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Some VoiceCon Reminiscences

It's that time of year when thoughts of VoiceCon fill the heads of industry players and communications managers alike. Next week will be the 19th Spring edition of VoiceCon, an industry conference/exhibition that has changed significantly in size and scope from the first edition held in 1991 when it was originally called PBX in the 90s (a descriptive name with a knowingly limited useful life).It began as a three day conference (first day devoted to only two full-day tutorials), with about 125 paid attendees. There were a limited number of presenters (I personally accounted for about 40% of the total presentation time, including a full-day PBX product review tutorial), no keynote sessions, exhibits nor sponsors. I cannot recall if any industry press attended. The single track session agenda focused on PBXs. IP telephony and Unified Communications (UC) were years away. Comparing that first conference to next week's is like contrasting the world of the Flintstones with the Jetsons.

The conference eventually picked up sponsors, added exhibitors, expanded to four days with multiple concurrent session tracks, and covered emerging issues such as CTI, wireless, videoconferencing, VoIP, and UC as they popped up. The term PBX has virtually disappeared from the conference materials and once-hot topics like ISDN have been replaced by SIP and SOA. Whereas the early conferences were dominated by old-line competitors such as AT&T (before spinning off Lucent Technologies, which spun off Avaya) and Northern Telecom, the most recent conferences have seen companies such as Cisco Systems and Microsoft attracting most of the audience's attention.

We are currently in the midst of the UC era of the conference, following the CTI era of the mid-late 1990s and the VoIP era of the early-mid 2000s. The only conference constant every year since its inception has been Fred Knight (now attired in a semi-expensive suit, instead of a ratty looking sport jacket) and my Tuesday market review session. Along the way the number of total attendees has increased about 50-fold since the inaugural session, exclusive of attendance at the five-year old Fall VoiceCon currently held in San Francisco.

I look forward to seeing many old (but still kicking) friends next week in Orlando and making new acquaintances who I will see again at future conferences..