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 really appropriate way to get from one convention site to another is to wait in a cab line for an hour? And did you think that what was really missing from your week was the feeling of walking from booth to booth while being afflicted by the type of massive hangover that only cheap booze, endless buffets and clockless casinos where the idea of catching the 3 a.m. floor show sounds like a really good idea? You were clearly suffering from the demise of Comdex dementia which although lessened with each passing year of the No Big Tradeshow realization 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 Jet Blue shuttle from New York to Boston, I had a brief meeting with fellow delayed flyer Jason Chudnofsky. Jason is now the CEO at Pulver.com’s Events Group, but for much of the 80s and 90s, Jason 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 execs that passed through the Comdex portals is now the very wealthy (as in #3 on the Forbes 400 list) gambling and hotel baron Sheldon Adelson. Maybe it was his Las Vegas expertise, but Sheldon 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 as my flight ended up behind that 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 trades shows had 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 wouldn’t need all tech support) and by watching Bill talk about new feature on top of new feature, they knew their jobs were secure for another year. The other ingredient Comdex always provided Microsoft was a deadline. In fact most tech companies tuned their product delivery calendars to Comdex. For show attendees, those new product intros meant they could justify their trip to Vegas to see the new stuff, for vendors the date meant they could hammer on their development teams to actually produce a product and for publishers Comdex provided a year-end advertising boost to warm the heart of the most ruthless beancounter. Those were the days.
Next up would have been a place for the telecom 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 be the new enterprise platform. The problem is they will have to talk about that platform at shows such as CES where they will have to compete for share of mind with game vendors, music platforms and video social network sites.
So this Thanksgiving you won’t have to work off an extra five pounds gained at a Vegas buffet and confront a liver still reeling from those jumbo mixed drinks. You don’t have Comdex to kick around anymore. But don’t you wish you did?