Same time. Same place. New name. After a 20% drop in attendance last summer, LinuxWorld is ending its decade as an independent trade show and will re-emerge next year with a new name and a broadened focus as OpenSource World. Just like last year’s LinuxWorld, OpenSource World will take place in August in San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
The change mystifies this LinuxWorld 2008 attendee. Last summer’s event clearly drew disappointing crowds, with lots of excess aisle space on the show floor and plenty of last-minute seats at keynote lectures. Melinda Kendall, IDG World Expo’s vice president and general manager of OpenSource World, confirmed recently that attendance at the 2008 show was only 8,000, a decrease from the 10,000 drawn in previous years.
Representatives of two companies who exhibited at LinuxWorld in previous years but bowed out in 2008 said they stopped attending LinuxWorld because they felt they would be more successful at reaching their respective target audiences at other events.
“Linux is mainstream now and it no longer needs a special show,” said one Linux vendor who didn’t want to be quoted by name. “The show doesn’t generate much ROI. It’s more about students than business-to-business.”
Bob Williamson, senior vice president of product management at Menlo Park, Calif.-based SteelEye Technology Inc., which won in the Best of Show category in 2007, said SteelEye has better conversations with customers at shows like VMworld, the Red Hat Summit, Novell’s BrainShare or Oracle OpenWorld where customers go to find specialized knowledge about the products they implement.
“Over the years, LinuxWorld became less and less relevant to us,” Williamson said.
The change to OpenSource World “will water [the focus] even more, he said. “By trying to cast a wider and wider net, they’ll draw people who are less and less interested in the exhibitors, and it will be harder and harder to find people to have the right conversations.”
But Kendall says that petering excitement surrounding LinuxWorld is in fact a tribute to Linux’ success in becoming a mainstream computing platform. The way to restore the buzz and boost attendance is to broaden the scope and include the emerging open source mission-critical applications, which are still very much in the early-adopter stage, she said. The broadened focus also will attract some non-Linux open source vendors who didn’t attend LinuxWorld because of the event’s name, she added.
Kendall said she hadn’t yet won exhibitor commitments from big, non-Linux vendors like Sun Microsystems or Microsoft but has received supportive comments from companies like IBM.
“We’ll continue to be the largest Linux event in the world,” Kendall said. “But also the largest show for open source buyers and sellers, which may not have been clear before.”
Kendall may be right. But there’s a danger in running trade shows for trade shows’ sake. Just as there is a danger in creating technology for technology’s sake without first checking with users. See file under Digital Equipment Corp.
I hope I’m wrong. But I have my doubts. This seems like a move in the wrong direction.