COMDEX: Day 1 Findings

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COMDEX: Day 1 Findings

The annual rite known as the Fall Comdex show got underway last night with Mr. Gates’ usual opening address. But instead of taking over the MGM Grand’s 17,000 seat arena, the keynote was held in the Aladdin Casion and Resort’s significantly smaller 7,000 seat theatre. Tickets were easy to come by, too, unlike previous years where getting one was a prized as having a winning lottery ticket.

Unlike the ubiquitous spam that promises us bigger and wider, the mantra of Comdex’s new management is smaller and narrower. The show promoter’s spin is that Comdex is returning to its business-to-business roots, in order to make it easier for serious buyers and sellers to do business.

And it certainly seems that way, given that attendees will supposedly have to meet certain qualifications to get free access to the exhibits floor, or pay $50 for the privilege. Intended to deter the grab-and-stuff shopping-bag crowd, this policy may keep attendance down to the 50,000 that is being forecast. Or it may just be more spin, to set expectations low, and then hopefully beat them.

No free rides

As I walked up to the Las Vegas convention center Sunday morning, I wasn’t quite sure that Comdex really was in town, since I counted only six banners plastered on the center’s main entrance outside walls – a space that’s usually covered with come-ons to visit vendors’ booths. It’s also not a good sign when only one of the banners is for a company that actually produces products (Microsoft) and the others are for trade magazines and for Comdex’ owner – MediaLive International.

Once I entered the main hall, I was surprised to see a bright red racing car with retailer Target’s signature bulls-eye where a shiny black Mercedes sedan usually sits. I always wondered how many sales leads Mercedes actually got from the test drives they gave at Comdex, N+I, etc., particularly in this post dot-com era. But according to other pre-show coverage, Mercedes was disinvited – all the more to reinforce the new “all business” Comdex theme. Of course the fact that a shiny red racing car was being used to shill for Microsoft’s .NET is ok, because racing is an IT-related business, too.

As I took my place in the Media registration line, things weren’t looking much brighter, since more than a few folks were being turned away – casualties of MediaLive’s tightened requirements for Media credentials. Newsletter writers didn’t make the cut, and anyone without a business card and recent by-lined article from a business-focused publication was politely, but firmly turned away.

Once the exhibits floor opens tomorrow, it will be interesting to see if the massage-appliance and other non-IT vendors that seemed to be everywhere last year have truly been banished as show management says they have. I have to admit that I won’t miss them much, even if they did add a bit of interesting color (and bargains, bargains, bargains!) to the show floor.

The Big Story – Not!

Maybe there’s a hot story ready to be revealed – like last year’s pre-emptive launch of draft-802.11g wireless by Broadcom . But if there is, it’s really being kept under wraps. The news wires are quiet, and the Media room literature bins very empty.

The pre-show buzz says that Microsoft is expected to keep pushing its Tablet PC, and Dell will reportedly show a new digital TV and a printer or two. AMD will try to build more buzz for its 64bit processor family, but beyond that, who knows?

As far as Networking products are concerned, most of the activity seems to be in Networked Attached Storage (NAS). In addition to Iomega’s introduction last week, Gateway and BuffaloTechnology are also introducing SOHO NAS drives.

I think it’s too early to be seeing any UltraWideBand (UWB) products. But then, I thought it was too early for 802.11g last year, and look what’s happened in the past year!

Keep an eye on our News section where I’ll be posting announcements as I get them. Since I don’t expect a whole lot of networking announcements, I may stray a bit and report on other interesting products that I come across. And I should be back with more commentary tomorrow… given there’s enough to comment on!