Subdued Comdex reflects mood in industry

With a renewed focus on education over celebration, a slimmed-down Comdex Vancouver 2002 is hoping to attract 10,000 to 15,000 West Coast IT professionals over the next three days.

Running from March 19 to 21 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, this year’s show features pavilions on the buzz topics of security and wireless, plus a Microsoft .Net boot camp and a “Techno Zone” with a product testing lab, said Andy Effenson, the Boston-based associate general manager for Comdex Vancouver.

Effenson said Comdex is reacting to problems in the technology sector by trimming some of the venerable show’s bells and whistles, and targeting local business-to-business buyers.

“The Vancouver event is part of what we call our Comdex ‘Knowledge Series.’ And in our regional events we look to the local marketplace to deliver a lot of that education and content and community of buyers, whether it’s through partnerships with businesses in Vancouver or the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, or the CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society) Vancouver chapter,” Effenson said.

Effenson said keynote speakers include the general manager of Microsoft Canada’s Enterprise Group, the chief operating officer of Sympatico-Lycos and HP (Canada) CEO Paul Tsaparis who, “we’re all hoping will be announcing exciting news on the merger.”

Although CIPS (B.C.) member Jon Nightingale will be dropping by Comdex to help run the Society’s booth, he said the last few editions have diminished in relevance.

“There’s been an annual computer show here for years, but lately it’s kind of wrestled with who the audience is. The in the late ’80s, ’90s it kind of swung to the consumer side of things. I suspect that got lots of people out, but not much buying happened so the vendors didn’t find it that useful. It would seem to me that now it’s somewhere in the middle and it doesn’t quite appeal to either side a whole bunch,” said Nightingale, who is also manager of product evolution for Vancouver’s ACT Cinemage Group.

After attending Comdex Vancouver for four of the last six years, database developer Bill Syed is signed up for several seminars, but he longs for the boisterous, gadget- and game-filled shows of a few years ago.

“Honestly, I get lots of chances for pretty focussed professional development at work, so for me it was fun to walk around the (convention) floor and say ‘Whoa, that’s cool,’ or ‘I’ve gotta get one of those,” he said.

“This year with all the concerns in the industry I’m kind of resigned to the fact that (Comdex) will probably be good for me, but not quite as fun,” Syed said.

Comdex Vancouver is at