Comdex' plight is a sign of the technological times

Old trade shows, apparently, never die. They just get delayed.

I was pretty shocked to learn that one of my favorite trade shows, Fall Comdex, is to be 'delayed' this year.

Then again, I suspect that in this case delayed really means cancelled. Basically, the organizers want people to buy the fact that the show is delayed for an entire year. Call me crazy, but if you delay a yearly event for an entire year, I call that cancelled.

I for one will be surprised if Comdex actually comes back next year. Once companies leave, I bet it's nearly impossible to bring them and their money back to the table.

Comdex was a great show because it was massive, and the other GCN Lab guys and I were able to meet with industry leaders, spot emerging trends and even begin to plan our review calendar for the coming year.

Our reconnoitering plans aren't completely lost, though. Most of the companies I've talked with say they are moving operations to the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, which takes place in January in Las Vegas. Quite a few companies had already jumped the Comdex ship for CES last year anyway.

GCN has been hesitant to attend CES because of its emphasis on consumer technology. But amid the car stereos and video games of CES is an inherent and hidden truth that I think Comdex officials were too slow to grasp: Technology is no longer in the realm of the technocrat.

There are many homes with wireless networks, lightning-fast desktop and notebook PCs, digital cameras, plasma monitors and color printers. Your neighbors are stocked about as well as some government agencies.

Quite a few years ago, there was a big effort to encourage agencies to buy commercial products. Today, it would be difficult not to. Most of the highest-end technology sold to government has a consumer version'and a lot of what agencies have is exactly the same as what you can pick up at Best Buy or Circuit City.

This is by no means an excuse to be less vigilant when purchasing the right technology for your agency. In fact, in many respects, it complicates matters because it's difficult to tell what works and what is just plain junk in this new technology jungle, especially since 'consumer' is no longer a dirty word in government IT.

But not to worry: The lab guys will pack a machete, or at least their pens, to cut through the jungle and blaze some trails so your next purchasing expedition will be a little less dangerous.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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