by Brendan M. Lynch | November 01, 2004

Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association

“We were one of the first shows
to verify our attendance,”
says Consumer Electronics Show
honcho Gary Shapiro.
“When Comdex came after us,
our strategy was to be honest...”

On June 23, 2004, word came that Comdex was dead at last. While many were shocked by the demise of the great computer trade event that in its heyday drew more than 200,000 attendees annually to Las Vegas, some industry watchers had foreseen the end of Comdex and every sprawling computer show like it for years. They understood Comdex and its cousins were too big and dissonant, too costly for participants and too slow to adapt in the new millennium’s dynamic but downsized IT marketplace.
    “Comdex was overwhelming to the senses. It was a free-for-all,” says Karen Zunkowski, event manager for corporate events with Waltham, Mass.-based Novell and former president of the Computer Event Marketing Association, based in Coal Center, Pa. “It was extremely competitive for the attendee’s attention. Eventually, with costs escalating, exhibitors lost faith in the Comdex model.”
    Indeed, Comdex was simply the biggest domino to fall in a recent string of old-line IT show cancellations like those of Business 4Site, CeBIT America, Comnet and Content World, to name a few. According to the Chicago-based Center for Exhibition Industry Research, trade shows for the IT sector suffered an overall 22 percent decline between 2000 and 2003, with steep drops in exhibitors, attendees, revenue and square footage.
    In the aftermath of these computer show crashes, M&C sought to survey the new circuit of tech events and look at alternatives on the rise.