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Comdex Cancels November 2004 Tech Convention

Posted on: Thursday, 24 June 2004, 06:00 CDT

By MATTHEW FORDAHL

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- The venerable Comdex convention, which for nearly 25 years showcased the latest and greatest in high tech in Las Vegas every November, is canceling this year's show after years of declining attendance and interest.

Show organizer MediaLive International Inc. described the cancelation as a "postponement" and said Wednesday that it had formed an advisory board to reshape the troubled event. The company also said the next Las Vegas show would take place in November 2005.

"We are anxious to work with the industry to build the best event," said Eric Faurot, Comdex's general manager.

Originally called the Computer Dealers Exposition when it started in a Las Vegas ballroom in 1979, Comdex grew exponentially over the years as companies flocked to the desert city to announce their latest software, hardware and visions.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates has been a speaker since the earliest days, and it's also attracted the CEOs of Sun Microsystems Inc. (SUNW) and Hewlett-Packard Co., among others.

During the tech boom, Comdex lured more than 200,000 people and filled more than 1.2 million square feet of convention space.

But several companies - including Dell Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Intel Corp. (INTC) - stopped leasing exhibit space, depriving Comdex organizers of revenue. Instead, many rented suites at nearby hotels and hosted gatherings there.

When the tech bubble burst, Comdex attendance and exhibitors plunged, forcing the organizer - then Key3Media - into bankruptcy. The 2003 show was refocused to appeal to corporate buyers and sellers, not consumers and general gadgetry.

The 2003 show attracted about 40,000 technology buyers, 550 exhibitors and 900 reporters, according to MediaLive. Though Dell returned last year, other companies focused more attention to the massive Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place in Las Vegas each January.

The 2004 show was scheduled to open Nov. 14.

Comdex needs to update its format and show off technology rather than just show it, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"The market has grown a lot more than the show was able to grow in the last three decades," he said. "Part of the reason for that limitation was this show remained pretty much stuck in the 80s in format and form."

He also said the show must stick to its information technology roots - something that was tried last year with limited success.

"They did get the buyers back. They just didn't get enough of the sellers back, and that was going to be the problem again this year," he said.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority learned of the cancelation Wednesday, said spokeswoman Marina Nicola. MediaLive, which is privately held, declined to discuss how much it would lose as a result of the cancelation.

MediaLive, meanwhile, has formed an advisory board of technology company executives to determine how the show "can best meet the future needs of the industry," according to the statement.

"While we could still run a profitable Comdex this year, it does not benefit the industry to do so without broader support of the leading technology companies," said Robert W. Priest-Heck, MediaLive's chief executive.

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Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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