Prior to my adventure in Las Vegas earlier this year, the only real trade shows that I have attended have been small ones in and around the Vancouver area. Needless to say, a major event like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a heck of a lot larger than the rinky-dink shows that usually take place in Vancouver.

Heading into Taipei for this week’s Computex Computer Expo, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. They say that Computex is the world’s second largest technology trade show, being outdone only by CeBIT in Germany. Yes, it’s pretty massive.

Now that I have been to two of the biggest technology trade shows on the planet, I thought that it would be apt to compare them. Some of the experience has been much the same, while other parts have been completely different.

Who Are These Guys?

Although CES in Las Vegas was absolutely massive, I was familiar with a lot of the brands that I saw on the trade show floor. Booths were set up by companies that are visible to the end user, like D-Link, Belkin, and SanDisk. While some of these firms also set up booths for Computex, a good portion of the trade show floor — which spans several floors of two exhibition halls — is occupied by OEM manufacturers that you probably don’t know about and, unless you’re in their target niche, will never hear about.

Taiwan is home to a lot of these OEM and ODM manufacturers. They build products that are later branded by other companies. Apple MacBooks are not actually “made” by Apple. Furthermore, each of the individual components of a computer or some other electronic device are actually sourced from a number of different companies. There are booths here that highlight nothing the tips of an iPod dock connector for instance. Computex is largely attended by buyers. They’re shopping for manufacturers where they can source these individual components.

Somewhat related to this phenomenon is the language barrier. Some product reps are able to speak English, but a lot of them can communicate only in Mandarin Chinese. Needless to say, this makes asking questions a lot harder than CES in Las Vegas.

Taking Care of the Press

Both Computex and CES have press centers where members of the media can set up camp, uploading pictures and articles for public consumption. These press centers are filled with computers and Wi-Fi access, so there’s really no reason why you can’t stay connected while at one of the giant tech trade shows.

Unlike CES, however, the Computex press centres do not provide meals for the press. While at CES, I was given a series of lunch tickets upon checking in for the first time. At around noon of each day, I could go to the press room and grab a plate of pasta or something. With Computex, this simply does not exist. Instead, they just leave small pastries and a pot of coffee. If you’re lucky, you might find a sandwich.

It’s Time to Party

Checking out all the latest technology is fun and all, but the real fun begins when the trade show floor closes for the day. We get invited to a bunch of parties hosted by these technology companies and most provide us with free food and an open bar. It just wouldn’t be right to turn down free booze.

The quality of the parties seem to vary considerably. We had a lot of lame parties in Las Vegas, but we also had some great ones. The same can be said about Computex in Taipei. The strange thing is that the vast majority of Taiwan parties seem to end by 10pm or so at the latest. After that, it’s time to go back to your hotel room.

Las Vegas being what it is, it’s a lot easier to stay out until past 3 or 4am. I know that when I was there for CES 2008, there were several nights were the parties were followed by hours of poker. That’s the nature of a 24-hour town, I guess, and not necessarily reflective of CES itself.

Booth Babes

There are booth babes at both major computer expos, but the styling is just different. It makes sense, because they have to cater to the target market. Booth babes in Las Vegas are generally Caucasian and more voluptuous, whereas the babes in Taiwan are generally Asian and more petite.

Computex also seems to have more “wandering” booth babes, whereas the girls tend to stick to their booths in Las Vegas. Computex does seem to be more of a spectacle too, because they’ll have dancing booth babe shows and cheerleader demonstrations. They work a lot harder to get your attention.

No Better, No Worse, Just Different

Massive technology trade shows are fun, no matter where you are in the world. The Consumer Electronics Show and Computex Taipei both have their strengths and weaknesses. If you have the opportunity to attend either, particularly as press, I highly recommend it.