Jan 11, 2021 - Technology

CES shapes up for online-only conference amid pandemic

The floor of the CES conference.
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It was already shaping up to be a very strange CES this year, with the world's largest consumer tech show going virtual. Now, CES also has to compete with a constitutional crisis and worsening pandemic.

The big picture: The Consumer Technology Association, which puts on CES, has done its best to move the big press events and keynote online.

Yes, but: Much of what makes the show essential can't be replicated online: the formal and informal one-on-one meetings, the side conversations and parties.

  • That said, prepare for a flurry of tech product announcements this week.

Catch up quick:

  • A few products have already been announced, including new augmented reality smart glasses from Lenovo, a bending TV from LG, and some novel new laptops from HP.
  • Today is "media day," with a series of press conferences from the likes of Sony, Samsung, LG, Intel and Phillips.
  • The keynotes begin with Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg this afternoon. GM CEO Mary Barra, AMD chief Lisa Su and Best Buy CEO Corie Barry speak Tuesday. Microsoft president Brad Smith speaks Wednesday, as does Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

Of note: This year's CES lineup is noticeably more diverse than in years' past, with three female CEOs speaking on Tuesday alone.

Meanwhile, the biggest single product announcement expected this week, Samsung's new Galaxy S21, is being unveiled at a separate online event Thursday.

The bottom line: CES will have to work next year to reclaim its position as a central gathering point for the tech industry. On the flip side, by next January, people may be so eager to meet they are happy to put up with the bad food and long cab lines that typically accompany the massive Vegas confab.

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