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Western Digital Maintains Low Comdex Profile

HEARD ON THE BEAT / Orange County

November 23, 1998|JONATHAN GAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

While Orange County companies were well-represented among Comdex exhibitors, with Conexant, Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Ingram Micro taking up significant real estate in the massive Las Vegas Convention Center, Irvine-based Western Digital Corp. was among the more notable absentees, and the largest local technology company not present.

It has been five years since Western Digital had a booth on the computer trade show's floor, although last year, the company sent more than 100 employees to maintain meeting rooms and hold receptions for customers.

This year, fewer than a dozen Western Digital employees attended the show.

"Comdex has become a tremendously unwieldy experience in terms of getting things done," said Robert Blair, spokesman for Western Digital, who also cited the convention's notoriously high costs as a reason for pulling back.

More than 220,000 attended this year's Comdex. If the event were held in the Southland, attendees would fill every hotel room in Orange County and Los Angeles County combined, and would still have to double up in the rooms.

Companies like Western Digital are turning to more focused trade shows as the technology industry expands. Other conspicuous no-shows included IBM Corp., Apple Computer Co. and Intel Corp.

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More Western Digital: Industry sources said the company, which had been floundering in recent years, will release the first hard drives derived from a partnership with IBM somewhat earlier than expected.

The drives, which will be part of Western Digital's Caviar line of desktop drives, will be shipped in the first quarter of next year. The company had said previously that the first product from the five-month-old partnership would ship in the first half of next year.

Success in the hard drive industry, which has been struggling recently with low margins and a product glut, often goes to the first-to-market. While Western Digital had ballyhooed its technology-sharing agreement with IBM as a key to the company's recovery, others had pointed out that similar deals between IBM and others have often come up empty or late.

Jonathan Gaw covers technology and electronic commerce for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7818 and at jonathan.gaw@latimes.com.

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