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DemoFall '05: when Wi-Fi breaks

DemoFall '05: when Wi-Fi breaks

This is my first Demo conference, and I'd heard good things before I got here--about the exciting products released at the show and about the quality of the show itself. (Primer: This extremely expensive conference is designed to identify and introduce cutting-edge technologies and the self-proclaimed Technology A-List.)

Yep, I'm impressed. Save for the crazy-loud, 1:30 a.m. thunderstorms in Huntington Beach (not what I signed up for after a summer of San Francisco fog), the DemoFall '05 conference is high class. Good food, including warm scrambled eggs. Fancy conference center. Great schwag. Well, except for one more thing: overloaded Wi-Fi. I'm not quite sure why big venues aren't able to get it together on the Wi-Fi front, but when a conference that's meant to predict the technology success stories of the next 12 to 18 months can't quite conquer the technology of 2004, I have concerns.

I'm probably not quite as peeved as the numerous presenters at the show who had six minutes--or in one notable case, only three--to present products that depended on a Wi-Fi network. With data inching along the slow road in the Hyatt Huntington Beach ballroom, their demos flopped and not for lack of a compelling product. Or that's what I suspect. Me, I just had a hard time checking my CNET e-mail.

Now, should we blame the Demo organizers? Maybe. But maybe the Wi-Fi itself was a flop of a demonstration. My colleague just got this pitch from the show:

"One of the key enabling wireless technologies of the future will not be unveiled at DemoFall while you're there this week, but it has been installed behind the scenes to ensure that the wireless gadgets launched at the show work well. Spotwave is providing enhanced 3G wireless coverage for this year's Demo Fall location, the Hyatt Huntington Beach, as a contributing event sponsor. While this is not a new product launch for the company, I thought you might be interested in knowing more since coverage is a critical story in profiling the emerging wireless device and application space. How will subscribers use the latest, most advanced 3G data services if their devices don't work indoors?"

Hmm. Good question.

Luckily, not all the demos this morning--the first set of four at this conference--died the slow Wi-Fi death. Many used the plain-old wired Internet and did just fine. A couple really got me curious--more on those to come. But in the meantime, I'd be most impressed by Internet infrastructure that actually works seamlessly.