PALO ALTO, California – the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas kicked off Wednesday, with some notable Silicon Valley tech companies opting to virtually attend the industry show. At the same time, Bay Area tech workers are wondering how long they’ll be working virtually as companies indefinitely delay plans to return to the office.
CES offers a glimpse of what to look for in tech, and this year, beyond the products, it’s the virtual environment to pay attention to.
Larry Magid, CEO of ConnectSafely.org, and a Silicon Valley-based tech industry analyst, broadcast CES from his home, noting that he enjoyed the opening presentation from General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who presented virtually from Detroit.
“They were able to integrate a lot of media elements that would have been much more difficult to do in a live presentation,” said Magid. “So there are ways both to exhibit from a distance and certainly ways to observe from a distance.”
The Consumer Technologies Association announced last week that it would end a day earlier, Friday because of the omicron variant. Over 2,200 exhibitors attend in person.
The biggest companies in Silicon Valley, including Google, Meta, Intel and Twitter, have chosen to participate remotely.
“I’m not at all surprised,” Magid said. “Facebook and Google have been very, very careful, maybe more than a lot of other industries… They’re really curling up, trying to protect people.”
Google had planned to bring its employees back to its US offices on January 10, but report his return to the office plans indefinitely, given the current increase in COVID-19 cases.
Apple also doesn’t have a return-to-office date and Meta gives employees the option to work from home on a regular basis. create virtual workplaces called Horizon Workrooms that work through virtual reality and the web.
Magid believes the hybrid way of working is here to stay, a hope shared by technical Bay Area workers who love the flexibility of being able to work in the office and at home.
“I think I’m so used to working from home that I can’t give it up that easily,” said Max, a software engineer at a large tech company in Silicon Valley.
At software company Twilio Segment, Hannah Campbell specializes in creating employee engagement experiences for remote workers.
“There’s always that gender issue, you really want that engagement and that face-to-face connection of being in the office,” Campbell said of working remotely. “We’re really doing our best to make sure you get the same kind of experience in that remote environment, to make sure you’re connected.”