The relaunch of Comdex to the Australian conference circuit yesterday has been "disappointing" for organisers, presenters and exhibitors.
An estimated 20-25 people are believed to have attended yesterday morning's opening sessions for the three-day event, held in conjunction with Networld+Interop, according to presenter and telecommunications analyst Paul Budde.
Only three delegates attended Budde's session, "IP-based networks key to services".
"Of course I was disappointed . . . I think there were 20-25 people at the whole conference," he said. "You expect an organisation of this sort of name to do better."
Budde said he would definitely have doubts about presenting at future Comdex events and suggested N+I and Comdex would be better combined with the Australian Telecommunications User Group conference.
Combined with networking conference Networld + Interop, Comdex creates a single trade show and two separate educational conferences. Launched in the US 20 years ago, Comdex Fall 99 is currently being held in Las Vegas.
Graham Porter, marketing director for Comdex exhibitor Inprise, was also disappointed with the turnout.
"We are disappointed with the numbers at Comdex, at least for the presentations." Porter speculated that one reason for the poor turnout was that Sydney IT executives may have been inundated with conferences. "It's a good opportunity to do it all together [N+I and Comdex]. . . but maybe Sydney has been "conferenced out," he said.
N+I and Comdex organiser Ziff Davis Events was also disappointed with today's attendee numbers, according to Rob Irving, director of marketing for the organisation.
However, Irving was quick to point out that Ziff Davis outsourced the conference program and organisation to the Internet Institute.
"We had enough to concentrate on . . . We didn't design the program, we were busy marketing N+I and Comdex as a [trade] show," he said.
Despite a poor showing at yesterday morning's live sessions, Irving said the keynote speeches broadcast from Comdex 99 in Las Vegas via satellite have been drawing crowds of up to 600 people.
Irving said exhibitor numbers had risen from 130 last year at N+I to a combined number of 152 this year. He was unable to give a breakdown of exhibitors between the two conferences and would not release registration numbers.
He did suggest some issues, including the conference presentations and marketing would have to be re-examined with future events.
So will Comdex be back in Sydney next year? "Oh yes, absolutely. When Comdex started in the US 20 years ago it had 4000 customers -- we've certainly had more than 4000 [including N+I attendees] for our first effort," Irving said.
Officials from the Internet Institute did not respond to calls before deadline. Meanwhile, two of networking's big guns, Cisco and Cabletron, were noticeably absent for the N+I show floor.
"You have to look at the return-on-dollar investment. Money is far better invested in customers direct," Cabletron managing director Ian Fewtrell said. "Events have had their day."