The Consumer Electronics Show ends the same way every year.

Tech pundits proclaim Apple the winner of the event even though Apple doesn't have an official presence there. Many of these writers don't even go to the conference.

I even joked with an Apple source a few weeks ago to get ready for a flood of "Apple wins CES" hooplah during the show.

And sure enough, it happened again this year.

In fact, it happened before the show's first day was officially over, following a report from Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac that Apple will release a redesigned MacBook Air later this year. The story dominated a good chunk of the tech news cycle on Tuesday.

It also spurned at least half a dozen bloggers and analysts declaring Apple the winner of CES. (I won't call any of them out by name, but a quick Google search will do the trick.)

Apple didn't win CES. 

Let's ignore the fact that Apple didn't officially announce anything this week besides displaying a bunch of iPhone and iPad-generated art in its stores. 

CES isn't about the products so much as it is about what happens off the show floor. Of the most important tech companies in the world at the moment Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Samsung, and (if we're being generous) Microsoft Samsung was the only one with an official presence at the show.

The rest of the companies were in Vegas, but in unofficial capacities. They met with journalists in off the record meetings in hotel suites. They met with advertisers. They met with clients. They hosted boozy parties.

In fact, I had my best CES ever this year, and I barely walked the show floor. The best part about CES is that all the most important people in the industry get together in one place to schmooze, drink, make deals, and leak stuff to journalists.

That's how you win CES, and Apple barely participates.

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