Amazon, Meta and Twitter pull out of CES over Omicron fears

The annual technology show was set to make a big return in 2022 after the pandemic forced it to become an online-only event this year

Amazon and Meta Platforms' Facebook will not be attending the CES, while Google is still scheduled to participate. Apple did not make plans to attend. AFP

Amazon, Facebook owner Meta Platforms and Twitter have scrapped plans to attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January amid renewed concerns about the rise of new coronavirus cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Several technology-focused outlets, including CNET, The Verge, Engadget and TechCrunch, also said they will not be sending reporters to cover the show this year.

The withdrawals deal a blow to the annual technology showcase, which is organised by the Consumer Technology Association. The CES, still scheduled to take place from January 5-8, was set to make a big return in 2022 after the pandemic forced it to shift to an online-only format this year.

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Due to the spike in Covid cases across the country in the past week, we've decided to cancel our in-person presence at CES next month. We'll continue to actively monitor the situation into the new year and find other opportunities to connect with our clients and partners
Twitter

“Due to the spike in Covid cases across the country in the past week, we've decided to cancel our in-person presence at CES next month. We'll continue to actively monitor the situation into the new year and find other opportunities to connect with our clients and partners,” Twitter said in a statement.

Meta, the world's biggest social media platform, formerly known as Facebook, also said it won’t be attending CES in person due to the evolving public health concerns related to Covid-19, “out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees".

The emergence of the Omicron variant, which is said to be less deadly but far more contagious than the Delta strain of Covid-19, has caused a sharp spike in infections, sparking concerns about in-person gatherings around the world.

On Monday, the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, which was scheduled to be held from January 17-21 as an in-person event in Davos, was postponed because of the outbreak of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The US remains the country with the most number of coronavirus cases with over 10.6 million as of Wednesday, padded by 181,264 new cases on Tuesday, according to Worldometers data. Earlier this week, Reuters data showed that the US was averaging more than 132,000 new cases daily, with federal officials saying that Omicron now the dominant variant accounting for 73 per cent of new infections last week.

US President Joe Biden is expected to announce new measures against Covid-19. He is set to deliver a “stark warning” of what the winter will look like for unvaccinated Americans, NBC reported earlier this week, and urge those who are vaccinated to get a booster shot.

The CTA, however, still has no plans to cancel the in-person conference, updating its safety protocols including optional daily testing for Covid-19.

More than 100 government officials are still scheduled to attend, Gary Shapiro, the CTA president, said in a statement on Tuesday, pointing to continued attendee and company registrations, according to Bloomberg.

T-Mobile, one of America's biggest wireless carriers and a CES sponsor, also said it made the “difficult decision to significantly limit” its participation at the event.

“While we are confident that CES organisers are taking exhaustive measures to protect in-person attendees and we had many preventative practices in place as well, we are prioritising the safety of our team and other attendees with this decision,” it said in a statement on its website, which was echoed by chief executive Mike Sievert in a tweet.

Meanwhile, other big names are so far still scheduled to attend. South Korea's Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest smartphone vendor and a key CES participant, said on Tuesday it was “closely monitoring the current health situation” and could send “a smaller delegation on-site".

Its chief executive and head of device experience, JH Han, on Wednesday even detailed what would be discussed at his CES keynote speech in a post on Samsung's newsroom.

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Out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees, we won’t be attending CES in person due to the evolving public health concerns related to Covid-19
Meta Platforms

Alphabet's Google and Japan's Sony are still scheduled to attend, although they are “monitoring local conditions”, Bloomberg reported. Chipmaker Qualcomm, Taiwan's HTC and smartphone maker OnePlus are also still on the list of attendees.

Apple, which very rarely attends the CES, did not make plans to attend, although the iPhone maker attended in 2019 when it participated in a privacy panel.

The first CES was held in New York City in 1967. Since then, it has become one of the most critical events for the technology industry, attracting tens of thousands of attendees and serving as a platform to introduce important new products and innovations, including the VCR, DVD and Microsoft's Xbox gaming console.

Updated: December 22nd 2021, 10:34 AM