The last time Apple was listed as a participant at CES was when CEO John Sculley introduced the Newton at CES in Chicago. Since then and all throughout Steve Jobs’s second tenure as CEO (1997-2011) Apple has not appeared at CES. Instead it used the Macworld Expo (now defunct) and latterly its own standalone events to whip up excitement for its consumer products.
The company helped fuel this trend in the wider consumer tech industry, resulting in CES today largely being devoid of major consumer tech brands or big releases. At CES 2019, only the Honor View 20 stood out as a notable smartphone release – a solid, but hardly world-beating, device.
Apple employees attend CES to meet with existing and potential partners, and no doubt business is done at a show that brings in tens of thousands of technology professionals. But it hasn’t put itself up for appearance for over 25 years, making this panel a notable one.
Our colleagues on Macworld discuss the significance of this step in a separate article: What's Apple doing at CES 2020?