Behind the Week’s Headlines:  Comdex Canada: the show we love to hate

Was that Comdex Canada, the show we all love to hate, that jumped limped through Toronto? Well, don’t be embarrassed, Big Smoke, not even the Pope drew the numbers that organizers thought he could (850,000 people instead of 1 million).

Funny thing about Comdex is people used to hate

it because it was so big.

Now we hate it because it’s become so much smaller and quite frankly insignificant. But not even the big show in Las Vegas this fall — the granddaddy of them all — is what it used to be. I wonder why high-technology trade shows even exist anymore. I can understand people working in, say, gifts and tableware needing to personally examine the latest in cheese cutters or finger a few linen swatches to keep track of vital industry developments.

But we in high tech are already the most wired and most connected bunch of all. And now there’s this great new invention called the Internet. So why bother with the pain, expense and all too often dehumanizing experience of air travel to visit Central Canada in July, a.k.a. Toronto the hot and stinky. And the odour’s not all due to the latest garbage strike.

The waning excitement over Comdex has little to do with the current slump of all slumps and now routine high-tech earnings warnings. (Now there’s a doublespeak gem. “”Warning, we have earnings, or wait, make that no earnings.””) Even when Comdex was still hot, the hottest companies were dropping out. For example, when Compaq was at the peak of its power in the mid-90s as the reigning number one PC manufacturer, it dropped out of Comdex to concentrate on shows like PC Expo.

According to the show owners, Key3Media Events Inc., there were 250 exhibitors at the show and the biggest among them were Citrix, Computer Associates, Ebay, EDS, Epson, Extreme Networks, Fluke Networks, Foundry Networks, F5 Networks, Microcell, Microsoft, Sony, TELUS, and Xerox. There are a few heavyweights to be sure, but obviously many absentees.

Anyway enough bellyaching. There was a show — which is undeniable — there were exhibitors and there was activity so let’s give some credit where it’s due. You may do well to direct your web browsers to a few of the following that did exhibit something eye catching at Comdex Canada 2002: — Pocketop Inc.’s infrared PDA keyboard ($149) that gets three months out of one AAA battery. It folds up super small and works with Palm OS or PocketPC-based handhelds that have an infrared port. www.pocketop.net — Kasten Chase Applied Research’s Assurency SecureData software for encrypting information on Palm OS-based handheld computers. The $45 (U.S.) program encrypts the entire contents of a Palm OS-based handheld computer.

Once a password is entered only what’s displayed is decrypted so as not to drag down OS speed (www.kastenchase.com) — MagicCard’s $189 PCI card that shields a Windows-based PC from accidental or malicious damage including that caused by hardware or software driver installation glitches, hacker attacks or viruses. (www.magiccard.ca).

James Buchok is a former editor of Computer Dealer News. jbuchok@mts.net

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