Everyone should understand why the educational value of trade shows still makes them an industry necessity even in difficult economic times. The semi-annual Storage Networking World (SNW) conference, held recently in Phoenix, Arizona, serves as an illustration. SNW is a joint venture between Computerworld and the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).
Not surprisingly, SNW is suffering from the same economic challenges that face trade shows in general. Reduced IT budgets mean that end users (by which SNW means IT professionals) find it harder and harder to travel to meetings (as travel budget line items are often considered discretionary). Vendors also have constrained budgets and want to spend their trade show dollars on events that deliver the maximum number of qualified sales leads.
That I observed, the SNW-Phoenix exhibition area seemed smaller than usual, but the ratio of end users to vendors appeared higher than in the recent past. That is an important point because one of the criticisms of SNW has been that it was not end user-oriented, although that was its purpose. This time around, end users seemed satisfied with the banquet of educational choices available to them, and Raymond Kurzweil highlighted why that's important in his cornerstone general presentation.
Kurzweil offered a not-to-be-missed stage setter on "The Exponential Growth of Information Technology." Kurzweil is a well-known inventor, responsible for inventions such as the first text-to-speech device for the blind, and a technological visionary (a book about what he describes as the "singularity" explains many of his views).
His basic thesis -- and one supported by thorough and compelling research shown in a number of graphics -- is that information technology's progress is eminently predictable, although individual applications of that technology may or may not be predicted, and it will grow exponentially for a long time. Even though a particular predictive tool, such as Moore's Law, may eventually run out of steam, it is only one of many predictors of the future of information technology. Moreover, Kurzweil posited that external circumstances, such as economic conditions, simply do not and will not affect that future growth.