Earlier this week, we were down at the Computer Trade Show in Birmingham – dubbed the UK’s largest trade-only trade show. Now, before you get excited, this is no CeBit or Computex, or even CES for that matter. The show is a fairly small-scale event, but that can often be a misleading factor to determining its importance. It happens to be a great time to make a large number of contacts in the UK IT industry, possibly the best networking event of the year in the UK.
For those of you who found a way in to the event, you might have been disappointed by the lack of new kit on display – there are high-profile events that are used for releasing new, high-profile products. In fact, some of the high-profile exhibitors were no-where to be seen. There was no Intel stand, and there wasn’t any substantial presence from NVIDIA either.
In fact, there were very few manufacturer stands, at least in terms of partners to the big chip manufacturers, such as AMD, ATI, Intel and NVIDIA – the partners that were here had partnered up with resellers and distributors. The scale of ATI’s dominance with OEM’s on the last round of high-end video card design wins really became apparent at this year’s show. The numbers of system integrators and distributors with ATI branding on their stand was substantial and it was clear who was the dominant force in the OEM video card market for the 2004/2005 season.
AMD have moved on leaps and bounds with many design wins coming their way. While they only had around fifty of their own machines dotted around the show, many of the stands that were not supported by AMD were also running AMD based demo systems. In fact, the presence of Intel was on a very small scale.
There were several stands dedicated to gadgets – several of them were dedicated to iPod gadget/accessory manufacturers, who were displaying their latest iPod accessories. The general consensus was that these relatively small companies were kicking out new gizmos every two to three weeks. IPods were not alone in vast adoption for gizmos and accessories, though.
The PSP, which is not even released in the UK until later this year, was another favourite for accessories at the show. There were various docking stations, carry cases and add-ons scattered around the stands. We are expecting the PSP to be a big seller in the UK when it does finally arrive here and it looks as if the gadget companies are already milking the product, despite it not scheduled to arrive here until September at the earliest.
"The show is a fairly small-scale event, but that can often be a misleading factor to determining its importance... it’s possibly the best networking event of the year in the UK."
The show hall is only the surface of the show as many see it though, with many events taking place on the Tuesday night after the gates have closed.
One such event is the CTS awards – that’s not the Computer Trade Show awards, it’s the Computer Trade Shopper awards. Computer Trade Shopper is the leading Computer Trade magazine in the UK, so you could say that the CTS awards are the biggest of its kind in the UK. Intel sponsored the event, while Microsoft and VIP Computers were award category sponsors. I was lucky enough to be invited along to the awards by THX-Trade and Foxconn.
Foxconn are a misleading company in one respect, as they’re a massive corporation that works very closely with Intel and Dell amongst other large companies. On the other hand, they have a relatively small presence in the enthusiast market... at the moment. This is set to change over the course of the next twelve months though, with a vast array of knowledge joining them from the likes of DFI, who are a favourite among enthusiasts with its superb LANParty series of motherboards. They’ve already released an NForce 4 motherboard, and there are more enthusiast-orientated products set to be released over the coming months.
Comedian Jo Brand was the compere for the awards ceremony, which commenced after a four-course meal. There were 18 awards in total spreading over various categories ranging from Printers to Graphics Cards to Distributors – there was almost a category for everything. You can find out who won the awards
over on the Computer Trade Shopper website.
For those who don’t want to click the link, you can pretty much guess where the CPU and Graphics awards went...
As already mentioned, both AMD and ATI had a serious presence at the show, so it goes as no surprise that they won the vote in their respective categories. Possibly the most interesting part of the awards ceremony was when Intel left the stage just before the best CPU award was to be announced – that would have made a fantastic picture. Intel presenting AMD with an award, that would've been a PR nightmare with Intel giving AMD recognition for a superior product, as voted for by the UK IT Trade industry.
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Unfortunately, that did not happen, but our very own Wil Harris managed to grab some pictures of the award at 4am, with the aid of a few Gin and Tonics and a mobile phone camera
. You can just about see the 'sponsored by Intel' logo in the corner of the award.
Now, aside from the awards, which were great fun to attend, what is happening with the state of the UK Computer shows?
Gamestars Live and ECTS were both held in the same week last year, along with the ABIT Hardware festival that was held in Leicester Square. It’s already confirmed that Gamestars Live is cancelled due to Microsoft pulling out for a number of reasons. On the other hand, ECTS’s organisers, CMP, announced that this year’s show is cancelled, along with the European Game Developers Conference that is held at the same time as the show.
"The UK is the second largest market in Europe, and yet there are no shows for the enthusiasts to attend to go and see new hardware."
However, we have heard rumours suggesting that its organisers are working towards putting something together, but it is not clear what sort of scale we can expect from the event, if it does go ahead. Last year’s ECTS was a relatively poor show, with very few exhibitors present – it was more like another CTS due to its trade-only status. My question to these event organisers is where are the shows for the UK enthusiasts to go along to and meet the hardware vendors? The UK is the second largest market in Europe, and yet there are no shows for the enthusiasts to go along to to see the newest computer hardware.
It’s about time there was such an event organised on a large scale. There have been several half-hearted attempts to get something off the ground, but no-one has gone about it in a way that would have given the event enough exposure in time for enough people to make arrangements to go along to them and see the latest computer hardware on show.
It’s all about creating the necessary buzz to get people going along to them, and going about it in such a way as to give the event enough exposure. Many people say that advertising banners don’t work, but I think they’re a great way to make people aware of the event. They’re often so much easier to understand than a batch of text that may well not catch your targeted audiences’ eye the first time around. By the time they do, it may well be too late.
ABIT are working hard to do something along these lines, they’re coupling a BYOC (bring your own computer) LAN party together with the UK Finals for its ACON5 gaming tournament. There will also be a select few manufacturers exhibiting at the event. I still don’t think this is going far enough, and how many of you can say that you knew that the LAN party was taking place on the 22nd to 24th of April at Uttoxeter Race Course?
We posted the news when we got it, but I wonder how many of you read that? I’m also intrigued as to how many of you know where Uttoxeter is without looking at a map? I happen to know because it’s where my parents live, but it’s a relatively small town in the middle of nowhere.
Ok, it’s fairly central, but there are places that are much easier to get to – the nearest motorway is 30 miles in either direction, although there is 60 miles of dual carriageway connecting the two motorways. I think somewhere like Birmingham would have been a much better choice – there’s the NEC, which is massive in comparison to Uttoxeter Race Course, and it’s also a hell of a lot easier to get to for those who are travelling a little further than I would be if I was at my parents house.
To me, there just seems to be a lack of budget to back the event this time around. Last year, ACON 4 was stitched on to the Multiplay I-series events, which meant that getting people there would not be a tricky task – it’s the biggest series of LAN parties in the UK by a considerable margin. ACON 5 seems like a big step forwards, but are ABIT throwing enough at it to make it a real success?
It’s about time there was a big consumer trade show in the UK, as it would really help to develop the market in to something even bigger and better than what we have right now.