Behind the Week’s Headlines: The demise of Comdex

Should we come to bury Comdex or to praise it? I don’t think anyone should be too shocked about Comdex owner Key3 Media’s decision to discontinue Comdex Montreal and Comdex Vancouver, they were small regional shows that were getting smaller by the year. But I for one am truly shocked at the cancellation

of Comdex Chicago and Comdex/NetWorld+Interop Atlanta. These two were seen as regional shows, but they were still huge events once upon a time. Neither the Montreal nor Vancouver shows were ever-huge events. But they sure were fun.

Perhaps the shock is in how quickly those two big American shows fell. But their decline has been in direct correlation with the growth and abilities of the Internet to serve as a real time marketing and communications tool.

For the cost of booths at both those shows, plus staff and travel costs you could have a whopping Web site.

Yet the overall demise of Comdex still has a tinge of sadness to it. It feels to me a bit like Eaton’s closing. The end of an era, something everyone in this business knew about and just about everyone in this business had experienced. Not that anybody ever rubbed former Comdex kingpin

Sheldon Adelson’s toe for good luck, the way they used to worship at the foot of Timothy E’s statue. Having once attempted to ask a question of Adelson, I found out first hand that getting close required slipping past a phalanx of burly “”assistants””. It was after an event at the Sands hotel at a Comdex show in Las Vegas, and I soon realized these gentlemen were most likely to provide me with a proper face plant, on the sidewalk outside that Adelson-owned hotel and conference centre. I decided instead to use official channels to contact the chairman.

Adelson’s company was called Interface Group, based in Needham, Mass., and even that office, the command centre of the far-reaching Comdex Empire, is now to be closed. Interface eventually sold Comdex to Softbank of Japan, which then sold to Key3 Media.

But it was the Interface Group that barged into Canada in the early 90s with its first Canadian show, in Toronto, obliterating the old Canadian Computer Show, which didn’t stand a chance. (But I can’t say I miss having to go to

International Centre, the complex that architecture forgot in the middle of Toronto suburbia.)

Those first few Comdex Toronto shows took up the North Hall of the Metro Convention Centre (the south hall hadn’t been constructed yet) and the SkyDome. Aisles were full, show floors were loud and there were parties, parties, and parties. Keynote addresses featured the likes of Scott McNealy and Steve Ballmer. And with all due respect to Darren Entwistle of Telus, Russell Artzt of Computer Associates and others who delivered keynotes at this summer’s Comdex Canada, well, you know what I mean.

To close, here’s a trivia question and answers can be sent directly to me at the e-mail listed below. What was SCIB?

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

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