scale, and experience in creating a compelling digital event,” CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro said. “Microsoft is a global innovation leader and longtime supporter of CES. We look forward to working with them to bring CES 2021 to the world.”
CES 2021 will take place January 11-14: Monday, January 11, will be an exclusive media-only day, while January 12-14 will include exhibitor showcases and conference programming. Registration will open on December 1.