Once again a Continental Breakfast was provided Tuesday through Friday mornings. This year they apparently included a breakfast burrito. Good move, although I went out and got my own breakfast supplies and ate before coming down to the conference center. What was more important, at least to me, is that there were plenty of places serving Starbucks coffee on the way to the conference center, including one just outside the opening. There was another just outside the hotel elevators, so I usually just stopped there first.
Once again John Chen (CEO and president) gave the opening keynote. One thing I noticed is that his english appears to have gotten much better. A lot of what was discussed focused around the "butterfly chart", which is also presented on the main Sybase web page. What I took away from his discussion of the "Unwired Enterprise" is that Sybase is finally expressing one single, focused, aligned vision for the company. Without that, and with all their various products, they started to begin to look like Computer Associates: a lot of product with no unifying purpose or vision. The "butterfly chart" is the first real clear presentation I've seen that links together all of their new products and acquisitions with the existing "mature" products into a common strategy.
John was followed by Ross Mauri of IBM and then Johnathan Sher of HTC. Both were gold sponsors of the conference, although IBM picked up and left after the first day for some reason. It was exciting seeing HTC there, as they are a real up-and-coming company. For some reason, seeing IBM there wasn't quite as exciting. Perhaps it's because they've been there for a few years, or because they weren't talking about new cutting edge technology. I'm sure their system p is a tremendous improvement on prior systems, but it's an incremental improvement in a mature market. Whereas HTC is a leader in a new market area.
After a short break, we had the Mobility Keynote with presentations by Raj Nathan (Senior VP and CMO), Terry Stepien (President, Sybase iAnywhere) and Marty Beard (President, Sybase 365). Unfortunately, some of the material overlapped, and so the general impression left was that although Sybase may finally have a unified vision, they've got some work to do to implement it. No matter if the products are aligned, it still seems rather odd that representatives from three different companies within the parent company need to present the information (much of it the same) to us.
The one thing of particular interest that was discussed during the mobility keynotes was an emphasis on a "unified development tool". It didn't sound like any one particular existing Sybase development tool, but a merging together of different capabilities of the various tools into one best-of-breed tool.
The mobility keynote was immediately followed by a customer panel chaired by Lars Vestergaard (IDC) and consisting of Johnathan Sher (HTC), Ed Schmit (AT&T), Michael Lowery (Revolution Consulting) and Jay Hennings (Accenture). You would think with that kind of firepower it would be a fascinating discussion. It was exactly the opposite. For what I believe are a combination of reasons, most of the audience walked out during the customer panel. These customer panels have worked in the past, they just didn't work this time around. Some leasons learned might include:
- Do something to liven up the customer panel. Perhaps video taping the customer panel to allow editing and perhaps mixing in of live action footage to emphasis points.
- Don't have any session longer than an hour without at least a short break between portions. Some people may have been forced to leave to relieve themselves and then didn't bother coming back.
- Sessions immediately before lunch must stay on time. Don't force people to choose between staying through the end and lunch.
The last item before lunch was the Innovation Awards, which were won by Accenture, Colonial Supplemental Insurance, Simbex, BNP Paribas Security Services and Fidelity Investments. It was really a shame that so many people had left the audience by the time the awards started.
As with prior TechWaves, there was a PowerLunch in which seating in handled by topic areas. You simply find which topic you're interested in, and see if there is space available at the table dedicated to that topic. For the folks who aren't interested in having a topic discussion, there are tables that are also unassigned. As with prior years, the problem I have with it is that there is little room for the popular topics and there are other topic tables that are absolutely empty. By the time I got there, the topic areas I wanted to have a discussion at were full. I ended up picking one of the topic tables that was empty, and was soon after joined by a few other folks also looking just for an empty seat, not a discussion of that particular topic.
Perhaps next year we could have larger discussion areas for a particular topic and broader topics. That might help avoid overcrowding of some topic areas and eliminate the topics with no audience (as they would be combined into other more popular topics).