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Moribund Comdex show takes a vacation

Jun 28, 20044 mins

While the cancellation of this year’s Comdex show is supposed to provide a one-year hiatus so the event’s organizers can regroup, many industry observers predict the suspension might become permanent.

“Phoenixes never rise,” says Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects and a member of the Comdex advisory board for 20 years beginning in 1981. He’s skeptical that MediaLive International, which produces Comdex, will be able to regain any momentum after a one-year absence.

Comdex could be dead, agrees Andrew Olson, managing director for consulting firm Team Group International. “[New owner] MediaLive’s marketing never understood the marketplace. I don’t think it’s going to come back. “

Last week, MediaLive said it was canceling this year’s Comdex trade show because of a lack of support from the industry’s biggest IT vendors. In particular, vendors such as IBM, Sun and Dell have been missing from the show floor in recent years.

One reason Comdex – a fixture in the IT world for 25 years – has lost a lot of its luster is the perception that it was no longer pulling in enterprise IT buyers. Faced with increasing competition from the Consumer Electronics Show held every January in Las Vegas, Comdex tried to embrace the consumer electronics market. Because of that, the show headed off on the wrong course, says Rob Enderle, principal analyst for The Enderle Group. “It became too much of a toy show.”

The trade shows that are prospering today target one industry, such as Supercomm with its telecom bent, observers say.

A similar IT show stalwart, ComNet, suffers from the same lack of focus, he says. In fact, IDG World Expo, a Network World corporate cousin, is evaluating the status of the ComNet event in Washington, D.C., for 2005. So far the show is not on the company’s calendar for next year. Organizers are working to revamp ComNet into something more relevant to today’s technology buyers and sellers, says Doug Gold, vice president of business development at IDG World Expo.

Another trend that hurt Comdex is the change in buying practices, says Sam Whitmore, editor of “Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey,” which analyzes the technology media business.

These days vendors are funneling money slated for lead generation to other outlets besides trade shows, he says. Vendors use e-mail campaigns, newsletters, downloadable white papers and a plethora of Web-based applications to find sales prospects.

“The original concept behind a trade show is that big vendors would come in and have closed-door meetings to line up distribution deals and volume sales,” Whitmore says. But buying over the Internet has changed all that. Sites such as make product literature available online, he says. “Why does anyone positively absolutely have to trek to Vegas to learn about product details? You don’t.”

Meanwhile, MediaLive says Comdex will be back in Las Vegas next year, after a new advisory board spends a year trying to figure out what’s best for the show.

“We need to build back trust with the vendors, with companies like IBM, Intel and Dell that hadn’t been in the show since 1997,” says Eric Faurot, vice president and general manager of Comdex at MediaLive. (Dell did have a display at last year’s event.)

The vendor-centric advisory board established to recast Comdex includes representatives from Microsoft, Oracle, EMC and Advanced Micro Devices. While other enterprise heavyweights have strayed, Microsoft has been a constant at the show since Bill Gates delivered his first keynote in 1983.

Faurot says MediaLive worked closely with Microsoft throughout the process of deciding Comdex’s 2004 fate. “We agree that it doesn’t make sense to have an event without a critical mass and broader support of industry leaders,” Faurot says.

He’s optimistic Comdex will return next year. “We’ve got some of the smartest people in the industry from these companies talking about how to make this event valuable.”

IDG News Service correspondent Agam Shah contributed to this story.

Senior Editor

I cover wireless networking and mobile computing, especially for the enterprise; topics include (and these are specific to wireless/mobile): security, network management, mobile device management, smartphones and tablets, mobile operating systems (iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10), BYOD (bring your own device), Wi-Fi and wireless LANs (WLANs), mobile carrier services for enterprise/business customers, mobile applications including software development and HTML 5, mobile browsers, etc; primary beat companies are Apple, Microsoft for Windows Phone and tablet/mobile Windows 8, and RIM. Preferred contact mode: email.

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