Wednesday, October 18, 2006

TMC Expo Highlights - Finally

Just wanted to post some thoughts about last week�s TMC ITExpo in San Diego. As with last month�s Fall VON show, the scope of the Expo has become too broad for one person to cover. Choices have to be made, and invariably, briefings and meetings take priority. Once all the A-list dates have been set, you have your B-list of requests in the bullpen, and you put them aside until everything else is accounted for (am sure the analysts reading this are nodding their heads with a knowing smile!).

For the Expo, I ended up speaking or moderating for 5 sessions, so that�s the better part of a day there in total. Then you have to leave time to walk the show floor, and oh � almost forgot, there�s like a few hundred speakers to see across dozens of sessions and keynotes. There must have been about 10 different tracks to follow, and guess what � they�re all interesting.

At the end of the day, I ended up dropping in for a handful of sessions, so I can�t tell you much about the content of the show other than the sessions I was involved with. If you�re detecting a tone of frustration, you�re right. I really liked everything I saw, and had lots of great meetings, but geez, I have no idea what I missed, and I�m sure I missed lots of great stuff.

Being an army of one, it�s understandable that I can only do so much. However, I talked to lots of people who there with others from their company, and it was the same story for them. All told, the show was a great experience, but I sure wish there was a way to take it all in. From all accounts, it seems like to the best way to get the big picture is to track the TMC blogs, as Rich Tehrani, Greg Galitzine and Tom Keating were posting pretty regularly.

For what it�s worth, I�m not singling out this show. With telecom being hot, and IP now central to everything related to communications, the scope becomes practically unlimited, and all the shows face this dilemma. If you�re in the IP space, you need to cover a lot of ground, and the shows keep getting bigger and broader. Seems to me you either go broad or go deep. I think there�s value in both approaches. A lot of people need/want to take in the full spectrum of IP, just to be sure they�re not missing anything big. But there�s also merit to shows with a vertical focus, where the scale is smaller, but the content is very focused. Of course there are tons of shows doing this, whether it be IPTV or Open Source or WiFi, etc., etc. These shows are getting big too, so there�s no easy answer. You can�t go to all the shows, so we all have to pick and choose.

OK, rant over. So, what did I see at the ITExpo that has stayed with me? Well, nothing much from the show floor that was really new or different. I did see some very good demos there, especially from Inter-Tel, 911 Enable and RadiSys, but most of the key takeaways for me came from the briefings and meetings.

Here�s what I liked the most�

Actiontec Electronics � they had a demo suite next to the press room, and did a great job of persisting to get me to spend time with them. I love learning about new companies, and for someone with my focus, this was time well spent. They have a nice product line branded VoSky, and the big idea is that they�re bringing Skype into the SOHO/SMB space with their IP PBX gateways and ATAs. It�s a neat idea, and being Skype certified, it�s real. There�s not a lot of Skype at this show, so this one caught my eye right away. They�re also going to send me some gadgets, and I can�t wait to try them out. Stay tuned.

SIP trunking. This idea is coming into its own now, and thanks to Ingate�s sponsorship, there was a day-long track dedicated to this topic. SIP trunking and IP trunking are great ways for businesses to bring IP into their operations without switching out their existing phone systems, and over time, this becomes a stepping stone to all IP. Fellow blogger Garrett Smith has some nice commentary about this if you want to read more.

Hosted IP PBX and Unified Communications platforms. This means many things, but hosted and web-based SMB solutions are hot trends now, and there were many small exhibitors on the show floor with variations on these themes, but many are not familiar to me. Hosted and UC are distinct businesses for sure, but I see them going hand-in-hand from an end-user�s perspective. That said, I saw a number of attractive solutions from those I got to spend time with, namely Pandora Networks, Sphere and Inter-Tel. Lots more going on in these spaces, and I thought the show did a great job to showcase the variety of offerings, not just for software/applications, but for endpoints and IP phones, both high end and low end.

IP Communications Business. Fellow blogger and consulting colleague Marc Robins did a great job to put this track together. He had a number of roundtable sessions, each addressing key trends in various segments of the IP communications space. Marc was nice enough to include me in three of these sessions, and they were really engaging for both the speakers and the audience. It�s great to have these open dialogs, where we can put forward our views on what�s driving a particular space, and from the feedback I�ve seen and heard, it sounds like attendees found them time well spent. Thanks Marc.

Acme Packet. This was the personal highlight of the show for me. Their IPO hit the street during the Expo, on lucky Friday the 13th. I�ve followed them closely from their early days back when I was at Frost & Sullivan, and have blogged about them a few times. Seamus Hourihan � their VP of marketing/product mgmt � is well known to regular attendees of shows like the ITExpo, and was on one of my panels the day before the IPO. It was fun to rub shoulders with someone on the verge of a very successful IPO, and I�m not alone in expressing satisfaction in seeing their IPO go so well. I also had a chance to post about their IPO the following day.

Mobility. Can only say that I got to meet with some very interesting companies in stealth mode who are coming to market with innovative features that cell phone users will find pretty cool. This is the fun part of being an indie analyst, getting an early look at companies you should be hearing about in the next few months. I�ll certainly keep you posted as circumstances allow.

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