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Microsoft misses gadget show

PC giant’s exit after 13-year dominance stirs analysts’ scorn

– Microsoft may have relinquished its starring role in America’s gaudiest gadget show a year too early.

After 13 straight years in the spotlight, Microsoft’s decision to scale back its presence at this week’s International CES deprived the software maker of a prime opportunity to explain and promote a new generation of redesigned computers running its radically remade Windows operating system.

The missed chance comes at a time when Microsoft Corp. could use a bully pulpit to counter perceptions that Windows 8 isn’t compelling enough to turn the technological tide away from smartphones and tablets running software made by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

“They needed to be at this show in a very big way to show the progress they have made and what is it about 2013 that is going to make consumers really gravitate toward a Windows 8 machine,” technology industry analyst Patrick Moorhead said.

Since Windows 8 went on sale in late October, there has been little evidence to suggest the operating system will lift the personal computer industry out of a deepening downturn. Worldwide PC shipments during the final three months of last year dropped 6 percent from the same period in 2011, according to the research firm International Data Corp. The dip occurred despite the bevy of Windows 8 laptops and desktop machines that were on sale during the holiday shopping season.

Microsoft, though, insists things worked out at just fine during CES, even though it didn’t have a booth and only had a smattering of executives at the sprawling trade show, which drew 156,000 people to Las Vegas.

The company, based in Redmond, Wash., decided it no longer makes sense to invest as much time and money in CES as it once did. The company says the show’s early January slot doesn’t mesh with the timing of its major product releases. Windows 8, for instance, was still more than nine months away from hitting the market when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off last year’s CES with a keynote address that was billed as the company’s swan song at the show.

“We are very comfortable with our decision,” Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said. “It has been a productive show for us this year.”

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