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For a decade, Microsoft held the prime keynote slot at the International CES, a massive, annual consumer electronics tradeshow in Las Vegas.

The yearly presentation, first by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and later by his successor, chief executive Steve Ballmer, featured a parade of the company’s upcoming products and could always be counted on for an optimistic vision of the future of computing — plus, usually, a humorous video making lighthearted fun of the company and its executives.

But last year, Ballmer delivered the company’s last CES keynote. Now the Consumer Electronics Association has announced his successor: Qualcomm’s chairman and chief executive Dr. Paul Jacobs.


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What’s more, Microsoft is pulling back from CES in a large way — a fact that wasn’t confirmed until today. Microsoft will not have an exhibit space, but “they will have something,” CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro said at a dinner in San Francisco tonight.

(Disclosure: It was a nice dinner, and CEA picked up the tab.)

Exhibit space for the 2013 CES is sold out, Shapiro said, leaving Microsoft with the option of sponsoring part of the show or perhaps booking meeting rooms, either in the convention center or in one of the associated hotels. That’s a much smaller footprint than the company had in previous years, when it rented enormous floor space for imposing booths to show off its software, hardware, and the mini-booths of its countless industry partners.

Still, Shapiro said that Microsoft and the CEA are on good terms. He visited them recently, and said, “We agree that we love each other.”

“They’re welcome to come back, they’re welcome to (deliver a) keynote,” Shapiro added, referring to 2014 and beyond. “We’ll see.”

As for Qualcomm, Jacobs’ keynote will highlight the company’s “Born Mobile” theme, according to a CEA press release, which also touts Jacobs’ credentials:

Important developments which began under Dr. Jacobs include: the first smartphone based on Palm OS; inclusion of GPS capabilities in mobile phones; the Brew system, which enables over-the-air downloading of applications and the world’s first mobile app store; and Snapdragon processors, which have seen extraordinary growth and innovation and powered hundreds of devices worldwide during his tenure.

He’s also the holder of more than 40 patents in wireless technologies.

International CES will be held January 8-11, 2013, in Las Vegas. VentureBeat will be covering the show from beginning to end.

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