Will CES die like COMDEX?

Robert Scoble, blogger, technical evangelist and FriendFeed-aholic has raised an excellent point in a blog posting on Tuesday.

Times are harsh in the economy and businesses can no longer afford to splash out on lavish trade shows and their associated expenses. This week Apple announced its last MacWorld in 2009. The news was picked up by the worlds tech sites and is seen by many as a clear indication of change in the industry.

Back in June 2004 it was announced that the annual trade show, COMDEX, was to be axed that year. COMDEX was a computer expo held in Las Vegas, each November from 1979 to 2003. It was one of the largest computer trade shows in the world but its main rival, The Consumer Electronics Show, gained importance, and many exhibitors determined that CES was the more cost-effective show.

The decline of COMDEX began the year after the 9/11 attacks that shook America and the world's economy. Hotel rooms would normally be packed out and at extortionate prices. In 2002 this wasn't the case. You could easily find a hotel for a reasonable rate which was a clear indication that attendance would be much lower that year.

Fast forward to 2008 and it's becoming clear that the same early indications of COMDEX's closure are beginning for the Consumer Electronics Show. This year you can easily find hotels on the strip and at reasonable rates compared to years gone by. Is this the only indication that CES 2009 won't be as popular? No. The economy is hitting big and small businesses hard. Consumers are wary of spending, worried about their jobs and can't afford the latest and greatest. Pundits predict the economy won't get any better in 2009 and the worldwide recession is set to get worse. What does this mean for CES 2010? If attendance this year is low then you can expect it to be even lower next year.

Scoble argues that the Internet is killing off big trade shows and I have to agree. In 2008 we have seen a rapid increase in the popularity and amount of online services focused on sharing news, pictures, audio and video. Twitter, FriendFeed, Ustream, Qik, Kyte, Flickr and YouTube all allow individuals to have their 15 minutes of fame. For PR companies it's often easier to release information to a specific set of people or bloggers who are well respected and followed by thousands on the web. It's cheaper, gets more hits and most importantly for them, they can control what information is being released. At big trade shows you often hear of employees slipping up and revealing some early product information over a beer or two.

Neowin will be covering CES 2009 but will this be one of our last?

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