Comdex 2001 - A Multimillion Dollar Write
From the moment the
media, exhibitors, analysts and attendees got off their respective flights at the Las Vegas International airport it could be
seen that Comdex 2001 would not be living up to its previous self. The first
tip-off was how easy it was to get a
In previous years, the large
attendance Comdex brought into Vegas for those five days was enough to require an entire fleet of
extra cabbies to set up camp and start working long shifts. Hell, last year
we even got swindled by a professional Boston cabby who charged an entire Ford Explorer
worth of businessmen $10 a head to go from the hotel to the LVCC.
As if that weren't enough, he even tried to sell a few Rolex's as he weaved in and out
of four lanes of traffic. It was an impressive sight, and underlined the extremely long
lines out front of each hotel near the Convention
Those experiences were a far cry from this year where every single cab
ride turned into an education in dwindling economics. As the cabbies themselves
said, last year they averaged about 25 rides a day, this year it was down
to 10 or 15, and Comdex Fall made little, if any impact
whatsoever. When the number crunching had been completed the attendance figures from last year, which stood at
about 211,000 people, were down to a mere 57,000 in 2001.
The Sands Expo, which has always proven itself to be a gold mine for smaller
companies looking to exhibit themselves lay completely vacant. Companies which had paid
astronomical fees for floor space ($60,000 for about 80'x20' in one example)
were hit hard by high union labor fees to set up their booths, install
electricity and networking connectivity. One exhibitor we talked to was charged $700
simply to have a crate the size of a fridge moved from the loading dock to
their spot on the show floor. With looming security procedures that
would potentially cause long lineups, and restrict attendees from even carrying a
bag onto the show floor, many companies simply abandoned their pre-paid spaces in the LVCC and moved
into private suites at the Bellagio, Aladdin, Hilton and Venetian Hotels.
Such was the exodus that we didn't even meet with companies in the
LVCC until Wednesday - the bulk of our time was simply spent in suites and hotel
showrooms which had been turned into impromptu galleries for video cards,
motherboards, notebooks and even processors. For the exhibitors, the move to the
hotel's brought comfort to employees who may have been concerned about personal
security, and fiscally it also made sense.
Hotel suites, no matter what the cost, were still less expensive than floor
space at the LVCC. However, the small turnout Comdex attracted was still felt
even from the highest floors of hotels like the Bellagio. Speculations even
began that Comdex might not happen next year because 2001 had proved to be so
disastrous. Privately, many companies said they would be looking towards CeBit
China next year in June for "the next big thing".
At the LVCC, the metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs and bag
checks had began strong, but gradually wore off to the point where entire security checkpoints disappeared
on Thursday, and anyone with a shoulder bag could just walk
by security. Eventually the only real security procedures were at the airports, where
not even a $5 StarBucks coffee was allowed past the metal detector at 6:00 in the morning
- nor through the X-ray machine, and believe me I pleaded.
It is really difficult to say from our perspective
whether or not the many companies and manufacturers benefited from the more
intimate meetings or if they suffered from lack of
people to promote their brand to. Truly this was not the year to have a
large booth and show off to thousands of bag carrying technophiles.
Comdex 2001 was a year suited best to planned meetings, private demo's
and a closed door deal making. In that aspect it would seem to have been quite responsive,
perhaps no where as near influential as in previous years however.
of you who were not able to visit sunny Las Vegas for a few
days of technology, gambling, and luxury hotels there is one last image
I want to set in your mind about Comdex 2001. NTT DoCoMo, a Japanese firm that
makes some the wildest cell phones you will ever see on the
planet had a large booth this year with a small armada of
Booth Babes. At most times, the lovely ladies equaled or outnumbered the number of visitors to the
NTT pavilion. Such was the vacancy of the LVCC this year.