LinuxWorld: The Thrill Is Gone - InformationWeek

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LinuxWorld: The Thrill Is Gone

Linux's maturity in the market and other vendor shows have taken away the evangelism that once existed around the operating system, some vendors complain.

This year's LinuxWorld was mellow. So mellow that some vendors are wondering whether to come back.

If not the lowest ever, attendance was certainly way down from previous years, when Linux generated industry excitement as the free, open source operating system that could challenge Microsoft Windows. For most of the 10 years the show has been in existence, it attracted lots of startups and major vendors looking to make a bundle by building on top of Linux.

But Linux is mainstream now, evident by this year's keynote speakers. Headliners include Merrill Lynch and McKesson, which shows how deeply the OS has become embedded in traditional business. While the attendance of such companies prove Linux is a success, particularly in running data centers, it also means Linux is unlikely to draw the crowds it once did.

For open source vendors such as SugarCRM, the Internet has taken away the need for potential buyers to go to its booth. If an IT department wants to check out SugarCRM's sales-force automation and customer-support software, it only needs to go to the company's Web site and download the application and all its documentation for free.

"The Internet is a virtual trade show open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," Martin Schneider, director of product marketing told InformationWeek. As a result, "most of our prospects know about our software before we meet them."

Linux's maturity in the market has taken away the evangelism that once existed around the OS, said Don Clegg, VP of marketing and business development at hardware maker Super Micro Computer.

"As a maturing market, there's no longer that new wave of enthusiasm," Clegg said.

And with so much information on the Web, Linux is pretty much an open book. "Because they're a success, there's no need to come to the show to get information," Clegg said.

Suneal Verma, VP of sales at integration software maker Hummingbird, said it's likely the slowdown in the U.S. economy has had an impact on attendance. "People are not buying as much, or flying as much," he said.

Nevertheless, LinuxWorld is no longer the draw that it used to be. "This used to be our major trade show. Not anymore," Verma said.

Asked whether Hummingbird would be back next year, Verma said, "I don't know yet. It's still up for debate."

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