Computex kicks off next week in Taipei. Here’s why it’s a better show for everyone than the International Consumer Electronics Show.

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Photo by Dave Wilson/Flickr

Halfway through Lisa Su’s keynote at this year’s CES, she found herself competing with the noise from the neighbours. The tent next door to AMD’s, part of a tent city in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center,  wasn’t any just any old one, it belonged to guitar maker Gibson. So as Su began talking about the virtues of Kaveri, she had to compete with loud guitar riffs from next door.


This poor planning on the part of CES organizers is what’s killing the “big tent” trade show; why would a company want to use a venue like CES for an important announcement when they have to compete with this literal noise. Granted, these shows serve an important purpose for networking and meetings, but the competition for attention pushes companies to their own events for important announcements.

But while Computex in Taipei is on paper the same thing at CES, and the complaints about competing for attention are somewhat equally as valid (minus the literal noise), it’s simply a better more enjoyable show for all involved. It’s crowded, but not to an extent that a keynote is almost ruined. Taipei simply does it better. Here’s why:

Logistics

CES is a fairly decentralized affair. While the Las Vegas Convention Centre boasts an impressive amount of floor space, most companies take up residence in one of the hotels along the strip.

This makes getting to-and-from meetings a nightmare. There’s only one way to get between these various venues, and that’s via the Las Vegas Strip. Taxis, with their rates geared towards tourists, are expensive and will happily take the longest way possible to your destination. The Las Vegas monorail is tremendously overpriced, and most stops are a long walk from where you need to be. There is a rudimentary bus system provided by show organizers, but departure times are infrequent, and these busses get stuck in traffic.

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In Taipei things are different. The show is relatively centralized and while there are a handful of different venues most are relatively centralized in Taipei’s downtown core called Xinyi. For the times that you need to make a trip out to the Nangang Convention Center, where many companies have booths, there’s a subway connection. Plus, cab fare is extremely cheap compared to the West: a long cross-town trip may cost $10 at most.

Wifi and 3G service

Taipei is a big city. Nearly seven million people call the Metro Taipei area home. As such, the city is used to large crowds and its telecommunications network can cope. Granted some of the wifi hotspots at the convention centre might be a little slow, this is nothing compared to the gridlock that occurs in Las Vegas’ series of tubes during CES.

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At peak times, Internet of all sorts — 3G/4G, public wifi and hotel wifi — simply becomes inoperable in Las Vegas as everyone tries to connect. Despite the decades of CES being in Las Vegas, and the year-over-year increases in bandwidth requirements, nobody has bothered to do the necessary upgrades. A frustrating experience indeed.

Parties

Surprisingly a city known as “Sin City” throws a tame party compared to Taipei. The so-called flagship party of CES, held at a club called Marquee (you can read GQ’s advertorial on the club here), wound down just after midnight which forced revelers into the half-dozen overpriced bars in the adjoining Cosmopolitan Hotel.

In complete contrast, most parties at Computex don’t wind down until the wee hours of the morning. While clubs like Marquee seem to pride themselves on pricing things to the stratosphere to keep out the mild-mannered and ill-clothed proletariat, the most one would pay for cover at a club in Taipei is $25 — and that includes two drinks.

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Not unlike an average Thursday in Taipei.

Though Taipei isn’t known in Asia for its rambunctious nightlife — that honor would to to Seoul — when parties happen at Computex they seem to be more wild, lively and genuinely more fun than in Las Vegas.

Conclusion: A Taiwan state of mind

The superiority of Computex over CES comes down to the fact that Computex is held in a major metropolitan area, where planners have long prepared to move crowds efficiently, instead of a resort town where large-scale logistics are merely an afterthought.

If a company had to pick a trade show to go to Computex might be the better investment. It’s easier for the press and analysts to get from venue to venue, meaning there will be less delayed or missed meetings, and the event as a whole is better organized. Plus, Taipei is the heart of OEM/ODM country so if needed manufacturing partners are in close proximity for follow-up meetings.

But for the rest of us, Computex is simply more fun. Taipei is a warm and hospitable place, and a genuinely pleasant place to be. Las Vegas is just trying to part you and your money.