I attended Microsoft Tech-Ed in Orlando last week. Our company had a booth inside the Expo hall. I have attended dozens of technical tradeshows over the years but hadn’t been to one in over a year. The mood at this show was subdued although it was sold out to the public. A few observations from an exhibitors point of view:
The Expo Hall was Too Large – which made it feel like there wasn’t much traffic. The isles were nearly 40 feet wide so attendees could walk right down the middle without even looking at our booth. From an exhibitors view, it’s not a bad thing when space is a little snug and there’s a bit of overflow from one booth to another.
Little Excitement for Longhorn – I heard very few attendees talking about Longhorn. I didn’t talk to one person that seemed at all excited about this upcoming OS. I just can’t imagine enthusiastic consumers lining up to buy Longhorn when it releases years from now. Lots of talk about SQL Server 2005 and Sharepoint Server.
Big Presentations are Rare – It doesn’t seem that long ago when each exhibitor had a big stage where a marketing dude would stand up and demo the latest, greatest product. These always seemed so phony but they did draw a number of attendees especially when free t-shirts were tossed into the audience. At Tech Ed, I noticed most companies have gone to the “pod” model where exhibitors and attendees and talk 1×1 with each other.
Magic Acts – Those few companies that did have a big presentation in their booth hired magicians and psychics to bring in big crowds which they did! It was odd to see these circus acts drawing huge crowds without saying anything about the company’s products except for a few memorized lines that seemed oddly placed within the act. IBM had an Indy car in their booth hooked up to a large plasma display where attendees could test a cool racing game.
Microsoft Spoils Attendees – You didn’t have to walk 20 yards in order to find food, drink or candy. The table full of Twinkies and Ding Dongs was especially popular. Tons of SWAG here too.
Wireless Everywhere – It used to be a luxury but now everyone expects to be connected everywhere. Even my $59/night Holiday Inn room had free wireless. The CommNet computers lining the hallways didn’t seem to be packed as I remember from past shows. But the wireless beanbag lounges were packed.
No Tablet PCs? – I’m sure with all the Tablet hype coming out of Microsoft bloggers there must have been some Tablet PCs at the show but I didn’t see a single one. I did see quite a few Apple PowerBooks and many iPods.