Computex Expanding Despite Global Economic Woes

Global economic woes haven't dampened enthusiasm for technology companies planning to go to Computex Taipei next year. In fact, 2009 will be the biggest year ever for the show, organizers said Monday.

Computex is one of the biggest computer hardware shows in the world. Organizers expect US$25 billion in procurement contracts to be signed at the show, up from $20 billion at Computex Taipei 2008. They estimate around 40,000 visitors from abroad will attend the exhibition next year, compared with 34,000 this year, to see devices and components from 1,800 companies already signed up for the show, compared with 1,700 this year.

A total of 4,700 booths have been rented out already, as many as could be fit into the five exhibition halls being used for Computex next year.

"People are still waiting in line for booth space, but that's all we can accommodate," said Walter Yeh, executive vice president of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), a Computex co-organizer.

The bullish projections for Computex next year are a contrast to the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next month. In a rare sign attendance at the show may be down, Las Vegas hotels are slashing rates. Normally, visitors must make hotel reservations months in advance for CES, which runs Jan. 8 to 11 next year, and pay a steep premium to normal prices. But hotels have already dropped rates twice to entice people to come during the show.

Many people are worried about the global economic slowdown, which has seen companies globally cutting jobs and trimming spending. Several nations, including the U.S. and Japan, have already proclaimed they're in recessions.

Computex continues to expand because people have to show off products in order to drum up new business, said Yeh. Organizers of the show have also invited more people from Brazil, Russia, India, China and Southeast Asia to attend in 2009.

Several new technology focuses are also intended to stimulate interest in the exhibition.

Netbooks, the low-cost mini-laptops that have won acclaim this year, and mobile Internet devices (MIDs), will be on display at Computex Taipei 2009. Several companies, including Texas Instruments, Intel and Via Technologies, will show off MIDs based on their chip products at Computex, said Yeh.

WiMax, the wireless broadband technology meant to replace Wi-Fi, will also be on display. In a promotion entitled "WiMax on the Move," organizers have outfitted Computex shuttle buses and Taipei's subway system to transmit WiMax airwaves for the show next year.

Another major new sight at Computex next year will be Chinese companies. For the first time ever, Chinese companies will be part of Computex, taking up at least 200 booths at what organizers call the Cross Strait Pavilion, a reference to the Taiwan Strait, nearly 180-kilometers (110 miles) of ocean that separate China and Taiwan.

With just a few exceptions, Chinese companies have not participated in Computex in the past because of Beijing's strained relationship with Taipei. China claims Taiwan as its own but the two places have been independently governed ever since the Nationalist Party lost the Chinese civil war and retreated to the island in 1949.

Huawei Technologies is one Chinese company that will attend Computex next year, and most of the others are in data communications, said Li Chang, deputy secretary general of the Taipei Computer Association, one of the organizers of Computex.

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