Lessons from Comdex 2012

My last blog entry was rather pessimistic. I promise I will lighten it up before the end of the first quarter. But not yet.

Comdex 2000:

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 13, 2000 The path forward for computing will involve software applications interacting with each other to gather rich information from many different sources and present a consolidated view to the user, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Bill Gates told a capacity crowd of more than 12,000 attendees last night as he kicked off the COMDEX/Fall 2000 Conference with a keynote speech at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

 

Understanding Comdex 2000

John C. Dvorak, 11.20.00, 12:01 AM ET

LAS VEGAS – Comdex is the trade show you love to hate, and upward of 200,000 visitors love to hate it. Even Las Vegas loves to hate Comdex as cabbies, waiters and others complain that the computer show attendees are cheap. They don’t gamble and they don’t tip. On the other hand, Comdex is the show that made Las Vegas what it is today. Comdex forced Vegas to change its business model. Instead of rooms that had included free food and a bag of nickels for $40 per night, the hotel casinos can now charge $300 per night and always fill to capacity. Comdex is the show that drove this change in thinking. And that’s what this show does for the industry too. It drives a change in thinking.

 

Comdex 2012:

Have you been reading the reporters that are covering Comdex this year? Everyone in tech is familiar with the largest technology related conference on the planet. Every year, techies converge on Las Vegas to view the latest and greatest in tech gadgets. The conference has a legendary reputation. Yet, read the headlines streaming out from this year’s Comdex:

In fact, I have been hard pressed to find much positive news from the conference this year. The reporters are all banging in the same themes:

  • No breakthrough offerings
  • The conference has become irrelevant (Microsoft won’t even be attending next year)
  • Conference attendance continues to trend downward

What do the experts believe is driving the slow demise of Comdex?

Perennial Market Flops: Last year’s releases were market flops, so buyers are cautious. It has become harder and harder to release a new product that generates real market buzz.

Changing product life cycles: When Comdex first incubated, technology companies were typically introducing their new products in Q1. These were the products the companies expected to ride through the remaining calendar year, into the holiday shopping season.  Today, companies are being forced to refresh products every four months. Products released in January may not even be on the shelves come November.

Blurring Markets: There is no longer a crisp market titled “consumer electronics.” Are tablet computers for consumer or enterprise applications? Are gaming systems really gaming systems or multi-media consoles? One blogger from ZDNet wrote:

“Essentially, there’s too many vendors chasing an increasingly narrow customer base for a product category or group of product types that have become heavily commoditized and are victims of convergence.” 

Why is Comdex relevant to Enterprise technology providers? Because the trends that are creating challenges for Comdex will be creating challenges for all technology providers—regardless of the market being served. It is becoming harder and harder to create a market changing product release that blows away the competition. Even if you do have a killer product release, the ability to ride that product has dwindled from quarters to months. And customer experiences in one market are influencing expectations in other markets. The user experience from an iPad or a Wii are influencing what customers expect from that clunky enterprise application you expect them to muddle through.

I am sure that twelve years ago, the folks in charge of Comdex were convinced the party would never end. Oh, what a party it was.

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