Comdex West 2002

Comdex West, once known as the Pacific Rim Trade Show, or PacRim to the locals, is running for three days in Vancouver, Canada. Its focus this year is education, specifically to give IT people the knowledge they need to make good decisions.

One of several Power Panels took on the subject of Customer Relationship Management. CRM is a codeword recognizable to any good human resources department. Chaired by Dr. Catherine Boivie, who strikes me as a fantastic human being, three case studies of CRM implementation were presented and discussed. While implementing a CRM plan involves significant changes in the way things get done, and also requires a truckload of software, the most important aspect is still that face-to-face encounter on the front lines with the customer. Technology is merely the enabler. You have to put it to work to make it work. You also have to understand your internal processes intimately before undertaking an implementation like this. CRM frees companies to serve their customers fully. Care to browse the speakers' slides? They're online.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Techno Zone was interesting also. Joshua Paul and Graeme Bennett did a twosome on stage, and, amazingly, kept up a brisk dialog for two solid hours on the ins and outs of web development. All the while I never noticed either one stop for even a sip of water, though perhaps I just didn't notice over the good conversation. Josh prefers Linux as his developer platform of choice, and Graeme likes Mac OS X. These guys were big on open source software in lieu of proprietary - and therefore expensive - solutions for building a web site. Open source means freedom. Open source also usually means unix. Open source comes with two big advantages over commercial alternatives. It typically has a large enough developer effort that it is kept current continuously. I'm particularly thinking of security patches and the like here. It also comes with knowledgeable tech support in the form of forums. Chances are pretty good that you'll get your answer, so long as you've done your own due diligence. Either one could cook you anything your heart desires in a web site. Joshua lives by LAMP - Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, all freely available. Apache comes bundled with Mac OS X, and MySQL is readily available for it. All you need after that is a good book on MySQL and PHP programming. Or call Josh and Graeme. If I were planning a web site, that's what I would do. I couldn't tell if these guys knew each other before Comdex, but they absolutely didn't miss a beat during their presentation. Not to put too fine a point on it, they were hot.

One of the mainstays of Comdex in years past was the Vancouver NT Users Group. They showed again this year, and attracted a certain amount of buzz, but the big buzz was around the VanLUG table. Bill, take note, if you haven't already.

Speaking of which, Microsoft had a great booth again this year. This year they delivered a packed program of Microsoft-oriented lectures and presentations to a packed house. If you do Microsoft, then you missed a terrific show.

And speaking of missing, once again Apple and other Mac vendors were AWOL. Without a doubt, Comdex over the years has tended to lean towards x86 hardware and all the paraphernalia that hangs on it. But it's about time Apple showed here again. I know; they're busy in Tokyo right now with MacWorld. So how about next year? Mac OS X is the right stuff, and can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the best that Microsoft and Linux has to offer.

Monster.ca was generating a lot of buzz. It's become quite the class act, and one of the great success stories to come out of the dot-com meltdown period. In the far corner of the exhibition ballroom sponsored by Brass Ring was a cluster of companies shamelessly trolling for talent. You couldn't move for the crowds. The feeling in the air was palpable, like a back-room high-stakes poker game. If I were a boss, I'd be worried to know my people were at Comdex.

Singapore and Hungary showed their high-tech talents. Barbados showed off its high-tan and pro-business environment. Believe me when I tell you I was thinking up business plans that might work for me in Barbados!

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the University of Phoenix. Now, this institution is worthy of special mention because it offers a unique service. With campuses in many cities in the U.S. and Canada, it is singularly positioned to offer advanced university degrees to full-time working adults. Even if relocation is in your cards, it's just not a problem. Courses can be completed across multiples campuses, though there is a certain amount of encouragement to stay with your session for the sake of continuity with your classmates. Different campuses also offer different programs. All courses have strong online support. If picking up an MBA, say, in a full-time situation might be in your plans, then this is for you.

Will Comdex achieve its lofty goals? The answer to that question is an individual thing, and, like so many things in life, may well be a function of what each individual puts into it or, as a good friend of mine would say, brings to the table. One thing is certain. Anyone who attends will have a good time. And possibly win a Palm too. Ciao.