Fall VON Highlights
However, I was surprised at what seemed like a pretty low turnout for a tradeshow of its kind. By my second afternoon at the show it seemed like everyone had already left. With the show floor deserted, only a small number of sales and marketing folks were left to mill about at each booth, waiting for customers or potential business partners that never came.
Granted, that was the afternoon of Halloween, so some of the "ghost town" feel might have come from the fact that attendees with families might have wanted to get home early to go trick or treating with the kiddies.
Even so, a quick check with a cross-section of attendees confirmed what I had been hearing even before attending the conference -- that the show used to be much, much bigger, and it could be on its last legs.
Vendors I speak with in the VOIP space like to point out the tremendous opportunities still ahead. John Longo, VP of marketing for NexTone, says only about 4 percent of all voice traffic is currently delivered over IP.
If that's true, where are the customers at VON? Why was the show floor so empty?
Part of the issue may have come from a shift in focus on the part of the show's organizers -- VON used to stand for "Voice on the Net," but Mr. Pulver has apparently become more interested in video, with the addition of the "Video on the Net" portion of the conference.
While there were a small number of video applications being shown off and IPTV players on the floor, the vast majority of large booths were filled by more traditional VOIP players -- softswitch vendors, sellers of session border controllers, and those hawking gateways.
Part of the reduction in turnout may also come from the fact that VON is no longer the only show for next-gen VOIP equipment. One exhibitor we talked to said there are other options now that are increasingly poaching Pulver's exhibitors.
And finally, there's the fact that vendors are less and less likely to connect with customers at a tradeshow. Tradeshows, some say, are just not where deals happen anymore. As one exhibitor says of VON, "We already have accounts with pretty much all of the potential customers here."
That's not to say the show didn't have some highlights. For a glimpse at some of the more interesting people and things to see in Boston this week, check out the pictures.
— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading