Exhibitor Shortage Puts Brakes on Comdex

In its second year of putting on the IT conference, MediaLive International says it's "postponing" this year's event and has formed an advisory board to work on making it more relevant to IT buyers.

This falls Comdex show has been canceled as the organizers of the marquee IT event seek greater participation from large IT companies and evaluate ways to make it more relevant to technology buyers.

"Comdex was very relevant in the early days, when the industry was in its infancy," said John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and CareGroup Healthcare System, in Boston. "It then grew too large and became hard to navigate. As the industry matured, more vertical, focused conferences became more attractive. Comdex has no real relevance for me."

MediaLive International Inc., which owns the Comdex brand, announced Wednesday that the show, which had been scheduled for Nov. 14 to 16 in Las Vegas, has been "postponed." The San Francisco-based company said it has formed an advisory board comprising IT industry leaders to help "reshape" the event.

The board includes representatives of companies such as Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Intel Corp. and Dell Inc., which have pulled out of Comdex in the past, as have other large IT companies such as IBM Corp. and Sony Corp.

According to a company news release, the advisory board will assess the value of an industry event such as Comdex from the perspective of vendors, buyers, media and other stakeholders; and it will recommend modifications to Comdex accordingly.

Members of the Comdex advisory board include John Volkmann, vice president of strategic communications at AMD; George Paolini, vice president and general manager of developer tools at Borland Software Corp.; Mark Fredrickson, vice president of corporate communications at EMC Corp.; Timothy J. Curran, CEO of Global Technology Distribution Council; Jeff Singsaas, director of events at Microsoft Corp.; Robert Shimp, vice president of technology marketing at Oracle Corp.; and Peter Weedfald, senior vice president of strategic marketing and new media at Samsung Electronics.

Executives from Cisco Systems Inc., Dell and Intel have also agreed to join the advisory board, and invitations have been extended to other companies, MediaLive officials said.

The company is trying to reposition the event as a more "focused, business-to-business IT event," officials said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about earlier moves by Comdex to draw vendors by narrowing its focus.

Robert Priest-Heck, president and CEO of MediaLive, said in a statement that the company is trying to "rebuild the markets trust" as it repositions Comdex.

"While we could still run a profitable Comdex this year, it does not benefit the industry to do so without broader support of the leading technology companies," Priest-Heck said. "In order to give the advisory board the time and opportunity necessary to partake in the redesign of Comdex, we thought it best to postpone this years show."

Last years Comdex, the first run by MediaLive, attracted more than 40,000 qualified technology buyers and 550 exhibiting companies, according to MediaLive officials.

But the shows total attendance was just 51,000, compared to nearly 125,000 in 2002, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. That lowered Comdexs nongaming economic impact on Vegas to just $69 million from $170 million the year before, according to the LVCA.

The LVCA projected numbers virtually identical to those of 2003 for this years Comdex.

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