No. Steve Jobs won't come to CES 2009, because he would have to abandon Apple's "outsider" facade in the process. Apple has successfully marketed themselves as a rebel company for decades -- their "1984" anti-IBM Macintosh commercial is a touchstone of TV advertising, up there with Tony Schwartz's 1964 LBJ "Daisy" commercial on any advertising student's must-see top 10 list.
Much has been written about Bill Gates' farewell address to CES 2008, having given keynote speeches for about a dozen years, give or take a few. He launched "Bob" -- one of Microsoft's most notorious failures -- at CES in 1995, and equipped with a self-mocking video of what will happen later this year on his last day at Microsoft, in his 2008 farewell Gates could laugh at himself. While Gates is metamorphosing before our eyes into a mature philanthropist, Jobs remains Apple's perennial pitchman.
Gates' departure leaves a hole in CES. And for all the talk of CES getting too big, there's a single step that would instantly make it even bigger: Include Apple.
Not long ago, CES embraced the entire consumer electronics industry, and though one company or another might boycott it for a year or two here and there, none went off to hold their own separate convention (OK, well maybe videogames, but that's a very different story...) Yet that's exactly what Apple has done. It made sense when Apple was all about computers. Now the iPod has changed the equation. With over 80% of the portable media player market, there's a major consumer electronics product category that's weirdly non-existent at CES: iPods. The weird part is that you see zillions of iPod accessories at CES -- docking stations, amplifiers, chargers and the like -- but not the mother ship.
It's not like Apple has never been to CES before -- back in 1992 the company launched the Newton PDA at CES in Chicago. But former Pepsi executive John Sculley, not Steve Jobs, was heading up Apple then.
Steve Jobs should come to CES. Will he? There's speculation floating around the blogosphere that he will. But I doubt it. Apple has never appeared to want to be a part of anything, preferring as always to do their own thing. After all, that's what being a rebel is all about -- and a monopolist. Just try licensing Apple's Orwellian-named "FairPlay" DRM technology, for example. The number of other CE companies that Apple has licensed remains zero.