COMPUTER exhibitions are not what they once were in Hongkong, tending to be smaller and more specialised than the general information technology shows of a few years ago. But the Computer '93 organisers - Business and Industrial Trade Fairs (B & I) - are willing to bet that, despite a seeming antipathy from the large IT vendors towards exhibitions, a record number of visitors will pass through the gates this year. Computer '93 opens tomorrow morning at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai and, though not the biggest Expo in the nine-year history of the event, it boasts some products being shown in Hongkong for the first time. They include Sharp Corporation's futuristic Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) communications device. Competition on the exhibition scene is cut-throat in Hongkong, with the information technology sector bloodier than most: every year more conferences and exhibitions appear in the territory covering a specific niche market area. B & I exhibition manager Mr Louis Leung said that being a ''generalist'' show, Computer '93 wanted to offer something extra this year. Its theme, ''A Vision For The Future'', was designed to give its visitors - whether they be business professionals or part of the fast-growing home-user crowd - an idea of the technology that laid ahead, and how best to prepare for it. ''Our approach this year is very different,'' Mr Leung said. ''We want to demonstrate to our visitors something of the technologies that we are going to see [in the future], whether it be in the office or in the home.'' Catering to the home audience is a big turnaround for the Expo organisers. Even a couple of years ago, the home-user market was actively discouraged from attending the Expo, with organisers preferring to attract the ''quality visitor'' - the business professional interested in buying the big-ticket items. It is a reflection of the way that the industry has changed - with computers being made increasingly in the form of consumer products (such as palmtop electronic organisers, or software designed specifically for the home market) - that the focus of the Expo has changed as well. The opening hours of the Expo have been extended for a day, specifically to cater to this new class of information technology buyer. Mr Leung said the first three days of Computer '93 would cater mainly to the trade professionals - the information systems managers and the business buyers - but the show opened to the public on Saturday this year and organisers were encouraging the new enthusiasts to go and view the latest hardware and software on the market. B & I expects more visitors through the doors as a result of catering to the home users. ''There is a definite trend in Hongkong that more and more people are buying computer systems for their homes today, so we would expect at least 110 per cent more visitors this year,'' Mr Leung said. About 56,000 people attended the Computer Expo last year. The Computer Expo has gone through something of an evolution in the past few years and tends to be an exhibition that features local dealers and distributors, rather than the direct presence of the big IT vendors as it did a few years ago. But while the IBM's, the Digital's and the Hewlett-Packard's (or even PC giants such as Compaq or AST for that matter) have tended not to participate directly in the trade shows, Mr Leung claims they strongly encourage their dealers to have a presence. So, while there are just 150 companies exhibiting at Computer '93, the products of considerably more than 400 manufacturers and developers are actually represented. Mr Leung said it made more business sense for the major manufacturers to have their dealers at exhibitions - where direct business can get done - rather than exhibit themselves simply to ''fly the corporate flag''. ''Rather than being simply a PR exercise, they are able to get a direct result out of their dealers,'' Mr Leung said. Not that Computer '93 is completely devoid of big-name industry players. Japanese firms NEC, Epson, Canon, Sony and Sharp will all have a large presence at the show, along with the local Panasonic distributor, Shun Hing, and software distributor Microware.