CES 2022: Amid COVID surge, Mercedes, AMD and OnePlus drop out, joining Microsoft, Google, Intel




With COVID cases surging, companies are backing out of attending CES in person.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

CES 2022 is becoming increasingly digital as major exhibitors have announced plans to pivot to a virtual-only presence instead of attending the Las Vegas trade show. In the last 48 hours, Mercedes Benz, AMD and OnePlus all plan to cancel their CES appearances or go digital only, joining a lengthy list that includes T-Mobile, Microsoft, Google, Intel and more, following a spike in coronavirus infections and the omicron variant. The show is still set to kick off Jan. 5 in Las Vegas as well as virtually.

“As the health and safety of our customers, partners, employees and guests are our highest priority. In view of the current situation in connection with the COVID-19 virus, we’ve therefore decided to cancel Mercedes-Benz AG’s participation in CES 2022, after intensive consultations. Due to the large group of participants and the different country-specific regulations, a solid, safe and harmless planning for all participants is unfortunately not be feasible in the current situation. We deeply regret this decision but consider it necessary,” a Mercedes spokesperson shared via email. 

“After careful deliberation, AMD has decided to cancel our in-person presence at CES 2022 in Las Vegas and will instead transition to a virtual experience. While the AMD 2022 Product Premiere was always planned as a digital-only livestream, our in-person engagements will now transition to virtual in the best interest of the health and safety of our employees, partners and communities,” AMD said in a statement on Tuesday, December 28th. The company still plans to hold its scheduled announcements on Jan. 4 as part of these digital-only plans.

While phone maker OnePlus didn’t have an official presence in Las Vegas planned, the company is scrapping its in-person plans, CNET has confirmed. The news was reported earlier by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. OnePlus is rumored to be debuting the OnePlus 10 Pro phone at the show, and CEO Pete Lau teased last week on the Weibo social network that the phone’s reveal will be coming in January.

Microsoft confirmed its own change of plans on Friday, citing health concerns.

“The health and well-being of our employees is our ultimate priority. After reviewing the latest data on the rapidly evolving COVID environment, Microsoft has decided not to participate in-person at CES 2022,” the company said in a statement emailed late Friday. Microsoft said it will join the show virtually.

Despite the lengthening list of departing exhibitors, the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, said Thursday that additional exhibitors have signed up for physical space on the show floor. “While we recently received 42 exhibitor cancellations (less than 7% of our exhibit floor),” the CTA said, “since last Friday we’ve added 60 new exhibitors for our in-person event.” 

Though higher-profile companies are announcing withdrawals, the CTA emphasized that the show floor also plays host to small and medium-size companies. 

The rapid spread of the omicron variant and rise in COVID-19 cases are making many people uneasy. On Dec. 20, the US surpassed 291,000 new daily cases — the highest number since the pandemic peak on Jan. 8, 2021, when the US crossed 294,000 new daily cases, according to the CDC.

The CTA said that it believes the event can go on due to vaccination and masking requirements, the availability of COVID tests for attendees, social distancing measures and lower attendance. 

The wave of departures seemed to start last week when T-Mobile said that CEO Mike Sievert was no longer scheduled to deliver a keynote presentation either in person or virtually and that the company planned to “significantly limit” its physical presence at the show. 

Here is the growing list of companies that have changed their minds about attending CES:

  • T-Mobile: The “vast majority” of its team won’t head to Vegas, though the company will remain a sponsor. “We are prioritizing the safety of our team and other attendees with this decision,” the carrier said in a statement. “T-Mobile’s entire team looks forward to an in-person CES 2023, which we hope includes an onstage keynote in front of a live audience.”  
  • Microsoft: “The health and well-being of our employees is our ultimate priority. After reviewing the latest data on the rapidly evolving COVID environment, Microsoft has decided not to participate in-person at CES 2022,” the company said in a statement.
  • Google and Waymo: “We’ve been closely monitoring the development of the omicron variant, and have decided that this is the best choice for the health and safety of our teams,” a Google spokesperson said. Alphabet-owned Waymo, which focuses on self-driving cars, made a similar statement.
  • GM: The company will not send employees or executives to the show, Reuters reported Thursday. CEO Mary Barra will deliver her keynote speech online.  
  • Meta: “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 said.
  • Twitter: “The safety and health of our people and our partners are our No. 1 priority. With that in mind, 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,” Twitter said.
  • TikTok: “In light of the increase in positive COVID-19 cases across the country, TikTok has decided to host a virtual TikTok CES experience for our brands and partners,” the company said Wednesday.
  • AT&T: “The health and safety of our employees and customers is a top priority, so we have decided to forgo in-person participation at CES 2022,” a spokesperson said.
  • Lenovo: “After closely monitoring the current surrounding COVID, it is in the best interest of the health and safety of our employees, customers, partners, and our communities to suspend all on-site activity in Las Vegas,” the company announced via Twitter.
  • Intel: The chipmaker said that it will scale down its presence. “After consulting with health officials and in the spirit of Intel’s safety policy, our plans for CES will move to a digital-first, live experience, with minimal on-site staff,” Intel said.
  • Amazon and Ring: “Due to the quickly shifting situation and uncertainty around the omicron variant, we will no longer have an on-site presence at CES,” Amazon said. A spokesperson for Ring, Amazon’s home security subsidiary, issued an identical statement.
  • Pinterest
  • Nvidia: The company has been “cautious from the start” and is set to deliver a virtual address on Jan. 4 at 8 a.m. PT, a spokesperson said.
  • AMD: The company is transferring all of its in-person plans to virtual, and will still hold its press announcements Jan. 4.
  • OnePlus
  • Mercedes Benz: The automaker announced that it is cancelling its physical CES presence.
  • Magna: “Magna’s leadership has decided to withdraw from CES 2022 and cancel the press conference on January 5,” said a spokesperson for the tier one auto parts maker via email.

The decisions follow the US reaching the grim milestone of 800,000 COVID-19 deaths earlier this month, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

Several companies will still host press conferences the day before the show starts, including some that no longer plan to have a physical presence at the tech show. CNET will livestream these on our main YouTube page and on our CNET Highlights YouTube page as part of our CES 2022 coverage. The current schedule for press day follows.

CES 2022 press day, Jan. 4 (all times are Pacific)

7 a.m.: AMD and TCL

8 a.m. LG Electronics and Nvidia

9 a.m.: Hisense

10 a.m.: Intel

11 a.m.: Qualcomm

12 p.m.: John Deere

1 p.m.: Canon

2 p.m.: Ottonomy

3 p.m.: Hyundai

5 p.m.: Sony

6:30 p.m.: Samsung


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