Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Conferences and exhibitions - Comdex 1999
Conferences and exhibitionsWorld's biggest computer gatheringComdex 1999 - 20th Birthday Celebrations
Keywords Computers, Conferences, Microsoft
In 1997 some 4,000 people gathered together to learn about what was then the new PC market. In November 1999 over 280,000 computer people, mainly professionals but also including enthusiasts, came to Las Vegas to celebrate what is surely the world's biggest computer show, to celebrate its 20th birthday.
Pride of place was given to the keynote address by the chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates. Even what can easily be described as the world's largest gambling centre, or entertainment venue, as they prefer to describe it, had difficulty in dealing with so many participants all attending the same event. There were traffic jams that even the city's five-lane highways could not cope with and delegates found themselves in very long queues. This was very much the case when participants attempted to take their seats in the enormous ballrooms of the recently completed Venetian Hotel. Getting to this venue in time for the keynote address two hours before the event did not guarantee a place.
Bill Gates had previously addressed the conference series and had delivered the keynote address in 1983. This audience gave him a tremendous welcome. A great number of the participants were, after all, employed either directly or indirectly by his company or at least spent a large proportion of their time using his company's products. In November the US government's anti-trust trial of Microsoft was the main news in the media. This meant that Mr Gates's opening remark "Has anybody heard any good lawyer jokes recently?" was particularly well received. In fact he took some time in his address to thank his supporters for their letters and e-mails. He believes that Microsoft's role has benefited consumers tremendously. He said that:
Instead of there being less innovation with Windows we are looking at more innovation with Windows.
These innovative developments are easily demonstrated and include software for in-car computers, enabling motorists to plan routes, schedule stops for the cheapest petrol and download their favourite music. No doubt he could have continued in that vein and have given us an insight into many, perhaps, more important innovations. Instead he chose to show a video that featured himself as Austin Powers, determined to repel a threat to the computer industry and Wall Street from Microsoft President Steve Ballmer. It was Mr Ballmer who at the time had been alleged to have caused a stock slide with negative comments about Microsoft's shares.
Pandering to this vast audience was perhaps necessary at the time, but many of a more serious nature regarded the occasion as a missed opportunity.
Comdex has a great deal to offer in its role as an exhibition but it now has the task of catering for what, surely, is one of the world's richest group of people.