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A user guide to following DemoFall and TechCrunch50

More than 100 products are going to be introduced during the week of September 8. Will they be any good?

On Monday, September 8, two major product launch shows kick off: DemoFall in San Diego, and TechCrunch50 in San Francisco. There will be more than 100 products officially announced at these conferences, and we'll be covering the best of them on CNET blogs and on our Launch Week page.

For the full rundown of everything that's happening at the show, see the Twitter feed at the right of our roundup page, or go to the standalone Launchweek Twitter page.

We'll have video crews at both shows. Natali Del Conte at DemoFall, and Kara Tsuboi at TechCrunch50 will be interviewing the most interesting entrepreneurs. Those videos will also appear on the roundup page.

For more on the rivalry between the shows, see "Are Demo and TechCrunch 50 fragmenting their audiences?"

What to expect
Launches at the TechCrunch show will all be Web 2.0 companies. Demo's presenters likely will be mostly Web 2.0 launches, with a few traditional software and hardware companies in the mix. So what's the real difference between the shows?

Demo, a show that's been running since the late 1980s, attracts a regular group of venture capitalists and journalists who come to see what they know will be a highly-produced showcase of closely vetted companies. Demo charges companies to present to the crowd (the fee is now more than $18,000), and this has historically had the effect of filtering out poorly-funded companies from even applying to present. While Demo's presenting companies are not always scintillating, the majority of them have solid business models. There have been notably cool demos at Demo, like the Palm Pilot, the Pleo, and the Moobella ice cream machine I mocked previously.

TechCrunch, in its second year, is the scrappier conference. Timed this year to run at the same time as Demo, it also has a tough approval process, but it doesn't charge companies to present on-stage. Companies for which $18,000 makes a big difference are drawn to TechCrunch, as are those that believe that the new TechCrunch conference will get better press coverage than Demo. I expect that a much larger proportion of the companies at TechCrunch will have unformed business models and be further away from being ready for customer adoption, but there will still be many with solid, creative plans. TechCrunch last year brought us some really good Web 2.0 start-ups, such as Mint and TripIt.

This year, stories written about TechCrunch presenters will likely be less insightful than those about Demo companies, for two reasons. First, TechCrunch management has scared presenters into not pre-briefing the press. A few companies have wisely ignored this directive, but for the most part the writers and bloggers covering TechCrunch don't know what they are going to get when they go to the show. Demo presenters have been pre-briefing journalists for weeks.

Second, there is no post-presentation showcase for TechCrunch companies. People who want to interview TechCrunch CEOs have to buttonhole the presenters immediately after the presentation in a special room set aside for interviews, or find them later in the hallways. There will be a demo hall for TechCrunch companies, but this "demo pit" is for companies that did not make the cut to present on-stage. Demo, in contrast, puts all its presenting companies in one big pavilion where people can wander between the companies and chat up the execs as they want, either before or after they see their presentations on the main stage. It's a better environment for learning about the companies.

Based on my experience with previous product launch conferences, it's a safe bet that no more than a dozen of the companies presenting during the combined Demo/TechCrunch launchfest will be truly memorable. But there are plenty of opportunities still to seize market share on the Web, and we will try to find those dozen companies that have identified good ways to do it. CNET writers and video crews will be on-site at both events and will uncover the new products worth your attention.