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Optical components

OFC/NFOEC Final Tally

3:45 PM -- The final OFC/NFOEC tally is in: 9,500 attendees and 550 participating companies.

The attendee figure is down from what I've been told was a count of about 12,000 in recent years. Traffic on the show floor did seem lighter, and I walked past a couple of half-day tutorials that were nearly empty.

I didn't see any of the paper presentations (and would love to hear the opinions of those who did), but I can tell you the afternoon coffee break on Monday brought out quite a crowd. It's a sign that the technical side of the conference, the PhD talks that were OFC's genesis, is still a draw. That, or the coffee.

Analyst Ed Zabitsky of ACI Research calls it the "Bizarro" version of OFC 2000: almost no analysts vs. a Wall Street invasion nine years ago; a bandwidth shortage as opposed to a glut; massive underinvestment vs. massive overinvestment back then.

The mood on the exhibit floor wasn't downcast. Most booths I visited even had flickers of optimism, given the conventional wisdom that carriers must continue updating their networks.

There is evidence that the next couple of quarters could see some improvement. (See Coming Soon: An Optical Uptick?) And I suppose you have to be upbeat if you're manning a tradeshow booth. But after eight or nine years in which something always seems to go wrong just as the market looks ready to turn, there has to be at least a tiny bit of doubt buzzing in executives' minds. "Wait 'til next year" has gotten to be a too-familiar motto.

I'm guessing the 550 "participating companies" include those that opted for small meeting rooms instead of booths. Bookham Inc. (Nasdaq: BKHM; London: BHM) and Nortel Networks Ltd. would be in that camp, and Avanex Corp. (Nasdaq: AVNX) dropped out of participating due to the pending Bookham merger.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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