By David H. Andrews

Will life be worth living if the opportunity to go on an occasional junket to Vegas, Orlando or Opryland for a trade show is taken from us all in the name of cost control? Oracle gave its application customers a taste of the possible world of the future on March 11 when it tried out a new form of communication – the virtual or on-line trade show. Actually, in some respects it was actually rather cool once you accept the obvious limitations of the medium.

The subject of the event was Applications Unlimited (Oracle-speak for its application portfolio including JDE, E-business Suite, PeopleSoft, Siebel, etc.) and the concept was to present information over the Internet in ways that mimicked a trade show.

There was the obligatory main tent, called the Auditorium, where formal Power Point presentations were offered live non-stop for almost four hours. The quality of the video I received over a cable modem at the office was excellent and the software that surrounded it was a little hokey but actually quite cool.

Not surprisingly, Oracle did not appear to know how to adapt its presentation style to this new medium. The keynote in the Auditorium was offered by Ed Abbo, the Oracle executive responsible for all applications. In person Ed comes across as smart and dynamic and a person with something to say. Here the presentation jumped back and forth between a shot of his head in front of a photo of Oracle’s offices and some traditional PowerPoint slides. Sadly, a presentation containing some very worthwhile nuggets of information and ideas was read from a script in a monotone. It is hard to picture much of the audience, living the world of multi-tasking, paying careful attention for the whole thing. Too bad.

The problem wasn’t Ed, it was Oracle’s failure to understand the new medium being used. All the presentations that we listened to followed basically the same format and were equally ineffective at establishing a real connection with the audience.

Overall, Oracle should be commended for trying something new. Sadly, I suspect that a future generation of this type of software will in the not distant future reduce the justification for all those fun filled junkets. That won’t happen until those using the medium figure out how to do so in a new and effective way. As a pioneer, Oracle could end up being one of the first to figure out how to do so.

Those that want to experience the medium that could replace trade shows sometime in the future (and learn a little from Oracle at the same time) can still do so. The recorded version of Experts Live still appears to be up and running at:

Let us know what you think!