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IT start-up show finds taking on Comdex tough

CD Expo, a competing IT show in Las Vegas, drew small crowds

By Todd R. Weiss
November 20, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - LAS VEGAS -- With the annual Comdex Fall IT show on the ropes, the organizers of the upstart Computer Digital Expo (CD Expo) show had hoped to come to town this week and steal some of the longtime event's IT thunder.
But instead of causing a flurry of competition, the new show, put on by New York-based Jupitermedia Corp., apparently got off to a slow start in its bid to take the lead in Las Vegas IT gatherings.
The CD Expo, held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center just a couple of miles from the Las Vegas Convention Center where Comdex is headquartered, drew about 3,300 attendees in its first two days. Some 7,500 people were expected to show up over its four-day run.
That was just fine with Alan Meckler, chairman and CEO of Jupitermedia. "We've got our toehold," he said of the show, which was billed as "a vertically focused, Enterprise IT event."
Meckler said he had expected to lure about 10% to 15% of Comdex attendees to his show, but the numbers were less than that. He blamed the lower figures on what he said was lower-than-expected attendance at Comdex. "That hurt me," he said.
Meanwhile, a keynote speech at CD Expo Tuesday night by Darl McBride, president and CEO of The SCO Group Inc., drew only about 80 attendees.
Around 28 IT vendors exhibited on the small show floor, and some of them made no effort to hide their disappointment. At least one exhibitor pulled out before the show was to end today.
An executive with Siemens Enterprise Networks who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that the company sent its booth staff home Tuesday night and removed its equipment from the CD Expo floor yesterday.
The early departure was simply a question of economics, he said. "It's just a matter of always having to continually monitor the value of participation" at trade shows, the executive said. "In this case, the ROI wasn't there.
"We staff our booth with highly-skilled professionals who have a lot of other responsibilities," he said. And when an event isn't yielding results, shifts in priorities are made, he said.
Siemens Enterprise Networks is a division of Siemens Information and Communication Networks in Boca Raton, Fla.
Siemens was by no means alone with unfulfilled expectations. "It's much smaller than I anticipated," said one, who asked that his name and company be withheld.
Another vendor said show organizers had perhaps overplayed the potential crowd at the Jupitermedia show.
Dennis Meharchand, CEO of Toronto-based Valt-X Technologies, which makes a line of instant-recovery boards for PCs hit by viruses or other attacks, said he had shown his products at Comdex for the past 10 years. This year, he came to try out the Jupitermedia show, where he was busy touting his products to potential customers.
But with new management and a new IT-focus promised for Comdex, Meharchand said he would consider returning there in the future. "We'll take a look again next year," he said.

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