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Where did everyone go?

Firms fail to converge on London gadget show

A convergence-themed show launched this week at the London Olympia exhibition centre opened its doors with fewer than a third of the number of exhibitors intended. Visitors, too, were scarce. This failure to put bums on seats mirrors a troubled device market.

When PC Advisor turned up at the Convergence UK show, the scene was more like that of a Kansas dustbowl town in the 1930s than the wireless networking future so many of us now expect.

Several high-profile exhibitors were able to make it, however, including Ericsson, Orange and HP. But of the 150 exhibitors expected to attend, 104 pulled out at the last minute –leaving the National Hall at Olympia looking like a ghost town. The 46 stalls took up a fraction of the 8,500 square metre hall.

A spokesman for Portfolio solutions, the organiser of Convergence UK said: “Turn-out is often lower for launch events, but next year will be fine. You can only predict how many people will come.”

One company, Fonix, had travelled all the way from Salt Lake City in the US to demonstrate speech recognition technology that detects human voice patterns in noisy environments. Needless to say, conditions in Olympia’s National Hall were not ideal for testing the technology, but Fonix vice president Lynn Shepherd played a Beach Boys track at high volume for the purposes of the demonstration.

Service provider Orange was cheering up visitors with free gifts, including furry animal mobile phone covers – one of a lobster and the other a penguin.

A source close to the event blamed the knock-on effect of a number of large US manufacturers pulling out, but refused to say which companies had decided not to attend. Bad conditions in the US mobile phone market are believed to be the cause. A large European mobile phone manufacturer is also believed to have cancelled its stall at the last minute.

The situation at Convergence UK is perhaps indicative of a dark cloud descending on the future of convergence technology. Tony Blair personally intervened yesterday to try and stop Motorola from cutting a proposed 3,000 jobs at its plant in Bathgate, West Lothian.


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