I’m not the least bit surprised by this. It used to be that the exhibition funded a major part of the entire conference for Siggraph. Siggraph attendance and participation has been evolving since the dot com bust. I thinks its one of the reasons why the Animation Festival was developed. Siggraph saw that they had to adapt to the exhibitor’s realities(return on investment on the exhibition floor) in an age when the entire industry was evolving away from the mega dollar sales model that existed in the 70’s and 80s.
There was a time when several sales made on the show floor could pay for a lot of that company’s participation in the exhibition. Those days are gone. Theres good and bad here. The defacto funding model for the conference is changing and Sig will have to change with it. But, the kind of cool animation presentations made by ILM and others which could only be seen at user groups are now part of the animation festival. Everybody gets an opportunity to see that now not just those paying maintenance to the software companies.
User groups themselves went away because the vendors were trying to cut costs to afford the exhibition. The irony now is that user groups are coming back and I think this is wise. It gives the users dedicated to a particular product an opportunity to communicate personally with the vendor in a less distracted manner and the vendor an opportunity to focus on those customers. The exhibition in the meantime can evolve into a different type of exhibition that they used to have back in the day called the start-up park where smaller companies can have a chance to introduce themselves to you.
If AD not showing up in the exhibition means that they’ll be doing a user group again, then I think thats a great idea and really smart. It poses a small problem for them in that it may limit their exposure to new users, but I don’t think thats a real problem with their market share. As for Sig, it may or may not be a problem. Only time will tell. If they could successfully turn the Animation Festival into a major world wide competitive film festival, I think any concern about the exhibition might be mute.