A Comdex Hangover

Opinion: You don't have Comdex to kick around anymore. But don't you wish you did? Here's wishing the big enterprise trade show will rise again.

Was there something missing from your technology experience last week? Did you get the strange feeling that you should really be wandering around garish, over-the-top trade booths listening to vendors spew promise after false promise?

Did you think that the only appropriate way to get from one convention site to another was to wait in a cab line for an hour? And did you think that what was really missing from your week was walking from booth to booth with the type of massive hangover that only cheap booze, endless buffets and clockless casinos can produce?

You were clearly suffering from the Demise of Comdex dementia, which—although lessening with each passing year—is still upon us.

I was reminded once again of the departure of Comdex a week earlier when, on a late-evening and much-delayed JetBlue shuttle from New York to Boston, I had a brief meeting with fellow delayed flier Jason Chudnofsky.

Chudnofsky is now the CEO at Pulvermedia, but for much of the 80s and 90s, he was one of the key figures in the growth of the annual Comdex show in Las Vegas and the many associated shows and conferences that sprang from that event held the week before Thanksgiving.

We both agreed that the smartest of all the executives who passed through the Comdex portals is now the very wealthy (as in No. 3 on the Forbes 400 list) gambling and hotel baron Sheldon Adelson.

Maybe it was his Las Vegas expertise, but Adelson definitely knew when to cash out of technology and move onto something more secure and predictable—like gambling casinos.

With an extra hour of runway time ahead of me at JFK—my flight ended up behind a long line of planes taking off for overnight flights to Europe—I jotted down some of the big events that would have been happening at Comdex 2006 if the now-moribund idea of big trade shows had been revived.

By the way, that revival will never take place. The show was put in mothballs in 2004.

First up would have been the on-time delivery of Vista. Microsoft needed Comdex for a couple of reasons. One, it was always the place where Bill Gates could find an overflow and receptive crowd to his crash-prone product demos.

Techies live by the rule of crashing systems (if all systems worked all the time, you wouldnt need tech support), and by watching Gates talk about new feature on top of new feature, they knew their jobs were secure for another year.

The other ingredient Comdex always provided for Microsoft was a deadline. In fact, most technology companies tuned their product-delivery calendars to Comdex.

/zimages/4/28571.gifWill consumer tech lead the way in the enterprise? Click here to read more.

For show attendees, those new-product intros justified their trip to Vegas. For vendors, the date meant they could hammer away at their development teams to actually produce a product. And for publishers, Comdex provided a year-end advertising boost to warm the hearts of the most ruthless bean counters. Those were the days.

Next up would have been a place for the telecommunications companies and suppliers to show off all their cool new enterprise mobile products and services.

While the big trade show is dead, the big telecom companies are very much alive and are more than willing to talk about how they are going to offer the new enterprise platform.

The problem is, they will have to talk about that platform at shows such as the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show), where they will be competing for attention with game vendors, music platforms and video social network sites.

So this Thanksgiving you wont have to work off an extra 5 pounds gained at a Vegas buffet and confront a liver still reeling from those jumbo mixed drinks.

You dont have Comdex to kick around anymore. But dont you wish you did?

Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at eric_lundquist@ziffdavis.com.

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