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Fall Internet World - A report on the Trade Show Held Recently in New York City

Fall Internet World - A report on the Trade Show Held Recently in New York City

There's nothing better than a technology trade show in New York City in the fall. While leaves may be gently falling from the trees in New England, the movers and shakers of the Internet gather like so many Gordon Geckos to plot strategy, change the world and otherwise meet and greet the masses in the city that never sleeps.

Having spent years as a sales consultant for a variety of high-tech vendors, I always feel a slight trepidation when I cross the threshold onto the exhibitor's floor. For a sales consultant the trade show floor is one long line of unqualified prospects filling their trick-or-treat floorshow bags with giveaway goodies and looking for a quick demo. The booth is either filled with eager faces or a ghost town - there's no middle ground. Attending one of these things as a civilian is a lot more fun, take my word for it. Thanks to JDJ, I was able to skirt the long line at the day-pass registration booth using my VIP pass. Like a celebrity hopping the line at the old Studio 54, I was invited to duck under the velvet rope and make my way to the registration area without waiting.

The registration process itself was very disappointing. I like the idea of self-registration, but asking attendees of an Internet show to fill out registration forms using green-screen terminals is ridiculous (see Photo 1). Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating the destruction of terminals, and there are applications in which terminals still make sense. It's just that a trade show for the Internet is the wrong venue for them. While I'm sure the registration people are armed with statistics about how efficient the registration process was (blah, blah, blah), most of the people I spoke with were very frustrated by the terminal-based data-entry screens. Forget the fact that most of the registration process consisted of answering a series of self-serving demographic questions, the application itself was difficult to use. In the age of the Internet many people aren't familiar with terminal-based applications - and I find it hard to believe that a few PC vendors couldn't be strong-armed into providing enough computers for browser-based registration.

Many of the end users I talked to had never even seen a nondestructive delete-key in action, and they had lots of trouble with the application as a result. (By the way, guys, frustrated users rarely give you accurate answers to all those pithy demographic questions.) Internet World has grown into a conference for all Web constituents, not just developers. If you want businesspeople and end users to attend this type of event, you can't ask them to use technology that's completely unfamiliar to them when they register.

Automated registration processing is a good thing and I'm sure it saves people a ton of time. At a show like Internet World, however, the registration application should be browser-based and come equipped with adequate help and automated assistance.

A "United Nations" of Technology
Despite the hiccups with the registration process, the show itself was terrific. While Comdex may have gotten out of hand, Internet World is just the right size - despite the fact that the exhibition area itself is split between two floors. The show is truly a United Nations of technology, with representatives from all facets of computing and the Internet. While the keynote speeches and breakout sessions tend to capture most of the press, the exhibition floor is where the real action is, with everything you need to conceive and build a Web site or Internet application.

While it might be difficult for the novice to figure out all the pieces of the puzzle without some help, the fact remains that everything you need lies right there in the hall of vendors. What is truly incredible is the vast array of different technologies gathered under one roof. From telecom to online banking and from computer games to professional liability insurance for Web developers - Internet World has it all.

While shows like JavaOne provide developers with a focused environment for studying and discussing technology, Internet World provides a more global and holistic approach to the Internet in general.

One of the continuing mantras for developers and information technology staff is that they should keep close with the needs of the end user. There's no better place for understanding how users are viewing and interacting with technology and the Internet than this forum. Exposing developers to the complete view, including end-user applications of Java technology, reap untold benefits in terms of mutual understanding.

Even with the increased focus on such things as e-commerce and customer-resource management, it's clear that the critical item on everyone's agenda is content and content management. Many of the products I looked at were geared toward handling content and getting information published into Web portals - a key issue for corporations and dotcom companies alike. Portal-based applications allow corporations to get information disseminated among their many employees and divisions and customers courtesy of intranets and extranets. Although we have a history in the IT business of jumping onto too many bandwagons as the "next big thing," this seems to be one strategy with some real legs to it. For the dotcom set, portal-based applications are the lifeblood of their business. Organizing and personalizing content means the difference between winning and losing for these companies. What's really interesting is that a show like Internet World can service both constituencies so well. I'd have no trouble crafting together a complete solution for the corporate marketplace or the dotcom marketplace with the vast array of products on display there. Everything from bandwidth and server hosting to customer service applications were to be found on the show floor.

While many of these solutions are Java-based products, the emphasis at this show was less on the underlying technologies than on solving the bigger problem. Java Server Pages and XML are what Web developers are talking about these days, but the focus of Internet World was the end result of using these technologies, rather than the technology itself.

Some Specialties
While it's not my place to hand out awards and endorse products, I do have to mention a few things that caught my eye. First off, you have to love the idea of having a Christmas-themed booth complete with packs of roving Santa Clauses (all of whom had New York accents) at a technology trade show (see Photo 2). One of the great things about the Internet is the way it has fused the interests of stuffy corporations, technical developers and creative types.

Take Abject Modernity as an example. Buried among the telecom providers, development tools and CRM applications was this clever little company out of Canada with their intriguing game "The Stone." The Stone itself is a sort of game device that you use to solve a series of puzzles in the grand hope of learning the secret of the Enigma. Once you buy your Stone, you can register it on the Web site - provided that you can figure out the secret registration code hidden in the booklet. Now that's just plain fun, and it's nice to see that while the Internet is growing up into serious business, we can still have fun with it. If you want the scoop on technical Java topics go to JavaOne or the Java Business Conference - but Internet World remains the one spot where you can find everything else under the Internet sun.

More Stories By Jim Milbery

Jim Milbery is a Vice President with William Blair Capital Partners, a venture capital firm based in Chicago. He has over 19 years of experience in application development and relational databases. He is the former applications editor for "Wireless Business and Technology", the past product reviews editor for Java Developer Journal and the author of "Making the Technical Sale". Jim can be reached at [email protected], or via the company web site at http://www.wbcapitalpartners.com

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