A month of conferences—Around the world in 10 conferences— is the recession over?

Posted: 06.21.12

The month started with Computex in Taipei, which overlapped with E3 in LA, PTC World in Orlando, and the SID display conference in Boston. The following week it was the AMD Fusion Developer’s conference (AFDS) in Bellevue, Washington, and before it was over there was the Dimension 3 conference in Paris and the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. In addition, at the same time there was the InfoComm conference Las Vegas, which overlapped with the projection Summit. The 6Sight conference was in NYC and was co-located with the CEA line show. There are of course others, but none that carried a pixel basis or theme.

Through the miracle of shape shifting and teleportation, we attended each and every one and gave keynote speeches. Well, it almost seemed that way. We did cover E3, Computex, AFDS, and Dimension 3 and had colleagues at SID and InfoComm.

Why do we do it?

Besides pilling up yet more mileage points and finding yet more reasons to hate United Airlines, what did we learn from all those conferences and adventures? Plenty, and we learned that plenty is going on, and more is coming almost before we can breathe. The world is in an economic slowdown, unemployment is high in several countries, and the political jerks we either elected or who want us to elect them are yelling their heads off and doing nothing, but yelling. Not much hope there, but in the tech world, the beat doesn’t just go on, it increases.

We’ve tried to cover the events as best we could, and we attended them virtually or on the hoof, and I got to tell you, it is a challenge. Even if we wrote about everything, would you read it? So the trick is to spot the major developments and convey the essence of them, and in a timely manner, so you can be alerted and maybe react to it in time. Time is definitely not on our side—yours or mine; there’s just so many smart, energetic people out there pushing Moore’s law.

Who’s going to buy it?

But will the consumers cooperate and gobble up all this great stuff? Do we all want a skinny computer with a gazillion pixels and a touchscreen? Well, yes, we all want one, but during such times of economic uncertainly with a yo-yo stock market wrecking our 401k and retirement plans will we actually buy one? And will we also buy the latest phone, 3DTV, tablet, and other clever stuff being introduced daily?

Based on the shipment data from Q1, maybe, but not in the quantities we did in the past. However, perhaps not surprising, Apple’s new top-of-the-line MacBook has sold out, and the demand for Ultrabooks and ultrathins seems to be strong. Also, tablet forecasts have been revised upward, and so it looks like things might be OK for Q2, which is traditionally the worst quarter in the year.

The attendance at the conferences was high, the exhibitors were there, so people are placing their bets that we will limp through this flat-to-down period and begin growing the economy again.

If I had to pick one thing that has lit up the consumers’ interest, it would the Retina display. This is something I didn’t know I needed and now I gotta have it. Sure, the ultrathin book lights are attractive, and I’m going to get one of those, but when I do I’ll be looking for a Retina display on it. Guess what that’s doing to the Apple competitors? Guess what it’s doing for the Retina suppliers and their suppliers? And now, guess when we’ll see our first non-Apple skinnybook with such a display? The high-res iPad has been out since early March. And as nimble as the Taiwan ODMs are and as demanding as their customers are, they haven’t been able to produce a lookalike tablet yet. Use that as a yardstick for high-res skinnybooks. Doubtful you’ll see one by the holiday season.

Seeing the future

So as fast as the announcements are coming, and the whizbang demos are showing up on YouTube, the pipeline from concept to your lap is still a year or more long process. And that’s the real benefit of these conferences—a look at the future; what you can expect and/or hope for. It’s also a kind of trial-by-fire period. Many of the great concepts that are shown at conferences never see the light of day. Something in the equation doesn’t work, a component price didn’t drop fast enough, quality standards were not consistent, or some disruptive element was introduced obsoleting the design before lift off. We go to, and report on, conferences to try to see those rivulets and whiffs of smoke in the crystal ball, and hopefully we’re doing our job. We have an uncompromising jury—you. You’ll let us know if we’re not delivering, you’ll just go away. So we work real hard and travel the globe trying to keep you happy. How are we doing?