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CES gadget show stages a wary return amid COVID-19

Is anyone going to CES this year?

A long-simmering question in the tech world will finally get its answer as the influential gadget show returns to the Las Vegas Strip after a hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know it will be a smaller show this year, for obvious reasons,” said Jean Foster, senior vice president at the Consumer Technology Association, the event’s organizer. Several huge tech companies have abandoned plans to attend in person. The latest sign of its dwindling size was Friday’s announcement that CES will run one day shorter than originally planned.

The sprawling exhibition floors open Wednesday as the spread of COVID-19’s omicron variant has heightened concerns about the safety of indoor events and international travel. The CTA by late December was anticipating between 50,000 and 75,000 attendees for this week’s conference, down from more than 170,000 who came for the last in-person gathering two years ago.

Some die-hard CES devotees were mulling over the choice to go or stay home right up until last week.

“An online CES is not a real CES,” said Prince Constantijn of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in a December interview. “You’ve got to see the products and meet the people.” But a week later, the royal who regularly serves as a special envoy for Dutch technology startups had opted to stay home after all. His country is sending a barebones crew to CES 2022. So are many big tech companies — if they send anyone at all.

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