Interop
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5/22/2007
10:27 AM
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Long Lines=Good News

I knew I was about to attend a trade show in Las Vegas -- specifically, Interop -- when I hit the cab line at the airport. A couple of hundred people patiently walked up and down the roped-off aisles, one hand pulling their suitcases and the other clutching their cell phones, explaining to business associates why they may not make that lunch meeting, but they'll let them know as soon as they check in.

I knew I was about to attend a trade show in Las Vegas -- specifically, Interop -- when I hit the cab line at the airport. A couple of hundred people patiently walked up and down the roped-off aisles, one hand pulling their suitcases and the other clutching their cell phones, explaining to business associates why they may not make that lunch meeting, but they'll let them know as soon as they check in.It was, in one sense, a good sign. Computer trade shows have shrunk considerably in the years since the tech bubble burst, and several well-known ones completely disappeared -- I'm thinking specifically of Comdex, the big one that used to take over Las Vegas once a year. (Now, it's CES, the consumer electronics show, that pulls in the big numbers.) So I've become used to attending shows where part of the show floor is blocked off to hide the fact that not as many vendors have signed up as expected, and to aisles in which vendors stare greedily at the few attendees wandering among the booths.

Things have been changing, though -- and not simply among consumer-related shows like CES. It's not a radical change but it does indicate a healthy trend. Vendors are daring to innovate again, companies are looking to upgrade, and the faces on the cab and registration lines are a lot more cheerful.

Speaking of healthy trends: One of the things that is so fascinating about any trade show, technology or otherwise, is the number of tchotchkes that are given out to participants by vendors who want to curry favor with customers, clients, and the press. These T-shirts, pens, and plastic doodads are usually worth about 50 cents each, are usually somewhat if not complete useless, and will take up an enormous amount of room in one's luggage -- but normally sane adults will queue up for them like kids waiting to see Santa Claus. Oh, there are a few useful or really clever ones that are occasionally given out, but these are few and far between It turns out that at least one company, Secure Computing, has decided to do an adult thing with all these trade show toys and has started a "Tchotchke Challenge" program, where they collect trade show toys to send to kids with heart conditions via the Las Vegas Children's Heart Foundation. They're putting a barrel by their booth during the show, and if attendees can fill the barrel with collected tchotchkes, the company will donate another $10,000.

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