CeBIT's US debut bumps forward next year's show

The shrinking TechXNY/PC Expo trade show will face a new threat to its base of attendees and exhibitors next year, when über-show CeBIT debuts an American edition that will displace TechXNY from its usual June spot at Manhattan's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

TechXNY has been hit hard by the economic crunch: Attendance at this year's show is estimated at 40,000, according to show organizers, down from 80,000 just two years ago. Half the show floor is curtained off and unused.

"They should have put basketball courts back there or something, to make use of the space," joked one exhibitor.

The show will move to September next year to accommodate the June arrival of CeBIT America, which will also be held at the Javits center. The scheduling change was the decision of the Javits management, but TechXNY is confident it will work out, said Show Director Christina Condos.

"We have a lot of vendor loyalty, and we have a lot of attendee loyalty," she said.

CMP Media LLC, which runs the show, isn't yet estimating next year's attendance, but Condos expects it to depend heavily on the economy. When business picks up, so will trade show attendance, Condos said.

And even in a down market, running the show is still cost-effective for CMP, she said: "We wouldn't be doing it if it weren't."

With travel and marketing budgets dwindling, can New York really support two major shows within three months of each other? CeBIT America Managing Director Mark Dineen said the answer is an emphatic yes.

"We're getting outstanding feedback from all the (industry) players. Basically, nobody is saying no," Dineen said. He declined to name any committed exhibitors, but said contracts are being sent out this week and details about exhibitors will be available next month.

CeBIT's flagship eight-day annual extravaganza in Hanover, Germany, is the industry's largest trade show, drawing 700,000 visitors this year. CeBIT America will be a quieter affair, with a projected attendance of around 40,000, Dineen said.

The show's focus will be on attracting senior managers as attendees and enterprise vendors as exhibitors. No consumer technology will be on display.

"We went and did a lot of research, and vendors basically told us they wanted to be in New York, and they wanted a pure, high-end B-to-B (business-to-business) show," Dineen said. "We're not looking for mass, we're looking for quality."

Running so close to TechXNY shouldn't be a problem because of the shows' different themes, according to Dineen.

"We'll see what happens down the road. I think (TechXNY is) very nice. I think the exhibitors there were very pleased. We're not necessarily playing in exactly the same field," he said.

Condos also said she's not concerned about CeBIT's arrival.

"Our vendors are aware of it," she said. "A lot of them are saying 'it's a first-time show, and we don't do first-time shows.'"One potential complication with next year's September TechXNY is its proximity to Comdex, the Las Vegas show in November that traditionally draws out several hundred thousand attendees and a slew of product launches.

The close timing of the events is a concern, said Sony Corp. booth staffer David Yang. Traffic has been light at Sony's booth this week, he said, though the new model of the company's Clié handheld was drawing crowds.

"Trade shows are in an awkward state right now," he said.

Yesterday's thunderstorm sparked a show-traffic boost by driving people indoors to the show floor, noted his colleague.

Those on the floor looking for interesting gadgets were having little luck. Regular attendee Arthur Petz III, a local graphic artist, said nothing on the floor seemed really new.

"There's nothing here that's made me go 'wow,' " he said. At previous shows, he's been impressed by wireless networking technologies on display. Similar technologies are being shown again this year, but the dazzle factor is wearing off.

"It was cool the first two times I saw it," he said.

ITX Corp. Chief Technology Officer Jonathan Coupal, a PC Expo attendee since 1992, recalled the days when the show not only filled up Javits' main floor but spilled out into the nooks of other floors. It used to take two full days to prowl the floor -- a task that now takes about six hours, he said.

"(Vendors) don't seem to want to make the investment in this kind of marketing," he said. "But still, it's good to come out and see the trends."

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