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Convergence: The Scene in Orlando

If Disneyworld is the Magic Kingdom, then Orlando is Faketown. Nothing here is real. It's all plastic...with a theme.

That's not to say that Orlando can't be a pleasant place to hang out. The sun has just broken through the clouds this afternoon after a day or two of cloudy gloom, but the highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s have made for a nice break from chilly Boston. And, after an excursion last night with an unidentified fellow employee of 1105 Media and another gentleman who's an Orlando local, your editor discovered that there are establishments in this town that don't have anything to do with Disney characters, water slides or movie studio theme parks.

In fact, after a fine dinner, we managed to find a trendy outdoor-indoor bar with a selection of some of Scotland's more interesting adult beverages and a cheesy but altogether decent cover band. Of course, the bar was located in -- does it get any more Central Florida than this? -- a strip mall. (By the way, pretty much every structure here is a strip mall, a theme park, a chain restaurant or a hotel. Well, there's also the convention center, we suppose.)

But, whatever. The trendy strip mall bar was a pretty fun place. After that (yes, there was more), we found ourselves in a clubbish establishment with more beverages of interest and a goofy band that was holding dance contests and serenaded some poor sap with rather a bawdy birthday tune.

If Orlando itself has turned out to be more interesting than we expected, Convergence has perhaps been a bit less. Last year's show in San Diego was full of intrigue about Project Green (as the previous two before it had been), and there seemed to be a real buzz about Dynamics CRM Live and the whole Dynamics line in general.

This year, it's more of a nuts-and-bolts affair. Project Green is dead, and nobody seems to be talking about it. An update of AX leads the way news-wise, along with a solid announcement of a CRM deal with EDS. There's still a strong SaaS flavor, but SaaS already seems a bit old hat now, even if it's still emerging. Most of the talk has been about Dynamics' ease-of-use, an important selling point for the suites but not exactly a sexy topic of discussion.

Still, there are, we've heard, 9,500 or so people here from 65 countries, meaning that, despite fears of a recession, attendance numbers this year are pretty close to those of last year. And folks are still doing what people do at conferences -- meeting, making deals, checking out new products and expensing staggering bar tabs. Even in Faketown, there's some real business being done. Mostly over a few drinks.

Posted by Lee Pender on March 12, 2008


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