ASP Summit Grabs Comdex Spotlight

It's about the services, stupid. At least that will be a message coming from a significant portion of this week's Comdex/Fall 2000 show in Las Vegas.

Known as a products show, Comdex this year will host an application service provider (ASP) summit where ASPs will make the case for their Web-based software and services delivery model.

"[Comdex is] starting to move toward more of a services show," said Larry Buchsbaum, an analyst at Boston-based research and consulting firm The Yankee Group.

The ASP model gained a significant boost this summer when Microsoft Corp. announced its .Net strategy, in which it plans to make all of its software available over the Internet.

Amy Mizouras, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., said she believes that commitment has helped validate the ASP business and that customers are starting to perceive that software will be delivered as a service over the Internet in the future.

Yet it's a long way to "best in show" at the largest technology conference of the year. Mizouras said ASP events at previous shows have failed to generate much buzz.

"The real test will be the conversation we have next week on how successful the show was," she said.

Buchsbaum noted that Comdex comes at a shaky time in the ASP industry. He predicted the ASP model will ultimately succeed, but that many of the current players won't survive to see that triumph.

"It's clear there's just a lot of confusion as to what an ASP is and what's the value of an ASP," he said.

David Dobrin, an analyst at electronic-business strategy firm Surgency Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said part of the value of ASPs putting on the ritz for a show like Comdex was to gain converts to their religion. "Maybe they're trying to recruit people to become ASPs," he said.

Of course, ASPs are also customers at a certain level, and Mizouras said she expects the services crowd to hear a fair number of vendor pitches for hardware, networking and security software companies.

"People want to know how much stuff are they going to buy," she said. "You can be sure there'll be plenty of prospecting going on."

Comdex has always been known as an event where hardware vendors show off their latest and greatest to small and medium-size customers.

Mizouras said she wondered if business applications will stand out amid all the glitz and glitter of the rest of the show. "I don't know that they can compete with the excitement level of a camera mounted on someone's shoe and that kind of techie stuff," she said.

The ASP summit runs Wednesday and Thursday.

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