COMDEX CHICAGO - Economic woes strike annual show

COMDEX CHICAGO - Economic woes strike annual show

The economic downturn played its part in reducing the number of vendors, show attendees and maybe even the freebies at Comdex Chicago this week.

Keynote speakers talked about the turbulent economic times and the Wall Street roller-coaster many IT companies are on as a result. Fewer vendors and fewer marquee names, such as Microsoft, were on the show floor at McCormick Place.

"Smaller" is the single word used to describe the show by attendee Stephen Bogaerts, the master instructional technologist for Proviso Township High Schools in Maywood, Illinois.

"I think Microsoft has a lot of nerve not coming here," Bogaerts said, adding that he had hoped to get more information on Microsoft's forthcoming operating system, Windows XP, which is scheduled to be out in the second half of the year. "A lot of the big players are not here. Still, we always find something interesting here."

In the past, top Microsoft officials, including chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates have made appearances at the show. In recent years, Gates gave the opening keynote speech. Prior to the show, Microsoft declined to comment on why it had pulled out of Comdex Chicago this year.

The number of vendors for the show is down this year compared to years past, said Bob Bierman, vice president and general manager of Comdex Chicago, run by Key3Media Events. Bierman declined to comment on attendance figures, but several show attendees who have attended in years past suggested that attendance was down this year.

"It is a reflection of the industry," Bierman said. "People are having a tough time ... We are in a tech ebb right now. Hopefully, we'll be flowing again soon."

As the IT world continues to evolve, Comdex Chicago also is expected to change in 2002, Bierman said. The show will focus more on wireless connectivity. Efforts also will be made to woo back some larger IT names like Microsoft and others, he said.

"I believe the e-mobility message is very strong and we'll have announcements in the next months of companies that will be participating (in Comdex Chicago in 2002)," Bierman said.

While vendor and attendance numbers appeared down, The Chicago Tribune also suggested on Wednesday that the number of freebies was also on the decline. No longer is Comdex Chicago the place to grab a free cappuccino. Rather, it is now the place to grab free peppermints and plenty of brochures, the Tribune suggested.

Nevertheless, show attendees still said they saw new and interesting products, while vendors said they were getting the message out about their latest and greatest software, hardware, gadgets and services.

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