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Comdex 2001: smaller and tighter

numbers down, crazy security rules

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Next week sees the world's second biggest IT show Comdex arrive in Las Vegas. But despite featuring the same enormous range of IT companies, smattering of IT's top bods (Billg, Larry Ellison (Oracle), John Chambers (Cisco), Meg Whitman (eBay), Kunitake Ando (Sony)) and usual Las Vegas distractions, it is expected to be the smallest Comdex for years.

Just 150,000 people are expected this year, down a quarter on last year and well below its peak of 250,000. Several big names, includingi IBM and Dell, have pulled out as exhibitors. Fewer big products launches are expected. And on top of all this, the 11 September attacks have led organiser Key3Media to introduce extensive extra security measures.

In fact, Key3Media nearly created havoc when it decided just this week that all visitors "please leave bags, briefcases, backpacks, laptops, etc at home or in your hotel room". When it was pointed out that banning laptops at one of the world's biggest IT shows would be a logisticial and practical nightmare, the organiser quickly backed down. But it is still implementing the no-bag rule.

"No bags of any kind will be allowed on the show floor. Anyone carrying a purse, computer or fanny pack [they mean bum bag] will be asked to go through a security check. There will be a bag check area outside the convention center."

It reckons that you can pick up the freebie bags of brochures, T-shirts, hats etc but if you leave the venue, you will not be allowed back in with it - you'll have to drop it off at your hotel or something. Will this rule really manage to last for the duration of the show?

It also says no cameras or bags at the keynote speeches (presumably the press are exempt). And then there's: Attendees should carry photo identification with them at all times; Attendees must present photo ID to pick up their badges; Attendees will not be allowed to pick up tickets for friends or colleagues.

So what will be on show? Bluetooth and 802.11b gear (depending on who you talk to, one will be vastly bigger than the other this year - why this obsession with having a celebrity death match with every new technology?); HP tells you what the PC will look like in the future and probably witter on about why everyone should buy another printer; some PDA stuff; more and lighter lightweight laptops (just one micron thick!); some proprietary technology that "embraces" MP3; bigger and faster hard drives; and of course some dull but worthy use of the Internet that no one pays any attention to.

If you want to know more, the show site is here. ®

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