Goodbye COMDEX, Hello CES

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“Alan Headshot Image”

Okay, we’re still stunned, and so are our readers. It’s been two months since we went to Fall COMDEX in Las Vegas. It’s been a constant, “Where is the World Famous COMDEX newsletter” that I’ve been writing about for my last seven COMDEX trips, in which I cover the interesting sights and new equipment being displayed at COMDEX. Few will debate me over the term “World Famous,” and to them I say, “Get a life.” Oh, by the way, COMDEX stands for Computer Dealers Exchange. It was originally created to showcase the new micro computer technology that was first introduced by Apple and Tandy Radio Shack, followed shortly thereafter by the IBM Personal Computer.


In 1997: “The numbers are in: 220,000 participants, with 2,200 exhibitors displaying over 10,000 new products out of a potential 30,000.” This was our first look at a promising new technology … call the Universal Serial Bus (USB). You must have heard about it, it was in all the papers, but it was here at COMDEX first.

1998: “What is Iridium? It’s a worldwide mobile phone system that doesn’t need land-based cellular antennas because you link your mobile phone to a low-orbit satellite.” It was an idea that went down the “techno toilet,” and then one day it came down in flames, literally.

1999: “Wireless Networking – last year wireless networking was slow (about 10% of the speed of Ethernet) and expensive. This year it’s still faster than a hard-wired network, with speeds exceeding the 10Mbs Ethernet. Imagine carrying your laptop around the office, or direct into your conference room to make a presentation: no AC power cord, no phone wires, and no networking wires. Just your laptop on the conference table.” Note: Now we just use a wide area network and a cellular data card.

2000: “Here’s something cool: during COMDEX, e-mail was transmitted via our Nextel i1000 Plus phone and the wireless data service that Nextel will be offering Nextel customers in December.” And here we are at COMDEX, using it two years before its commercial release.

2001: Biometric applications. (Bio what?) These are programs and hardware that permit or verify access to a facility or system based on something unique about the specific user, usually by using voice, retina (that’s “eyeball” to you Kailua folks), or fingerprint scans. These methods are trying to provide more secure methods than the usual password log-in. (Jason, my System Engineer, says he finds the password under 80 percent of the mouse pads … equivalent to leaving the key under the doormat. Some things never change.) I merely observed the demonstrations, while masses stood in line to leave a fingerprint or some DNA with the Biometric device (it’s called a Free gift), and for all I know is being transmitted to the FBI, NSA or Interpol. Hold on … I hear a knock on the door.”

2002: “When you think of the primary tools you need to “walk out the door,” and I mean minimal, I see people taking their keys (auto, office, and home), cell phone, and maybe their PDA. The Sprint Handspring “Treo” has combined the PDA and cell phone, and using “Bluetooth,” is even able to start your car and open your home and/or office. So why do we carry keys? Also noted was the glaring omission of the Handspring Treo at COMDEX, especially when Jeff Hawkins gave a speech at COMDEX 2001.I guess Handspring figured that Sprint would do a good job of showing off their flagship product … Wrong.”

And now to our recent, and late, reporting on COMDEX 2003. From our first COMDEX, they’ve now shrunk to only 500 vendors and 50,000 participants. Our first COMDEX took the entire Las Vegas Convention Center (LVC), the entire Sands Hotel Convention Center, and the entire ground floor of the Hilton Hotel. The whole convention center parking lot was used for exhibitor spillover and registration. This year, the entire registration, media center, and exhibit floor took only half of the LVC. The Sands, Hilton, and LVC parking lot has not been used for several years.

It used to take me five days to see the COMDEX exhibits, and then return to the vendors that had an interesting product. This last COMDEX we did the entire exhibit floor in only ”’four hours,”’ then went back the next day and finished up in only another two hours. COMDEX ended early Thursday afternoon, almost a day and a half earlier than previous conventions.

To reduce cost, Information Technology Industry shows such as COMDEX have targeted the IT professionals and the IT Media. It has never been open to the general public. Some vendors come to COMDEX just to have a private show for the media, and pack up and leave after the event. Such was the case for vendors like Sony, APC, Targus, Opera, and Sprint PCS. None of them even had a booth on the show floor. The promoter for COMDEX Key3 Media filed bankruptcy last year, which caused major concerns with the IT vendors and resulted in the huge drop in attendance. (500 vendors, 50,000 attendees, down from 2500, 230,000.) It will probably take a few years to increase the attendance.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), managed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). was also held in Las Vegas. They had their first trade show in New York in 1967. The Las Vegas show was from Jan. 8 – 11 and had 129,000 attendees, including 18,000 from 110 countries, and over 2,400 vendors, numbers that rival COMDEX. The name “Consumer Electronics Shows” is somewhat misleading, as since “Consumer Electronics” is also includes Business Electronics. Much of Consumer Electronics also have applications in the business world: Cellular phones, Personal Data Assistants (Palm Pilots and Pocket PC), Wireless networking, LCD and Plasma displays, Internet, and of course one of the biggest (in society impact) or smallest (in size), the Personal Computer.

”’Alan H. Lam is the president of Quorum LLC and a regular contributor to He can be reached via email at:”’

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