VON Fizzles Pop!Tech Flys

October 25, 2004

in General Interest

I attended two conferences last week. Starting in Boston checking out VON and then moving on to Pop!Tech. Which conference was better? Can or shoiuld one make a comparison? Is it fair to compare an industry conference with something looking at the “New Renassance? At a moment in time when VoIP is flashing on our TV screens, and general awareness is blossuming where is VoIP’s renaisance? Where was the direction at VON? Why was Pop!Tech so much better. Where would your money be better spent?

Here’s my take on VON with a contrast for Pop!Tech. There are many posts on VON see Andy Abramson, and Martin Geddes two buddies at a bloggers dinner held on the Tuesday evening. It’s fair to note that my visit to VON was limited to exhibitors ( I couldn’t afford the steep fee). However, I didn’t leave thinking I’d missed much or anything new on the presentation front. While I’ve seen posts from Andy Oram I left with Martin’s view., The key news gets out and the corporate speak was available everywhere. For the most part sponsors speak, end of story. My best chats where the one’s forbidden at the entry. A sign saying roughly no hawking or case presentations. I had three really good one’s while there (separate posts to come) with three CEO’s that where thinking beyond the booths. Guess that proves networking works.

So why a “negative” on VON. The exhibits had no imagination. If you wanted to learn where the industry was going you would have to ask yourself why emerging VoIP players weren’t even there. Then the price cards were out. Broadvoice announced a $19.95 package with unlimited calling to 21 countries. (they couldn’t clarify whether that applied to cellphones or not! Don’t know the fine print!). I knowVON isn’t a show for “Consumer” products and yet nowhere did I see either the home or the office of the future really promoted. As for mobility and presence I’d have expected them to be more visible. IM systems? Well there was the FWD Communicator which IMHO doesn’t come even close to matching Skype. It’s key claim to fame is the integration with other IM systems so when you want to call someone it sends you an IM enabling a communicator link. I found a buddy on the system…. just dialled him from the demo PC.

Contrast with Pop!Tech. Here’s the overall. Pop!Tech is not blasted with sponsors and sponsor presentations. It also was designed to make you think. Pop!Tech was seeking a new a broader understanding and with a definition of a new renaissance naturally much broader than VON’s. However that is just what you need when new perspectives are required. Many PopTech presenters had a book or two to their names. The presentations were of the highest standard I’ve seen grouped together for years. As I fly home I’m convinced that managers may still have to attend industry conferences. I’m also convinced that they are not the venues for enhancing your competitiveness, or finding new avenues for success.

I know one buddy at VON said to me…. “Stuart you are finding this a little boring….” I had to agree. He set me straight.. He had made many connections with suppliers that could potentially help him with channels, manufacture etc. in the future. Fair enough, I’m not planning to create a hardware co for VoIP applications tomorrow. Still I think his final summary on VON was a title I almost applied to this post. “Whistling in the Graveyard!”.

So what I’d like to know is where should aspiring VoIP investigators go? I’d have to recommend the next SuperNova run by Kevin Werbach. He’s got a much better perspective on where the industry is going convergence and sponsors and company presenters are not quite as dominant. The lesson for Kevin from PopTech would be to bring in some more independents with a track record of good thinking. Examples would include Russell Beattie and Martin Geddes. I know not everyone would agree with them. However their blogs are as good as books. I’d also recommend taking the time out and considering spending your money on PopTech instead.

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