It was all bad timing, really. Just ahead of CES 2012, Microsoft announced that year's event would be its last, blaming product schedules that just didn't match up with the annual show. There was no question that the tech giant's absence would be felt the following year, the first time in recent memory the Consumer Electronics Show wasn't kicked off by a Microsoft keynote. It signaled, perhaps, a slight shift away from the days of huge companies dominating the event's headlines -- a phenomenon helped along by the recent attention-grabbing successes of a number of crowdfunded projects, many of which were present at the show.
The move from Bill Gates to Steve Ballmer was one thing, but a CES without Redmond? That was just unheard of, a specter that loomed over the show, even as the CEA happily announced it had sold out the company's floor space in "record time." In the end, of course, Microsoft was still at the show, albeit in a less overt form, by way of third-party machines from Sony, Samsung and the like, and in the form of a cameo by none other than Ballmer himself -- a sort of spiritual baton-passing to the company's keynote successor, Qualcomm. Heck, even the Surface Pro reared its head backstage at the show.