LinuxWorld Expo Boston: Final Day Wrapup

by Jeffrey Bianchine

The inaugural LinuxWorld Expo in Boston closed yesterday. As booth personnel packed their bags, work crews dismantled the exhibits and I got kicked out the press room and into the hallway, it is a pleasure to report that this week's expo has been a success on all counts.

Thursday was a fairly typical closing day of a tradeshow, and no major announcements or keynotes were made. The press room--quite the hive of activity the past two days--was relatively quiet. Booth traffic was down compared to the first two days. The buzz here was still positive, though.

IDG World Expo reports 20% more exhibitors this year in Boston than last year in New York. Although the audited numbers are not available yet, IDG World Expo also is eager to report that actual turnout is expected to exceed attendance projections--possibly significantly greater than six thousand attendees across the three-day event. Should the audited attendance total be that high, then the decision to move out of New York will be partially validated.

Another critical validation of that decision will be the quality of the contacts made here relative to those made in past years at the New York shows. Informal discussions with a variety of business booth personnel yielded positive opinions about attendance as related to customers met and partnerships forged or strengthened, as well as sales negotiated.

The value of the first two types of business connections cannot be measured in dollars as easily as in sales, but they are no less important reasons to exhibit. Frankly, even with the easy communication possible today through telephony and e-mail, we're all human, and humans periodically need to meet one another to build and fortify working relationships. Many businesses accomplished these goals in addition to generating new sales this week.

As a final comment about the commerce side of this week, it was interesting to observe that some businesses intentionally staffed their booths in such a way as to be able to listen to what potential customers had to say about Linux and open source rather than aggressively pitch their products.

It is worth noting, too, that the open-source, community-enriched Mambo took top honors as the recipient of the Best of Show award. In an environment increasingly populated by businesses where "running on Linux" is the priority and being open source is not, this was refreshing news.

Given that LinuxWorld Expo has such an overwhelming business tradeshow ethos, where does that leave the communities and dot orgs that fostered Linux and open source in gaining the "moral high ground" Bruce Perens mentioned yesterday? At this show, it left them on the other side of a literal great wall.

To be fair, both sides of the exhibition space this week were filled with meaningful booths. Compare that to last year's show at the Javitz Center, where significant hall space quietly laid vacant behind draped dividers. And despite the physical divide, during my discussions with dot org booth personnel, they continued to be upbeat about this first show in Boston. Most who participated last year were pleased with what they were able to accomplish this week.

The upbeat buzz created by both the exhibitors and the attendees is encouraging, but it still was difficult to ignore that wall this week. Hopefully, the larger and newer Boston Convention and Exhibition Center will permit a more unified floor layout for LinuxWorld Expo next year.

As a postscript, the answer to the question of which side won the Golden Penguin Bowl is the media. Sorry to have left that detail out of the day one reporting.

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