Comdex 2001: Reports from the show floor, from 2500 miles away

In late November of any other year, I'd be at Comdex, drinking from the fire hose and writing daily reports on the experience. However, 2001 was no ordinary year. Instead of dealing with the traffic, noise, crowds, and unbounded educational opportunities available in Las Vegas this week, I was home in Massachusetts, watching winter approach and experiencing a year without Comdex, my first since 1995.

At least that was the plan. Then Comdex sent me a gift in the mail: a free guest ticket giving access to the exhibit floor and keynote addresses. For the past few years, any ticket to Comdex included access to a personalized attendee Web site, the show’s daily newspaper online, and the Comdex TV channel that broadcasts live from the show floor. And I thought: in this day of desktop video and broadband Internet connections, with so much material available online, would it be possible to attend Comdex without leaving home?

The answer, it turned out, was a qualified "yes". A great deal of information made it to the Web - press releases, streaming video of keynote addresses, and the show's daily newspaper. However, much of the value of Comdex does not translate to the Web. There's no way to personally handle a new device, to see how it's built or how stable its operating system is. There's no easy way to ask follow-up questions to conference speakers - in fact, the standard conference sessions never made it to the Web.

So, for the week of Comdex 2001 I followed the show from Massachusetts, viewing the keynote addresses, reading the papers, watching the interviews and product demos. Call it an experiment in virtual travel, or a sign of how trade shows might be held in the future.

It certainly wasn’t be the same conference, but it wasn't wasted time, either. I was able report daily on a conference that went on 2500 miles away. The news was filtered through the eyes of others, but the reporting was fairly complete, the press releases numerous, and many leads could be followed up through email and the Web. I was able to pull enough nuggets of information through the wire to form some useful opinions. At the least, it was an interesting experiment. At best, it may have shown a way for organizations like Comdex to extend their reach to include people who just can't be there in person.


Read Sunday's report, focusing on Bill Gates' keynote, here.

Read my unedited notes from Gates' speech here.


Read Tuesday's report, which includes keynotes, product reviews and general observations, here.

Read my raw notes from the day here.

Read my unedited notes from Cisco chairman John Chambers' keynote speech here.

Read my unedited notes from Sony COO Kunitake Ando's speech here.

Read my unedited notes from Oracle's Larry Ellison's speech here.

Wednesday - Friday:

Read Friday's report, including in-depth keynote analysis, product reviews and more general observations, here.

Read my raw notes from the day here.

Read my unedited notes from eBay chair Meg Whitman's keynote speech here.

Read my unedited notes from Handspring head of product development Jeff Hawkins' keynote speech here.

Read my unedited notes from OpenWave chair Don Listwin's keynote speech here.