VARs Still Favor Specialized Events over CESBy Jessica Davis | Print
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While some VARs do attend the show, most watch the news from afar and spend their travel dollars on partner-specific or vertical industry events.
Home theaters and the newest audio technology may headline the Consumer Electronics Show, now a fixture in Las Vegas in early January every year, but the event also attracts a handful of IT VARs and solution providers looking to meet with their vendor partners and learn about cutting edge technology.
Just a few of the VARs and solution providers contacted by eWEEK's Channel Insider said that they do plan to attend the event, taking place Jan. 7-10.
"I used to go to Comdex every year," said Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, a VAR, MSP and system builder serving the regional area between New York City and Philadelphia. "From my perspective, CES is the only show where I can go and meet all my vendors."
Harrison and two others from his company will be attending CES this year, and he has been going to the event since Comdex's demise. When he first started attending he spent two days there, but now he stays for the full four days, the amount of time he says he needs to meet with everyone he needs to meet.
But most VARs still question whether CES is truly relevant to their businesses.
Robin Fischer, co-owner of Cincinnati-based DLP Technologies, said he's never gone to CES but his business partner has, "mostly for giggles and laughs."
And Stuart Raburn, president of Teklinks, a solution provider serving businesses in Mississippi and Alabama, said that he does not go to the show, but he does have a friend who goes every year and updates him with the highlights.
"I'll then look for more reviews online," he said. "It's great information but not sufficiently related to our business to justify the travel."
M.J. Shoer, president and virtual chief technology officer of the MSP (managed services provider) and VAR Jenaly Technology Group, will not be going to CES this year.
"To date, it is not an important venue for our business, primarily because of the more consumer-oriented focus," he said. "We focus our business on servicing small and midsize business and while CES certainly has relevance, it is much more of a tangible product environment rather than a more solutions based environment."
However, Shoer added that the show may ultimately evolve to be one that is worth the travel.
Many of the solution providers that don't attend CES said they spend their travel budgets and time on attending vendor or distributor partner events or specialized trade shows instead.
"We don't make any money when people buy iPhones or iPods, but we do make money when everyone buys them," said Corey McFadden, managing partner at Intradapt, who said his company attends Internet telephony and telecom conferences instead.
MSP platform reseller Do IT Smarter doesn't go to CES either.
"Our brand is the most important brand in the eyes of our [MSP] customers; they trust us to make the best decision for them," said Todd McKendrick, director of sales and marketing for the San Diego-based company. "Our manufacturing partners do a good job of keeping us updated as to the new stuff, and the Internet has also reduced our need for such events."
But MSP franchisor TeamLogicIT has attended CES for the last two years.
"We do believe there are good reasons to attend CES," said Vincent Plaza, director of IT for the company. "While a large portion of the show is definitely geared to the end consumer, there are areas where a solution or managed services provider can get a glimpse of what may be coming down the technology pipeline.
Plaza added that large companies such as Intel and Microsoft highlight the things that may ultimately impact his company's existing and potential customers. "Areas such as WiMax, VOIP, and other communications technologies can give us ideas for services and products that we may want to offer or have to compete against."
Axel Schultz, founder of Blueroads, the PRM company, who has since left that company and is now in the process of launching a social networking company for solution providers, will also be at CES this year.
"Since there is no Comdex anymore this is the show to meet peers, get inspired by adjacent technologies, identify trends and network with people from vendors, providers and partners," he said. " networking is becoming more and more important."