On your marks

It may be two months away, but the region is already gearing up for Gitex, and the inaugural GulfComms. But with vendors and channel partners already fighting it out for attention, should end users care? NME says: yes, because there's one crucial difference...

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By  Eliot Beer Published  September 17, 2006

|~||~||~|Trade shows are notoriously difficult to balance; too small, and they run the risk of petering out, with nothing worthwhile for industry visitors to see (this year’s Storage World event being just one such example). But make a show too big, and it can die from within; visitors can’t find the stands they want, and the sheer volume of vendors, integrators, distributors, ‘marketing assistants’, gawpers and journalists – not to mention the small mountain of brochures, clothing and key-drives – can overwhelm all but the most foolhardy of show hound. Veteran IT journalist Guy Kewney has written about the ‘death’ of shows such as E3 and 3GSM, in the US and Europe respectively. His view is that as booths get bigger, feet get sorer, hotels get fuller and ‘real’ visitors stop coming. It then only takes one major exhibitor to pull out to start the “domino effect” – why should company X spend money, when its closest competitor vendor Y isn’t going to be there? He may have a point. But what about the Middle East’s favourite IT glitz-fest, this year moving to the later November slot, post-Ramadan? What makes it different? Gitex is, by any account, pretty darn big. With in excess of 100,000 visitors expected to attend, the exhibition will also include the first GulfComms event in the newly-built Zabeel Hall – yet more acreage for the diligent visitor to cover. Having attended last year’s event, and seen some of the floor plans for this year’s show, I can state pretty confidently that some of the booths for the bigger exhibitors will be pretty vast. And there’s no evidence to suggest vendors are about to come over all environmentally friendly and cut down on the volume of promotional materials they give away. So far so average. If it’s just the same as any other big IT show, why should an end user wanting to catch up on the latest trends bother turning up? Because Gitex has one crucial difference to those other big shows – it’s the only one. It’s the only major regional IT show which can truly boast of being world class (leaving aside specialist and niche IT shows). End users in Europe, the US and South-East Asia are much more spoiled for choice when it comes to shows, as well as much more established marketing machines for vendors to talk about their latest offerings. For regional organisations, Gitex may be the only chance they get to send their IT staff to actually see some of the latest – and not-so-latest – technology first hand. For users in countries such as Iraq, Gitex may be the only show they can physically get to – visas to the US and Europe can make it impossible to visit shows there. Gitex is also a good chance for regional end users to give their views to senior managers at international vendors. If the big cheese at IBM (or whichever vendor) only makes one visit a year, chances are it’s during Gitex – this is the wily end user’s chance to collar him (or her – but usually him) and ask why certain products aren’t Arabised, or work on the Hijra calendar, or anything else. The Gitex and GulfComms events do matter, even if there may be some excess of showmanship and razzle-dazzle and not quite enough IT. But the shows are still the best way for regional end users to stay abreast of the current trends in IT. Other than reading NME, of course. Eliot Beer, Deputy Editor, Network Middle East. What do you think of the big tradeshows? Will you be attending? Write to eliot.beer@itp.com with your views.||**||

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