Comdex: Fewer Visitors, More Security
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
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. Key3Media couldn't provide a specific figure for
the number of companies that had cancelled or scaled back their plans
to attend Comdex, saying the exact number is too difficult to track.
However, both domestic (U.S.) and international exhibitors are scaling
back marketing activities due to the economy and, in some cases,
because some of these companies have gone out of business, Groden said,
estimating that this year's show will attract more than 2,000
Despite the harsh economic environment and lingering security fears,
many companies are planning on business as usual at Comdex.
All eight of the keynote speakers -- Bill Gates, chairman and chief
software architect at Microsoft Corp.; John Chambers, Cisco Systems
Inc.'s president and chief executive officer (CEO); Kunitake Ando,
president and chief operating officer (COO) at Sony Corp.; Jorma
Ollila, Nokia Corp.'s chairman and CEO; Larry Ellison, chairman and CEO
of Oracle Corp.; Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of Electronic Data
Systems Corp. (EDS); Jeff Hawkins, founder, chairman and chief product
officer of Handspring Inc.; and Don Listwin, president and CEO of
Openwave Systems Inc. -- scheduled for Comdex have re-confirmed their
attendance since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a Key3Media
Major exhibitors have also re-confirmed their Comdex plans in the
aftermath of the attacks, including Nortel Networks Corp, CMC Magnetics
Corp., Olympus America Inc. and AT&T Corp., the statement said.
For some exhibitors, increased security fears sparked by Sept. 11 have
helped open new markets. Web conference software maker SpartaCom Inc.
plans to expand its Comdex presence this year, hoping to capitalize on
an expected increase in demand for its products in light of a drop in
corporate air travel after Sept. 11. "Not only are we going to be at
Comdex next month, our presence will be significantly bigger this year
compared to last year," said Scott Moule, chief operating officer for
But employees of Tucson, Arizona-based SpartaCom that will be attending
Comdex may not be flying to the Las Vegas event. "Comdex is very close
to us, we can drive there," Moule said. "We are very concerned (about
the possibility of further terrorist attacks after Sept. 11) and like
everyone else, we have to be aware of the situation, but we also have
to maintain a strong presence in the market."
For visitors and exhibitors that do make the trip to Las Vegas this
year, they can expect to see increased security as a result of the
Sept. 11 attacks. Key3Media is taking extra security precautions for
Comdex-related events, working with event venues and local authorities
to make sure that appropriate security measures are taken for the
event, Groden said. The company has also enlisted the services of a
private security firm to help organize security measures.
Comdex organizers have responded to travel-related fears by exploring
the possibility of offering buses to ferry attendees who are worried
about flying to Comdex, said Rick Moore, head of communications for
Key3Media. The company has buses lined up to transport attendees from
cities like San Diego; Irvine, California; San Jose, California; San
Francisco; and Phoenix, Arizona, but "we haven't gotten a ton of
interest so far," Moore said.
Indeed some companies, like Sony, which plans to send up to 200 of its
staff from Japan to Comdex, have not allowed security fears to deter
executives from traveling to Comdex via air. "Plans have not been
finalized but at present Sony has made no real considerations regarding
the (security) situation in the U.S. Obviously, if something happens
between now and Comdex it might have a major effect," according to
Merran Wrigley, a Sony spokeswoman.
(Martyn Williams in Tokyo, Joris Evers in Amsterdam, Elizabeth Heichler
in Boston, Laura Rohde in London, and Douglas F. Gray in San Francisco
contributed to this report.)
For more information on Comdex Fall, visit