This week Gary Shapiro, chief exec of the CEA (the trade group which puts on CES, and, full disclosure, for which I sometimes consult) held a private dinner with journalists in San Francisco. According to Dow Jones / WSJ reporter Ben Charny (whose first Google result is this page on shoddy journalism), a juicy morsel was revealed: "Apple plans to attend the show's 2010 version, marking the first time in memory the Cupertino, Calif., consumer-electronics giant will be there." Very interesting, indeed.

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.

At no point did Gary even remotely imply that Apple would be present at a future CES -- let alone state unequivocally 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 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.

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: The WSJ has unceremoniously retracted, now stating at the top of the page that "It is not clear whether Apple will attend the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show." No, I think things are very clear as of right now: unless the CEA or Jobs say otherwise, Apple is not attending CES 2010. Oh and PS, Chris Nuttall from FT, who I was also seated across from, has the transcript of the conversation.

Update 2:
The WSJ has issued a second update, clarifying things (as they should have the first time). Their post now reads: "Apple has not made any plans to attend CES 2010." So there you go.

Ryan Block is editor emeritus of Engadget, and co-founder of the recently-launched gdgt.

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