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Comdex coverage by CNN and

Fewer international visitors at Comdex

November 23, 1998
Web posted at: 11:00 AM EST

by Jeanette Borzo

LAS VEGAS (IDG) -- Much like many other elements of the global economy, Comdex/Fall '98 is feeling the pinch from economic crises in Asia and South America.

Calling the annual autumn event "the virtual United Nations of the technology industry," Comdex general manager Bill Sell acknowledged yesterday that 12% fewer attendees from outside North America registered for Comdex this year compared with last year. Attendance of international information technology buyers, dealers and programmers dropped from 41,000 in 1997 to this year's 36,000, representing 130 countries.

Total attendance was projected before the show to be 220,000, so international attendance may account for about 16% of total attendance.

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The same number of international companies are shopping at Comdex this year as last year, Sell said, but they are represented by smaller delegations from each company.

"Many of the Asian and Latin American companies have scaled back the number of people they're bringing," said Sell, general manager of Comdex Group at ZD Events in Needham, Mass.

Some vendors have noticed the drop in international visitors. Manufacturing software-automation developer Intellution (a unit of industrial conglomerate Emerson Electric) has global offices and comes to Comdex aiming to see international visitors. But senior applications consultant Bill Schiel said he didn't find overwhelming numbers of overseas representatives.

"There have been some international visitors -- I'll have some leads to send to offices outside the U.S. -- but it hasn't been a huge amount," Schiel said.

But a fairly steady flow of international visitors pleased Chris Hares, software architect at U.K.-based software based Alterian Ltd.

"I'll come away with a decent amount of European leads," Hares said.

Others were less enthusiastic, however, such as some exhibitors at the sleepy international pavilions housing vendors from Sweden, Norway and the U.K.

Cologne Chip Designs, based in Cologne, Germany, which makes chips for ISDN products, may not invest in the show again next year, said Harald Schaefer, sales and marketing manager at Cologne Chip Design. He noted that the number of visitors dropping by his booth was noticeably smaller this year.

The company has exhibited at the show for four years, and it uses Comdex to make business contacts, especially among Europeans and Asians, Schaefer said.

But others said they travel to Las Vegas each year because the IT industry is based in the U.S. -- making the country's largest trade show an important destination.

"I am here because in the IT industry, many trends are decided here in the U.S," said Boris Nuraliev, director of 1C, a software reseller and developer in Moscow.

Nuraliev said his Comdex booth visits help him plan his business back home in Moscow. It was at Comdex, for example, that Nuraliev first realized the importance of the Windows CE operating system, and he later developed some applications that run on it. Coming to Comdex also gives Nuraliev access to products he can't find in Russia and provides a one-stop shop for him.

Nuraliev also gets trade show ideas that he can take back home to use. "It's helpful to understand how American companies organize their companies," he said, adding that he has taken booth strategies from Comdex back home and used them at Russia's biggest IT trade show, the spring Comtek trade show in Moscow.

For Planet Software, an offshore software developer with offices in St. Petersburg, Russia, Comdex provides a place to look for U.S. licensees for some of its software, where it can negotiate new contracts for software development.

It's also a good place to get new technology ideas. "This is the place where I can ask questions that I have no one to ask back home," said Arcady Khotin, Planet Software's general manager.

The career expo held with Comdex has also been important for Planet Software. "This way I don't have to travel around to visit 20 staffing companies," said Philip Schwartz, vice president of Planet Software.

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