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(From Guardian Unlimited)
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas comes at the beginning of the year, and usually marks the electronics industry's attempts to revive itself, to pick itself up from the blowout of the Christmas peak, and show off what its engineers have been working on for the past months to showcase for this year.
But this year, CES will be notable for an ending rather than a beginning: Microsoft has said that it will be withdrawing from the show; this is the last time that Steve Ballmer, its chief executive for the past 11 years, will give the opening keynote on Monday night (early Tuesday morning UK time).
In one sense, it is a seismic shift for the industry. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which runs CES has always insisted that Ballmer - and before him Bill Gates, Microsoft's co-founder - have been asked to give the keynote because Microsoft is so important to the overall industry, through the growing influence of PCs and software.
Microsoft says goodbye
But now that is over. Microsoft says that the scheduling of the show simply does not fit with its own plans: "our product news milestones generally don't align with the show's January timing," it said in a blogpost . The CEA has hinted that it didn't want Microsoft to continue either. Which only leaves the question of how Ballmer will go out in his final offering at the Venetian hotel: one can hope that, as it's Vegas, there will be a huge chorus line of showgirls, a magician or two making things appear and disappear, and some sort of fireworks. More likely, we will be treated to news of the tieup in mobile phones with Nokia, and some more glimpses of Windows 8, the next version, which is due to ship some time in the second half of this year. But with the PC market flatlining, and tablets and smartphones the fastest-growing …