Competition Looms for Comdex

New shows would go head-to-head with gathering run by Key3Media, which seeks Chapter 11 protection.

IT spending may be down, but competition to lure exhibitors and IT managers to industry trade shows is way up.

Jupitermedia Corp. and legendary conventioneer Sheldon Adelson each have plans to launch trade shows that will run concurrently in Las Vegas next November with Key3Media Group Inc.s Comdex.

The news came to light as Los Angeles-based Key3Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.

Jupitermedia last week announced the Computer Digital Expo conference and trade show, which is scheduled to run Nov. 17-21 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The New York-based company made it clear it was positioning the show as an alternative to Comdex. On its Web site, Jupitermedia called Computer Digital Expo "the next generation technology event replacing Comdex."

Jupitermedia plans to run a spring edition of Computer Digital Expo in Boston as early as next year, officials said.

Adelson, who created Comdex more than 20 years ago and sold it to Softbank Corp. in 1995, is mulling plans to launch his own fall trade show. The show would be staged at Las Vegas Sands Expo and Convention Center. He is chairman of Las Vegas Sands Inc.

Sands President Richard Heller said Key3Media recently backed out of its commitment to lease about 1 million square feet of exhibit space at the Sands during the week of Comdex. Since there is probably too little time before November to line up another show, Hellers organization is considering an IT show that offers something Comdex does not. No timeline has been set for finalizing those plans, he said.

Key3Media organizes several IT trade shows, including Comdex. Creditor Thomas Weisel Capital Partners, a unit of Thomas Weisel Partners LLC, will fund Key3Medias operations and take possession of 99 percent of the company in exchange for cutting its debt.

Key3Medias managers, who are staying with the company, said Comdex and the companys other trade shows will take place as scheduled. Among the companys two dozen events are JavaOne, NetWorld+Interop, Seybold Seminars and this months Intel Developer Forum.

Comdex was a hot property in the 1990s. In 1997, it occupied more than 1.3 million square feet of floor space at the Las Vegas Convention Center and around the city, attracting some 211,000 attendees and nearly 2,500 exhibitors. But competition from more-targeted shows and slower spending on IT have taken their toll on Americas largest trade show. Comdex last fall tallied about 125,000 visitors and 1,000 exhibitors at its 500,000 square feet of show-floor space.

Jupitermedia is offering exhibitors space at $49.95 per square foot—$10 per square foot less than Comdex charges, officials said.

It remains to be seen if any big technology vendors will bite. "Another show in Las Vegas in November wouldnt necessarily impact on our plans," said Wayne Cox, director of communications for Dells U.S. consumer business, in Round Rock, Texas.