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Microsoft's sheepish return to CES

Reflecting another bungled command decision, Microsoft returns to a show it never should have left.

Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, announced in a trip to London that Microsoft would be returning to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the giant tech and electronics trade show that takes place every January in Las Vegas.

Microsoft announced it was pulling out of CES in 2012, with a statement from head spokesman Frank Shaw on a blog post stating that the company's "product news milestones don't align" with the January tradeshow.

The 2014 keynotes are already booked, so don't expect Steve Ballmer or his replacement, should one be found before January, to make an appearance. However, Shapiro said the firm has booked meeting rooms again.

Microsoft had been the traditional show opener for CES, which the computing industry migrated to after Comdex died off. Bill Gates, and then later Steve Ballmer, would give an opening keynote the night before the show officially opened, usually showing off their vision of a connected home. In retrospect, almost none of those visions came to fruition.

Although there was no big keynote at this year's show, Ballmer made a brief surprise appearance during Qualcomm's keynote event. Qualcomm's chips are used in Nokia's Lumia phone. Also, Eric Rudder, Microsoft's chief technology strategy officer, spent a few minutes on stage at a Samsung press conference.

You didn't need to be a professional analyst (or even an amateur one) to know that skipping CES when you have a sizable investment in consumer electronics is foolish. OK, so Apple doesn't go. The rules don't apply to them anyway. And I suspect that if its star starts to fade, Apple will make a return as well.

The show draws more than 150,000 people from all over the world and is the place to roll out new technology. Nokia's Lumia 900 won Best in Show in 2012. Windows Phone is showing momentum, particularly as BlackBerry fades. If the HTC Harmony comes to fruition, it needs all the support it can get, and Microsoft has the platform to do it.

Then there's the Xbox One, which is due this fall and has fierce competition from Sony, who you know will be there. Microsoft is positioning the Xbox One as the centerpiece of an overall home entertainment experience, as opposed to Sony's game-centric view.

Plus, you have Surface 2. Yes, I know. Stop laughing. Like everything else, if Microsoft wants to sell these things, they need to be at the show.

Like other course corrections, I'm not rubbing Microsoft's nose in it. I'm just glad they saw the light and changed course.

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