DEMO rolls with the times

PALM DESERT, Calif. — The mood here at the upscale Desert Springs hotel is upbeat. And why not? There was plenty of sushi, fancy hors d’oeuvres and drinks to be had at the warm Sunday evening reception. And DEMO attendees seemed happy to see old acquaintances and contacts still gainfully employed or at least acting like it.

[DEMO](/bus-news/article.php/3807761/Tech+Industry+Reset+for+DEMO.htm) is one of the longest running tech tradeshows going in the U.S.; the first one was in 1991. It’s not really a tradeshow in the traditional sense. My former boss, Stewart Alsop, created the event to be the site of exclusive product and technology rollouts. I was there, for example, at the debut of the first Palm Pilot, one of many important “firsts” (along with plenty of quickly-forgottens) to make it to DEMO’s stage.

When Alsop moved on, tech journalist David Coursey replaced him, but for the past 13 years another ex-tech journo, Chris Shipley has been executive producer and host. The Shipley era comes to an end at this week’s show as she’s going to focus on her work as a consultant to startups at her company Guidewire Group. This week’s event will be co-hosted by Shipley and new DEMO head Matt Marshall, CEO of [VentureBeat](

But the number of companies participating is way down. There were 72 companies at the last DEMO in September; there are only 40 at this week’s event.

Marshall claims DEMO’s owner, tech publisher IDG, is committed regardless of the economy. “We’d be here if we could only get ten companies,” he told me.

That said, Marshall actually worked to beef up the line up of companies, by stretching the tradition of product exclusives a bit.

The Monday and Tuesday conference days will feature sessions with established companies like Facebook, Google and IBM discussing topics like Social Media, Productivity 2.0 and Energy Efficiency. Shipley had sessions at past DEMOs, though they tended to be more university and research focused. The last DEMO did feature [a lively discussion on search ](/search/article.php/3770796)with reps from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo on hand.

So it might not all be brand spanking new stuff, but Marshall thinks the sessions on cutting edge topics will be a nice complement to the standard eight minute on stage demos that are strictly product focused.

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