I’m back from the SXSW 09 Interactive Festival that took place in Austin, Texas.
Tons of people, dozens of panels and keynotes, tradeshows and parties. There was a lot to see and people to meet.
A crazy week for Nicolas and me.
I would have expected something warmer but it didn’t prevent us from partying.
People say SXSW is the spring break for geeks and we really planned to enjoy it.
Austin is the temple of bars, clubs and amazing roof terraces, it’s all over the place; it’s like the city has been designed for it.
The convention center, not far from the 6th street is just in the middle of the action.
Panels & Keynotes
The schedule was tight, about 10 panels per hour, so no need to say that it was quite difficult to find your way to the best ones.
The place is huge, spread across two buildings, so you would have to run into the corridors iPhone in hand, browsing the SXSW schedule, looking for the next panel to go; and tweeting at the same time.
I went to maybe 10 panels and keynotes during the week; I really needed to take some breaks, it was more exhausting than I thought.
Concerning content, I have to admit it was kind of disappointing.
I came to hear about new trends and I only got a tour of what’s already on the market. in most panels, the speakers would share their experience, but without any real conclusions, prediction or trend of the future.
The thing is, I never heard about most people or companies speaking at panels, so I had to pick only by the title; and sometimes, it was totally misleading.
Interactive panels were quite interesting though; Q&A sessions with experts — such as “Building Your Brand with Web 2.0 Tools” with Saul Colt, CC Chapman, Dave Delaney, Chris Brogan, Loic Le Meur.
But the interview of Chris Anderson by Guy Kawasaki about the Long Tail and the freemium model was by far the most interesting.
I’ve asked a lot of people about this year content and most of them seemed to agree that nothing new was being said.
I don’t know if it’s because of the economic recession but I had the feeling big companies were absent or very discreet. Last year, the conference was all about Facebook, the year before it was Twitter but this year, no company took the lead.
Fortunately, SXSW is more than conferences, it’s a formidable networking event and it’s why it attracts so many people.
There, you’d have the opportunity to meet and hang out with the most influential people of the industry.
Networking is not easy at the beginning but it’s fun when you’re start to be used to it; it requires lots of practice.
Of course, it’s better to have clear objectives when going to such events and I got myself prepared with a list of “people to meet,” but with so much going on, I decided to take it easy and I end up bumping into great people. So far, so good.
No more Twitter avatars, you see people for real.
Apple Everywhere, the Growing iPhone Trend
I’ve never seen a such concentration of MacBook and iPhones. Apple had a huge market share at the conference. Microsoft, also at the event, seemed like a small company in comparison.
My DELL Mini 9 hackintosh has attracted a lot of people, everybody was impressed by the machine running OSX, even the guys from Apple.
In my opinion, the iPhone was the big trend of SXSW 09. It was everywhere and in all conversations.
It seems that every company has now a plan for an iPhone app but they are still lacking the technical expertise.
I see it as a formidable opportunity for mobile developers as in the days of the first web sites, 10 years ago.
Everything is yet to come, the market is here and the demand is high.
I had a very good time for sure.
However, I would have wished the panels to go deeper in their respective topics; maybe by having less panels but with a better selection; in my opinion there was just too many.
In the end, I have the same mitigated feeling I had at the Web 2.0 Expo 2008; as nothing really innovative was announced, it’s like the industry is stagnating.
But I think the industry building on the foundations defined in the last years and strengthening existing services.
So, was it worth the trip? Yes, definitely.
The opportunity to meet influencial people coming from all over the world in one single place, is what made my week.
And the ambiance of Austin streets in a warm evening, is not something to miss. As the music festival was starting when we left, you could already see how huge it would going to be.
Maybe next year.
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