Supercomm: Virtual Gear

7:50 AM -- CHICAGO -- Supercomm 2009 -- Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) is showing a glimpse of how future tradeshows might be conducted, and it's more interesting than any Tellabs gear in the booth.

I can say that because there's no Tellabs gear in the booth. None. Instead, Tellabs is using high-definition touchscreens to provide 3D views of equipment (you can spin it around!), data sheets, and PowerPoint presentations.

It makes sense. There's less of a need for people to see gear at these shows; they've already seen and investigated it on the Web. (Plus, the stuff doesn't work half the time, Tellabs executive VP Daniel Kelly quips.)

The tradeoff is that it's expensive to do, at least for now. The entire setup, including the touchscreens, the 3D photographing of equipment, and the loading of documents into the computers, was done by a company called Kaon Interactive. The overall cost is about the same as shipping gear to the show, Tellabs events manager Scott Lee tells me.

It's going to get cheaper to do, naturally. Tellabs is already enthusiastic about the Kaon system and its potential beyond tradeshows. "You could get to the point where you have sales and marketing people, if they have touchscreen laptops, do this stuff" on the road, Kelly says.

One of the themes I'm considering at Supercomm is the future of tradeshows in general. The exhibits have become less important than having a common place where vendors and customers can meet up. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) eschewed booths in favor of meeting rooms this year. As it gets cheaper to bring the gear into the booth virtually, I'd expect more companies to try something like Kaon.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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