Economic times may still be tough in the IT world, but the busy, crowd-filled floor of the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo offered a pleasant respite from the gloom this month.
Yes, the show floor was smaller than in past years, but there was still a constant flow of foot traffic at the booths, with sizable crowds milling around some 160 exhibit booths.
Rob Scheschareg, a sales and marketing executive at IDG World Expo, which puts LinuxWorld together, says that despite the rough US economy, the show had its best-ever West Coast opening day.
The number of vendors was about the same as last year, he says, with about 250 companies in about 160 booths (some companies share spaces). Those numbers were particularly impressive, Scheschareg says, because lots of companies have been having tough economic times but still thought it was important enough to be at the show to meet potential customers.
Last year, about 18,000 visitors came to the event; this year's attendance is expected to be close to that figure, he says. The number of attendees in the many tutorial and training sessions offered at the show was up about 15 % on last year, he says.
New to the event for 2002 was a "Taste of Linux" area, with information and demonstrations for IT people who wanted the most basic information on what Linux is and how to use it in their businesses. That area was packed all week with attendees wanting to know more, Scheschareg says. "We view these as positive signs," he says.
If you want to see how things have changed in the world of IT and Linux in the past few years, just take a close look at the LinuxWorld crowds.
That was the advice of Steve Sollazo, the general manager of Linux at IBM, as he asked for a show of hands from first-time LinuxWorld attendees during an IBM customer day meeting at the show. Almost half of the roughly 400 people raised their hands in the room -- evidence, he says, of the growing interest in Linux in business IT. It was an impressive show of hands.
"There weren't a lot of blazers five LinuxWorlds ago," Sollazo says. Instead of business executives and managers in jackets, LinuxWorld attendees in the past were more likely in T-shirts and body jewellry, he says. "Most of our customers would not have been found here five [events] ago."
Among the interesting news at LinuxWorld was the announcement that three of the major Linux distributions have joined the effort to create a Linux Standards Base (LSB) to assure compatibility for users of various brands of the operating system.
The nonprofit Free Standards Group said that Red Hat, SuSE Linux and France-based MandrakeSoft have all been certified under the LSB to meet the developing standards for Linux.
The effort is aimed at helping the various Linux distributions work better together to encourage users to move to the operating system without having to worry about compatibility issues.
Weiss is a Computerworld US reporter.