Comdex: Fewer Visitors, More Security

By Sumner Lemon, ITworld |  Opinion

This was supposed to be Cindy Low's first visit to Comdex. But a
combination of factors, including the economic slowdown and increased
security fears, helped convince the Singapore-based marketing manager
for network equipment vendor Linksys Group Inc. to cancel her trip.

Officially known as Comdex Fall, the annual show is held each November
in Las Vegas and is billed by organizers as one of the world's largest -
- and most important -- exhibitions of IT hardware and software. But a
dramatic downturn in the fortunes of the IT industry over the past year
and the aftershocks of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon are expected to cause a steep drop in the number of
visitors to this year's show.

Due to the downturn in IT, show organizers are looking at a 25 percent
drop in attendance this year, according to Amy Groden, a spokeswoman
for Key3Media Events Inc., in an e-mail response to written questions.
With 150,000 visitors expected by Key3Media to attend the show this
year, that amounts to 50,000 fewer attendees than last year.

Linksys' Low is just one example of the many thousands of attendees
that event organizer Key3Media expects to cancel their Comdex plans
this year. Low's decision to cancel a planned trip to Comdex was made
as a result of budget cuts and security fears that caused many of the
Asian journalists she had hoped to meet with to scrap plans to visit
the show. "A lot of them are reconsidering or haven't decided yet if
they are going," Low said.

Linksys expects to see slightly fewer Asian customers attend Comdex
this year, although some of its regional customers are going, Low
said. "A lot of them are still keen to see the latest products," she
said.

Historically, a visit to Comdex has been a must for many vendors, end
users and journalists. But with the industry facing a global recession,
exhibitors are worried about attendance levels this year. "The size of
the show will be the same (as last year), but we are unsure what the
attendance will be like," said Donya Ekstrand, a spokeswoman for
Ericsson Business Innovation AB.

Hard economic times aren't just keeping users and media away from the
show. Weighed down by lackluster financial results, some vendors, such
as Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV's Philips Components division and
NEC Corp., have been forced to reduce their presence at Comdex. "We
have scaled back our presence because of our reduced financial
performance," said Jeremy Cohen, a Philips Components spokesman.

When companies adjust plans because of budget concerns, typically they
scale back their programs, as opposed to dropping out completely,
according to Groden.

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