Comdex postponement creates mixed response in PR community

SAN FRANCISCO: When MediaLive International announced that it was canceling Comdex this year, it was met with a mixture of disappointment and "what took so long?"

SAN FRANCISCO: When MediaLive International announced that it was canceling Comdex this year, it was met with a mixture of disappointment and "what took so long?"

Once the largest technology show around, Comdex was canceled due to falling attendance by both vendors and attendees. But those numbers had been dropping for a few years, as many tech companies began shying away from Comdex's big-tent approach. They opted for smaller shows with more qualified audiences. MediaLive, which produces Comdex, said the show would return next year.

Comdex's fall began eight years ago when IBM pulled out, said Robert Hallman, SVP and co-chairman of Fleishman-Hillard's tech practice. IBM recognized that Comdex was no longer meeting the needs of enterprise customers, and soon after, Dell and others began pulling away as well.

Due to long-standing customer relationships among the major IT vendors and a mature channel delivery system, Comdex was no longer necessary to IT vendors, he added.

"The telling fact here is that Comdex has been canceled at the same time of a tech upturn," said Tom Galvin, VP of corporate affairs at VeriSign. "It says something about Comdex, not the tech industry.

"We decided not to go last year, and the air of desperation was thick," Galvin added. "Their efforts and entreaties to us to reconsider smacked of desperation."

The tech industry, as it comes out of the downturn, has taken a different approach, said Galvin. Gone are the booth babes in favor of more focused, customer-centric road-shows around the country.

Comdex will need to find a niche that hasn't been filled to be relevant, and that won't be easy, Galvin added.

"The fact is that show-goers and exhibitors alike are looking for more effective, targeted ways to connect," said Bob Angus, president and managing partner of A&R Partners. "Focused conferences such as Demo and Vortex are the new trade shows. They offer much richer content, an environment more conducive to interpersonal networking, and you don't go home with sore feet."

But all hope is not lost for Comdex. The show has formed an advisory board -- with executives from companies including AMD, Borland Software, and EMC -- to assess its value in the future.

Sun Microsystems is one company that produces its own shows. But Andy Lark, VP of global communications and marketing, said he is "thrilled" that MediaLive is talking to its customers and he hopes to see the results of that dialogue reflected in a new format.

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