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Once mighty Comdex canceled for 2004

Comdex, once the must-go show for those seeking the latest and greatest in tech, is canceling this fall's show after years of falling attendance.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The venerable Comdex convention, which for nearly 25 years showcased the latest and greatest in high tech in Las Vegas every November, is canceling this year’s show.

Show organizer MediaLive International Inc. described the cancellation as a “postponement” and said Wednesday that it had formed an advisory board to reshape the troubled event.

MediaLive indicated in a statement that the next Las Vegas show would take place in November 2005.

“We are anxious to work with the industry to build the best event,” said Eric Faurot, Comdex’s general manager.

During the tech boom, Comdex lured more than 200,000 people and filled more than 1.2 million square feet.

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates has been a speaker since the earliest days, and it’s also attracted the CEOs of Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., among others.

But several companies including Dell Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Intel Corp. stopped leasing exhibit space, depriving Comdex organizers of revenue. Instead, many rented suites at nearby hotels and hosted gatherings there.

Companies also focused more attention to the massive Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place in Las Vegas each January.

When the tech bubble burst, Comdex attendance and exhibitors plunged, forcing the organizer — then known as Key3Media — into bankruptcy. The 2003 show was refocused to appeal to corporate buyers and sellers, not consumers and general gadgetry.

The 2003 show attracted about 40,000 technology buyers, 550 exhibitors and 900 reporters, according to MediaLive.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority learned of the cancellation Wednesday, said spokeswoman Marina Nicola.

“We will be working to fill the space in November,” she said, adding the month is among the strongest of the year for conventions. “We don’t have specific plans at this point.”

MediaLive, meanwhile, has formed an advisory board of technology company executives to determine how the show “can best meet the future needs of the industry,” according to the statement.

“While we could still run a profitable Comdex this year, it does not benefit the industry to do so without broader support of the leading technology companies,” said Robert W. Priest-Heck, MediaLive’s chief executive.