No Comdex Canada in 2003

Comdex Canada will miss its tenth anniversary following show organizer Medialive International’s decision Tuesday to postpone the event until next March.

The Canadian version of the world’s best-known IT trade show had already

been bumped from its usual slot in the first week of July to mid-September. In a letter posted on the company’s Web site, Medialive managing director of Canadian events Jim Povec said the show will be held March 24-26, 2004. The firm’s public sector show, GTEC, is still scheduled to run Oct. 6-8 in Ottawa.

“”This is a postponement, not a cancellation,”” Povec wrote in the letter, attributing the decision to the weak Canadian economy and the IT industry’s overall decline, among other factors. “”The industry has talked about how new economic and market conditions have changed the needs of the buying community, but lest we forget, these same issues also affect vendors and their marketing conditions, too.””

Medialive had been promising to rejuvenate Comdex Canada, which has seen a steady drop in attendence and vendor support in the last three years. In the mid to late 1990s, for example, Comdex Canada exhibits routinely filled both the North and South halls of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. By Comdex Canada 2002, however, the entire event, including all tutorials, fit in the south end of the building with room to spare.

The Canadian event’s woes were only a symptom of a problem that has affected Comdex worldwide. Earlier this year Key3Media, which once ran Comdex, went into receivership and cancelled both Comdex Canada West in Vancouver and Comdex Quebec in Montreal, among several others. Medialive took over the show program through the Key3Media restructuring process.

Povec said the move to next year would allow vendors to allocate marketing within their budgets for the next fiscal year, while giving Medialive time to refine the show experience. He said he is looking at attracting at least 120 vendors and 12,000 to 15,000 attendees.

“”We went absolutely as late as we could in trying to get an uptick in attendence,”” he said. “”It’s not an economic viablity question as much as it is all customers being served.””

Canadian resellers said they weren’t surprised that Comdex Canada won’t take place this year.

“”So many of the big players had pulled out,”” said Frank Abate, president of Infinity Technologies Inc. in Mississauga, Ont. “”It had lost its focus from a channel-based technology environment to, ‘Let’s get people in the door.'””

Povec said Comdex Canada 2004 will see a return to its roots.

“”All trade shows got away from the focused attendee, the true qualified attendee. They went for the numbers,”” he said. “”The new Comdex is not going to be that.””

Tyler Boune, vice-president at PC Place in Regina, said he had stopped attending Comdex Canada six years ago as a crop of smaller niche events started competing in the trade show market.

“”People in our industry are not using that as a dealer show as much as an end-user show,”” he said. “”The vendors are gearing themselves towards a lot of the shows like System Builder Summit. They’re focused on our business model. That’s what we’ve been using.””

“”A lot of those people are existing buyers,”” Povec argued. “”The horizontal events are what’s brining new buyers. And that’s going to become very important.””

Many of the niche events are also more strategic than product-oriented, and some VARs said they value the exhibits.

“”It’s very difficult to go to one place where you can find a lot of product at the same time, and touch and feel everything,”” said Jim Bains, president of Microcad Computer Corp. in London, Ont., who said he had been planning to attend Comdex Canada 2003. “”It was a good thing that we’re going to missing.””

Medialive’s decision comes after a flurry of marketing activity that included an early full-colour brochure last week listing conference tracks, but few vendors. Only one keynote — Extreme Networks president Gordon Stitt — had confirmed. Past keynote speakers have included the head of Microsoft Canada, Research In Motion and Cisco, among others.

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