Don’t book your Vegas tickets to CES just yet.  Ryan Block of GDGT and Engadget (and CEA advisor) says he was at the same dinner that Ben Charny of the WSJ was at when he got "the tip" that Apple was going to be at CES.  According to Block, at no time during the dinner did Gary Shapiro say that Apple was going to be at CES.  In fact the opposite occurred.

Unfortunately, it’s also specious and flatly wrong. I was seated directly across from Gary, and present for the entire conversation, wherein a dozen or so other journos chatted with him and one another. When asked about the CEA’s ongoing contact with Jobs, Gary joked that every once in a while Steve might even return his email — to which we all laughed knowingly. Yep, that’s our Steve. Shapiro went on to mention that Apple was a great and long-standing supporter of the efforts of the CEA, but that their only direct involvement was sending a check each year to pay their membership dues.

But wait!  It isn’t that simple. The Wall Street Journal has a recent history of being tipped off about Apple information in a very timely fashion and not needing to cite sources.  For instance, they got the Steve Jobs liver transplant tip on a Friday evening when Apple announced the news that they’d sold 1 million iPhone 3GSs.  The two pieces of information seemed to be timed in a way that they clouded each other out on Monday morning.

This CES report came minutes after a TMZ picture showed a still slim Steve Jobs doing his best Abbey Road impersonation.  Could Apple have given them another morsel to deflect attention away from the image?  Just speculating here.  Charny could have thrown that into a story he was writing about the CES dinner.

Block continues:

At no point did Gary even remotely imply that Apple would be present at a future CES — let alone state flatly that Apple "will be there" in 2010. In fact, at one point, someone asked if, hypothetically, Apple did want to attend CES, whether the CEA could accommodate them. Gary said flatly that if pressed, they might be able to come up with a small 2,000 square foot booth, but they couldn’t do anything, say, Microsoft-sized on such short notice. Bottom line, though is that if Gary had even gotten remotely close to implying Apple would be at CES, this shoddily sourced piece by Charny wouldn’t have been the earliest story with the scoop nearly 24 hours after the fact — laptops would been immediately out for reports filed from the dinner table.

Block goes on to say that Apple may show up at CES in some sort of capacity and information may of been exchanged outside of the conversation.  It just wasn’t at that meeting that the information was gathered.  However, the fact that Block is on the CEA payroll, probably means that he knows more than the average reporter.  Also Ben Charny isn’t the one at the WSJ getting the Apple "leaks" and has a history of bad reporting.

Now, I’m not saying Apple won’t be there. But Gary and the CEA certainly never said or implied that they would, and Charny certainly didn’t cite any other sources. Maybe by "Apple plans to attend" Charny meant one of Apple’s 32,000 employees would happen to be in Vegas next January. Of course, the greatest irony of this little dinner was the lively debate at the end of the evening sparked by one particular old school BusinessWeek journalist who laid claim that tech blogs like Engadget publish first and ask questions later. Right.

 Update.  WSJ page updated to reflect :

Correction: It is not clear whether Apple will attend the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. This post previously stated that Apple would attend.

 

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