Editor’s Note: Yet Another Benchmark for Success

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

I have a pet theory about how to measure success.

This is one of many pet theories in my repertoire, including the
theory that says your kids are always smarter than you are and the
theory that head colds are a reminder that no matter where you are
on the food chain, your butt belongs to Mother Nature.

The success theory has to do with the success of software within
a user environment. In short, it is my contention that the number
of trade shows and seminars relating to a particular technology is
in direct proportion to how successful that technology will
eventually be.

This theory, based on purely anecdotal evidence on my part, is
nonetheless a sound one, because I have seen it work in the past
with a little fledgling operating system called Windows.

‘Way back in 1989, when we bought our first PC, Windows was just
a weird little tab-based interface (see Windows 386). Then came
Windows 3.0, which looked a little more like the interface we know
today. Windows’ adoption into the marketplace was aided and abetted
by many things: IBM’s initial support of the product for their PC
line, for one. But to me, working on the line as a newspaper
editor, what really helped the transition to Windows in the
businessplace were all the seminars.

And, boy, were there seminars. Even out in western Indiana,
someone was holding a How to Use Windows training class from time
to time. (The fact that this so-called intuitive interface needed
so many classes was something a lot of people missed.) In other,
more metropolitan areas, there were trade shows and user groups to
beat the band.

Sound familiar?

Today, I see a very similar development in the Linux arena,
though not quite in the same order. Without a central company to
sponsor shows and seminars, Linux’s popular growth was slower, and
started with user groups first. As more commercial entities came on
board, then came the seminars and the trade shows. People are
getting ramped up on how to use Linux in the workplace at an ever
increasing rate. Seminars are being held about how to take
advantage of open source development. And trade shows? That’s
probably the most overt sign at all.

LinuxWorld Expo is, by anyone’s definition, the biggest and most
complete trade show for Linux. And in a time where other trade
shows were shrinking or outright dying (re: Comdex), LinuxWorld is
expanding. Like crazy.

This year’s schedule includes Boston, Toronto, Shanghai,
Johannesburg, Milan, Tokyo, San Francisco, Beijing, London, New
York City, Utrecht, and Frankfurt. Granted, two of these shows
(Canada’s and the UK’s) are renamed pre-existing shows. But I know
from personal experience that the world of trade shows is a very
thin one in terms of margins. Trade shows are expensive, and if
they don’t turn a profit quick, show organizers will drop them like
a hot potato.

This schedule does not reflect the fact, by the way, that there
will be LinuxWorlds in Moscow and Mexico City in 2006.

Smaller Linux trade shows are flourishing, too. OSDL’s
Enterprise Linux Summit in Burlingame, CA at the end of this month
should be well-attended, as well as the third iteration of the
Desktop Linux Summit in San Diego in February.

All of these Linux shows may not mean anything, but I was
commenting to a press colleague not too long ago that I found it
interesting that in terms of sheer impact on the current state of
all technology, these Linux shows were probably the most watched
shows in the industry. After all, what competes? Comdex is gone,
CeBit has shrunk. Yes, there’s MacWorld, which seems to focus
solely on what Steve Jobs has up his sleeve this year. JavaWorld is
a big one, and CES is always hot. You could include Microsoft
shows, but I wanted to talk about trade shows, not press events.
When Jay Leno helped introduce Windows 98 back in the day, that
pretty much jumped the shark, in my opinion.

Is the number of trade shows a direct reflection of Linux’s
future success? Maybe so, maybe not. I just think that the rapid
growth is interesting to note. In a time when everyone’s watching
their bottom line, growth in any arena has got to be a positive

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