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This fall’s Comdex show has been canceled as the organizers of the marquee IT event seek greater participation from large IT companies and evaluate ways to make it more relevant to technology buyers.

Eric Faurot, vice president and general manager of Comdex for MediaLive, said the falloff in attendance was due in large part to Comdex trying to better qualify attendees based on their IT purchasing responsibilities.

“We didn’t let people in who weren’t part of the IT buying process,” Faurot said.

While he claimed “tremendous strides” in making Comdex more relevant to the large IT companies whose participation is vital to the show, the cancellation for this year indicates that MediaLive still has a ways to go.

“We want to sit down with the industry leaders and balance the industry needs as a whole with the needs of individual companies,” Faurot said.

Comdex’s decline can be traced to 1998—long before the tech bubble burst—when IBM, Dell, Intel and AMD all declined to buy booth space for that year’s show.

“It’s important for us to reach out to those companies,” Faurot said. “We’re very excited to have Dell and Intel on our advisory board.”

Marina Nicola, a spokeswoman for the LVCA, said Comdex remains valuable for her organization and is one of its largest shows.

“In the grand scheme of things, the trade show market is overall very strong for Las Vegas,” she said.

Nicola said the LVCA just found out Wednesday that there would be no Comdex this year and that the agency’s sales executives are working to find a replacement for that week. But she said November is the strongest month for conventions in Vegas.

“We’ll work very closely with MediaLive to make sure that Comdex is a success in 2005,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think big tech shows in Vegas are dead. Nicola pointed out that the Consumer Electronics Show in January had a “record year.”

“Overall, technology is rebounding,” she said. “Comdex is still very important to us looking forward.”

Joachim Schafer, president of Hannover Fairs USA Inc., a subsidiary of Deutcsche Messe AG, which produces the mammoth CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany, every year, said he was surprised and saddened by the Comdex news.

“If you’ve been watching what’s been going on, it hasn’t been easy for any of us,” Schafer said. The economic downturn, the bursting of the tech bubble, war and corporate IT departments’ need to do more with less resources have combined to lower attendance at IT trade shows, he said.

CeBIT, a massive technology showcase for both consumer electronics and business-to-business (B2B) IT, attracted about 500,000 attendees in March, Schafer said, though those numbers were down from a high of about 700,000 attendees in 2000 and 2001.

“It was a good show, it did what it was supposed to do,” he said. “There was a buzz there that hadn’t been there in 2003 and 2002.”

CeBIT America in New York last month drew about 10,000 attendees in its second year of existence. “That’s less than what we wished for, but when we analyzed the data, we found that the quality of attendees was superb,” Schafer said, adding that the show succeeded in attracting attendees with substantial IT buying responsibility.

“It’s quality, not just quantity, of attendees that counts today,” he said.

Click here for a roundup of the best products at CeBIT America.

Schafer said Hannover Fairs USA has no plans to develop an IT trade show for Las Vegas in Comdex’s absence.

MediaLive plans to keep the Comdex name when the show resumes in 2005, Faurot said.

“It’s a tremendously powerful brand, the only brand that can deliver 40,000 qualified IT buyers,” he said.

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