The promise was for a smaller, more IT-focused
Comdex this year, without the consumer products and glitz of the past.
But across the show floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center this week, the verdict from many attendees was that the show’s organizer, MediaLive International Inc., has a long way to go to make Comdex relevant to IT leaders.
One major problem cited by many of those on hand was the very visible absence of important IT vendors on the exhibit floor, including Oracle Corp., Novell Inc. and Linux vendors Red Hat Inc. and SUSE Linux AG.
Jai Agrawal, senior project manager for enterprise applications and information services at Los Angeles-based Boeing Satellite Systems Inc., said the show’s dearth of key vendors, such as broadband networking equipment vendor Broadcom Corp., made it harder for him to peruse new technologies and learn how they can be adapted and integrated at his company.
“Typically, the big players are innovators,” Agrawal said. “They bring out the newest and greatest stuff. If they’re not here, then they know better than we do not to come. Next year, I don’t think I will come back.”
James Blaine, a United Auto Workers International union representative assigned to the information systems department at UAW-General Motors Corp. in Detroit and a five-time Comdex attendee, also lamented what he found at the show.
“This used to be a one-stop shop where I could get a lot of flavors” of IT information, he said, citing Linux as an example. In past years, a whole vendor section on the open-source operating system was available in the nearby Sands Convention Center. But this year, the Sands wasn’t being used for exhibit space.
“I can’t get it all here anymore,” Blaine said, adding that he’s not sure whether he’ll return in the future. “It depends on what we need to get done at that time. I think I’d probably spend more time on the Internet (searching for relevant information) before coming back here.”
Barton Ricketts, a certified network engineer for the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Cedars Sinai Medical Center and a longtime attendee, said he came for information on deploying tablet PCs at the hospital to replace PDAs. Ricketts said he found some products from Acer America Corp. and Fujitsu Computer Systems but added that other vendors were notably absent. “The big companies aren’t here,” he said. “I told my wife, probably next year, (Comdex) will be in a hotel room.”
If the large vendors stay away in the future, Ricketts said, so will he. “If the big names come back, I’d come back,” he said. “If they’re not coming back, I’m not coming back.”
Despite the event’s self-described IT focus, consumer electronics vendors still crowded the show floor, including makers of MP3 music players, digital video cameras and other devices of lesser interest to IT leaders.
Eric Faurot, vice president and general manager of Comdex for San Francisco-based MediaLive, acknowledged some of the show’s shortcomings but reiterated the company’s belief that the smaller Comdex marks the start of an improved event. “This is essentially a launch show for us,” he said, following the bankruptcy earlier this year of Comdex’s former owner, Key3Media.
A former Comdex senior executive at the show who asked that his name be withheld said Comdex has to get “people who matter to IT to come there. If they are going to survive, they need to figure that out.”
“It’s one thing to say this is Year 1 of the new Comdex,” he said. “But they have to tell everybody what the hell the new Comdex is.”
Not everyone thought the event is on the wane.
Paul Smigel, a consulting network engineer for the communications division of St. Louis-based wire and cable vendor Belden Inc., said he found information he wanted on several technologies, including hardware that allows USB device access to anyone on his network. He also spoke with several antispam and monitoring software vendors.
The show still has value, he said, though he agreed with critics that more major vendors would be a good thing. Smigel said he was particularly disappointed that Novell Inc. was absent, given its recent acquisition of SUSE Linux AG.
Paul Kraska, product marketing manager at Mounds View, Minn.-based Multi-Tech Systems Inc., a provider of virtual private network and voice-over-IP systems, said his booth was busy — evidence that Comdex is still thriving. “If vendors weren’t here, they made a mistake,” Kraska said. “It makes me feel good that we saw the potential.”