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computer dealer

COMDEX

COMDEX (Computer Dealer's Exhibition) was a computer expo held in Las Vegas, Nevada, each November from 1979 to 2003. It was one of the largest computer trade shows in the world, usually second only to the German CeBIT, and by many accounts one of the largest trade shows in any industry sector. The first COMDEX was held in 1979 at the MGM Grand (now Bally's), with 167 exhibitors and 3904 attendees. In 1981, the first COMDEX/Spring was held in New York City.

Surge and decline

Originally open only to those directly involved in the computer industry, COMDEX was the one show where all levels of manufacturers and developers of computers, peripherals, software, components and accessories came in direct contact with retailers, consultants, —and their competitors.

Colloquially known as "Geek Week", COMDEX evolved into a major technical convention, with the industry making major product announcements and releases there. Numerous small companies from around the world rose to prominence following appearance at COMDEX, and industry leaders sought opportunities to make keynote addresses. Most discussed the computer industry, history, trends and future potential. Commercial acceptance of the Linux family of operating systems got a major boost following a 1999 appearance by its creator, Linus Torvalds.

In the late 1980s, COMDEX was opened to the public, causing an explosion in attendance, but also a dilution of COMDEX's impact on the industry and a loss of the focus which had made the show a "must-attend" event. Retailers and consultants complained that "leading edge" customers, upon whom they relied for early adoption of new technology, were buying products at "show specials" and then expecting the dealers to support those products.

At the same time, costs of attendance ballooned with the number of attendees. Hotels as far away as Primm, towards the California state line, were packed even when charging several times their regular rates. Reservations for closer rooms for the following year's show were often sold out during the current show at up to several thousand dollars per night.

Hotels justified the higher prices by noting that, while COMDEX attendees saturated lodging facilities, on average they spent less money in the casinos which were the resorts' major income.

After the Spring 1981 show in New York City and 1982 in Atlantic City, COMDEX began regular spring shows in Atlanta, Georgia from 1983 through 1988. Then alternated sites between Atlanta and Chicago. The final Atlanta Spring COMDEX was held in 1997; the last Spring COMDEX was held in Chicago in April 2003.

The end, and its replacement

Following COMDEX Fall 1999 (in Las Vegas), organizers made major changes to their criteria for admission of media, rejecting nearly all but those who were on editorial assignment from a handful of "acknowledged" trade papers. Though offered regular "public" attendance, this left hundreds of regular, long-standing press attendees from magazines and newspapers around the world with bad feelings toward the show. As press credentials were necessary to gain the level of access necessary to make the expensive trip worthwhile, most refused to go and many told vendors that they would disregard product announcements made at or in relation to COMDEX.

When other computer hardware exhibitions such as CeBIT in Germany and COMPUTEX in Taiwan continued to expand, the runaway costs and decline in quality of COMDEX had negative impacts. In addition, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in the US had gained importance, and many exhibitors determined that CES was the more cost-effective show. In 2000, major companies such as IBM, Apple, and Compaq (now merged with Hewlett-Packard) decided to discontinue their involvement with COMDEX to allocate the resources more efficiently.

Comdex/Fall 2001 organizers at Los Angeles-based Key3Media Group Inc. said they expected attendance to fall from the previous year's 200,000 to 150,000. They also expected the number of exhibitors to decline from 2,350 to 2,000 and the square footage of exhibitor space to slide from just over 1 million to 750,000.

In June 2004, COMDEX officially postponed the 2004 exhibition in Las Vegas due to lack of heavyweight participants. COMDEX has been discontinued and is has been officially replaced with Interop.

Comdex was started by The Interface Group who later sold it to Japanese technology conglomerate Softbank Corp. in 1995. Softbank sold the show to Key3Media, a spin-off of Ziff Davis, in 2001. Key3Media was dropped from the NYSE board in July 2002, when its shares dropped to pennies. It went into chapter 11 in February 2003. It resurfaced as Medialive International with a cash infusion from Thomas Weisel Capital Partners, which had previously invested in the company. In November 2006, Forbes Magazine reported that United Business Media plc had purchased the events assets of MediaLive International Inc.

The COMDEX web site is currently operated by TechWeb Networks, a United Business Media company. And previously was operated by CMP Media LLC, publishers of InformationWeek and other leading trade papers. CMP notes that a 2004 survey with nearly 3,500 respondents in the computer industry showed that 75% preferred a single, large industry trade show rather than smaller, segment-focused shows. 88% were more likely to buy products which they had come into contact with at those shows, and more preferred Las Vegas as a venue than all other locations combined. Over 70% felt that COMDEX was the most efficient way to meet with vendors and see products.

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