January 04, 2006, 10:05 AM — The trade show business isn't what it used to be. That's especially true for technology shows, but true to varying degrees across hundreds of industries.
Several factors have conspired to make this so.
Following the Great Internet Bubble Burst of 2000, many IT budgets and staffs suddenly got a whole lot smaller. One line item that usually got slashed was travel. We're all keenly aware of what happened to air travel in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Ironically, the rise of the Internet also has contributed to the woes of trade show producers. It's no longer really necessary to get on an airplane and traipse across the country to see the new season's products. It's as simple as visiting Web sites, downloading detailed specifications and sales brochures, having live chat sessions with tech support personnel, and watching video webcasts. There's no running around on a show floor and your seating is front row center every time.
And it's not hard to find people who were simply tired of going to more and more shows that kept getting bigger.
With the demise of the legendary Comdex show in Las Vegas and the disappearance of PC Expo in New York, the large all-encompassing technology trade show has had a rough time. Interop, which concentrates on networking, is enjoying a resurgence, and C3 Expo rose in 2005 from the ashes of PC Expo.
Why bring this up?
The Consumer Electronics Show, which starts today (Jan. 5) in Las Vegas is becoming increasingly important to vendors of "corporate" IT products. Sure, the entire North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center is still jammed with amazing audio systems for your vehicle. And the battle for the largest, brightest television rages on in the main hall. (Samsung stole the show in 2005 with its 102-inch plasma TV.) Home theater equipment, speakers, cabinetry, and zillions of gadgets abound.
But wait, there's more. I've been inundated with invitations to see new storage products. New VoIP solutions for small and medium businesses. Power management solutions (we used to call them uninterruptible power supplies). Applications software. Business-grade webcasting platforms. Commercial video-editing software. Departmental color laser printers. Security, antivirus, antispam, and anti-spyware solutions. And more, much more.
It's unlikely that CES will ever show the heavy-duty network infrastructure products that we expect to see at Interop, but over the next several days, I expect to get briefed on products that are sure to appeal to solutions integrators and corporate IT customers. I'll keep you up to date in future columns.
ON A SEPARATE FRONT...
In addition to praying for world peace, I was also hoping that 2006 would be better in terms of security issues. It's only January 4, and my hopes already have been dashed.