Comdex: the long and descending road

Want to know what was hot at this year’s Comdex Toronto? So do I, and I spent an entire day there.

This is about the sixth time I’ve attended Canada’s flagship tech show, and I’m sorry to report that a lot of the excitement has leaked out. Comdex is not quite sinking yet, but it’s sure listing to starboard.

My first Comdex was a visit to a variety show of music, stage performances, buzzing crowds and freely-flowing freebies. There was also a lot of tech news, with attendees eager to dig into the latest trends and innovations.

But if previous years enticed you to dive into the excitement, you barely got a soggy sneaker in 2001.

The show drew a decent-sized crowd but many simply wandered about, uninspired by the displays and presentations. The other big Comdex draw, the seminar and speaker series, was heavily burdened by vendor-based pitches and was less engaging than it could have been. The morning keynote line-up, for example, sported senior suits from Research in Motion, Microsoft and Novell. Oooh, hold back the electrified hordes.

One major failing point with this year’s Comdex was admittedly beyond the control of organizers Key3 Media Group, and that was the lack of any white-hot technology wave. Two years ago the big story was Linux, and news and views regarding the open-source OS charged the entire show. You could scan the room and know a press of bodies indicated an interesting booth. This year, there was no real point of electricity. The closest was probably Microsoft’s booth, with attendees looking at Office XP and hearing about Windows XP.

And other areas were, if not hot, at least warm. Anything game-oriented was well attended, as were booths showing computer graphics products. Also getting good walk-around was Palm, biometrics firm Secugen, the Linux vendors and the Society of Internet Professionals. And the BrassRing Career Event was fairly hopping with dot-bomb r