Comdex will be more sharply tailored to suit the tastes of IT buyers this year, its
organizers say. It will also be a lot smaller than it used to be.
Security, utility computing, wireless communications and other workplace technology issues
will dominate in the product exhibitions and conference sessions at the weeklong trade show, which begins Nov. 16 in Las Vegas, according to Eric Faurot, vice president and general manager of the conference for MediaLive International. That's a change from recent years when the event became a showcase for a wide variety of electronic goods.
Large companies that had stopped officially participating in Comdex will also be part of the
agenda this year, he added. Dell will have a booth on the show floor for the first time
since 1997. Meanwhile, IBM executives will speak on two panels, and Intel will maintain a
booth inside the Microsoft pavilion. In recent years, both companies were no-shows.
"An $870 billion market is going to need an annual gathering," Faurot said. "At the end of
the day, people like to be in front of each other."
The conference, though, will be nowhere near as large as it once was. Only around 50,000 people
are expected to attend the show, Faurot stated. An estimated 500 exhibitors are set to
occupy 150,000 square feet of exhibit floor space, one exhibit hall in the Las Vegas
In the boom years, the show occupied two separate convention centers, and the
estimated 200,000 attendees wandered the streets in search of warm sales leads and free
food. In 2001, attendance dropped to 125,000 and .
The changes are a matter of survival for MediaLive, the
conference organizer. The company, formerly known as Key3Media, emerged from Chapter 11
bankruptcy in June.
During the tech boom years, the show mushroomed in size to embrace consumer products and
other items. Although aggregate exhibit space expanded, large companies such as Intel,
Gateway and Sony began to desert the show and instead
rent meeting rooms elsewhere in town where they showed off products and held gatherings
When the economic downturn began, exhibitors and attendance began to contract. Comdex increasingly became a showcase for a disparate array of items, including office furniture, massage chairs and decorative globes. Last year, up to 30 percent of the exhibits involved digital cameras. The lack of focus was one of the chief complaints from exhibitors and attendees, Faurot said.
This year, exhibit space is being leased only to business computing groups, Faurot said. "No
car companies, no massage chairs."
The Japanese conglomerate Canon, for instance, plans to have a booth. But, instead of exhibiting digital cameras and home printers, it will tout Canon's IT group, which will make a wireless announcement.
"They (Canon's IT group) get lost when they go in a corporate umbrella," said
To attract exhibitors, the company dropped its prices. Floor space this year starts at
around $49.95 a square foot for the week, comparable to other trade shows. In past years,
organizers charged $60 or more per square foot.
The conference is set to begin on Sunday, Nov. 16, with a keynote speech from Bill
Gates, chairman of Microsoft. Exhibits open the next day. Other speakers include Scott
McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems; Thomas Siebel, CEO of Siebel Systems; David Nagel, CEO of
PalmSource; and John Thompson, CEO of Symantec.
Although attendance at big trade shows is down all over the industry, another company is
competing for the same audience. , sponsored by Jupiter Communications, will take place at the same time.
Among the highlights is a keynote by , whose company is at the center of a controversial lawsuit over the
Linux operating system.
Comdex began 23 years ago as the brainchild of casino owner Sheldon Adelson. The show was
eventually sold to Japan's Softbank and became part of the events business within the
Ziff-Davis media empire.
Ziff-Davis' holdings were later split into three main entities: a magazine publishing unit
that was sold to a private investment group; online unit ZDNet, which was purchased by
News.com publisher CNET Networks; and Key3Media, which was spun off to Ziff-Davis
shareholders as a public company and subsequently renamed.