I know that the various IBM brands are always trying to out do each other. Here's my observations of the opening sessions at Impact 2008 happening this week at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas vs Lotusphere which was at Disney in Orlando back in January.
Round One: Room
Lotusphere: Lotus did not have a room available big enough for everyone and had to run the opening session twice.
Impact: The MGM Grand arena comfortable fit all 6,500 attendees.
Winner: Impact. The arena was really designed for a stage presentation like this. The ballroom in the Dolphin, not so much.
Round Two: Opening Show
Lotusphere: Orlando Symphony Orchestra playing Zepplin's Kashmir along with a rock band and headlining a very pretty lady playing a sweet electric violin. Go search YouTube for the videos.
Impact: Started with a marching band playing Tusk, followed by the CIO of Harley-Davidson riding in on hog. Next 4 (take that Lotus!) lady violinists came out on stage with Cirque Du Solei acrobats doing tricks on ribbons over their heads.
Winner: Tie. Impact's overall show was bigger (hey, we're in Vegas!) and really good, but the shear quality of the OSO brings Lotus back in the race. I think people at both events would have been happy for the show to just continue for the whole keynote!
Round Three: Guest Speaker
Lotusphere: Bob Costas. Many blog posts went out saying 'who?'. I actually liked Bob's speech pretty well, but it was a little dry and forgettable.
Impact 2008: Drew Carey. Not only did Drew tie in many of his jokes to IBM/SOA (and his lack of knowledge of them), he brought on the Whose Line is it Anyway? crew and continued to host the event until it wrapped up with him and the WebSphere executive walking blindfolded through a field of armed mousetraps.
Winner: Impact. This one was a little unfair as a decent comedian is probably always going to be a sportscaster. I especially liked that Drew acted as the actual host for the event and was not just an inserted entertainment.
Round Four: Content
Lotusphere: Lotusphere had a lot of live demos on new and improved products and gave a clear roadmap for the future. I know several people who walked into the session fairly apathetic to Lotus' future and who came out with renewed excitement.
Impact: IBM had a lot of statistics, 'we love partners', and talk of how SOA is great, but you sell it through talking about business value. Most of these segments were tedious and the only reason I didn't fall asleep was the breaks with Drew Carey and the Whose Line crew. The only highlight was the Harley-Davidson CIO demonstrating his online 'SOA' app, but most of us were left thinking that it looked basically like a Google Maps mashup.
Winner: Lotusphere. Live demos and real products will beat vague statistics and cheerleading every time.
Round Five: News and Product Announcements
Lotusphere: New versions of Domino, Connections, Quickr, Sametime, and more were announced along with new product surprises like Lotus Foundations server and BlueHouse.
Impact: WebSphere Business Events and the SmartSOA Social Network. One is just a rename of existing functionality and one is not available yet and is really just an install of a Lotus Connections 2.0 install, with a few customizations.
Winner: Lotusphere by a landslide. Lotus does a great job of building the excitement in the community every year to look for cool new products and annoucements in their opening session. Impact had no major annoucements and strangely has delayed the real product annoucements for sessions and for keynotes later in the week.
It's a tie on rounds. Impact was more entertaining, but that was when IBM was not talking. I think we have to give Lotusphere the overall win because everyone left the room very excited about learning more about the new products during the conference. At Impact, we were just glad to move on to the next session.