I carried my Tablet PC with me throughout my trek on the Comdex floor–but I rarely used it. Why? First and foremost there was no public WiFi access. I don’t get it. At a tech conference WiFi access is mandatory.
PDC got it right. There was WiFi access in the session rooms, in the lounge areas, and scattered about. (Anyone planning a tech conference should call the Microsoft PDC team right now and talk with them about how they put it together.)
Comdex got it wrong. WiFi is as necessary as air conditioning. Conferences that don’t provide it are going to make the attendees frustrated and inefficient.
With Intel’s push for Centrinos and its bundled WiFi, there’s no excuse that Intel did not sponsor an open WiFi network at Comdex.
In fact, I’d go further: If you’re planning a tech conference, pick hotels that have open WiFi access in at least their lobby. If they don’t, go elsewhere.
Plugged or payed access is not the same. With WiFi I can access my email or reach contacts in brief downtimes. If I have to stand in line to use a desktop, I’m wasting time. If I have to plan my access, I’m having to do too much to use it. If I have to fill out forms or sign up for usage, I’m having to jump through too many hoops.
One thing this conference showed me is how dependent I am on being wirelessly connected with my Tablet PC. Minimally I need to get a GPRS modem. That’ll help the next time I venture out for a multiday event.