Is the collapse of CeBIT America last week, six weeks after the announcement that Comdex was canceled for 2004, all the evidence we need to conclude there is no longer a need for big, general-purpose computing conferences?Is\u00a0the collapse of CeBIT America last week, six weeks after the announcement that\u00a0Comdex was canceled\u00a0for 2004, all the evidence we need to conclude there is no longer a need for big, general-purpose computing conferences?CeBIT America, which just staged its second U.S. show in June in New York, hoped to mimic here the enormous success CeBIT has enjoyed in Germany. The Hannover, Germany show this spring lasted six days, hosted 6,400 exhibiting companies in 3.6 million square feet of display space and attracted more than 500,000 attendees.Even in its glory days Comdex only achieved half that.When it was first eyeballing the U.S. in 2002 the CeBIT show organizers believed they could establish a beachhead here because: 1) Comdex was already on the ropes and CeBIT reasoned it would be the obvious alternative when the market bounced back; 2) Comdex had lost its focus and the U.S. was ready for a dedicated enterprise IT event; and 3) CeBIT's focus on what the organizers called Information & Communications Technology (ICT) was a differentiator.The writing was indeed on the wall for Comdex in 2002 and the "be all things to all people" nature of Comdex left it vulnerable to a show like CeBIT that focused strictly on enterprise IT. But the ICT thing? Every show from Comdex to NetWorld+Interop to Comnet has been beating this drum for years, so one of the company's purported differentiators was simply more of the same old stuff.Most important, instead of the market bouncing back it went from bad to worse. Comdex continued to lose exhibitors and attendees, and by February 2003 show owner Key3Media Group filed for bankruptcy. Key3 came out of bankruptcy in June of that year, the same month CeBIT America launched in New York.But CeBIT never really got out of the gates. The first show attracted only 8,500 attendees instead of the 20,000 envisioned, and the second show in May was anemic. Even one keynoter - Thomas Siebel, CEO of Siebel Systems - blew it off, sending a stand-in at the last minute.So it would appear the world doesn't need generic computer trade shows any more. Computing vendors seem content to reach customers with online tools like e-mail and Webcasts. It would be a shame, however, if that is all we're left with. Conferences let the buyer get a taste of new technologies, meet many companies in a short amount of time, learn, and rub elbows with industry colleagues.Maybe it's time for NetWorld+Interop to encompass more computing topics.