The lightning flashed across the western plains sky with boom rolling into Denver . But rain never game. It was all flash, no substance. Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver this week has been a lot like the storms—all flash. Oh, there are thousands of people here. But this is a show that has never gained focus.

The major indicator of trouble is the exhibit hall. “Did you see how small the exhibit space is?” asked someone from giant reseller Tectura.

The signs were there before the show. Smaller software vendors who serve the accounting space were saying they weren’t exhibiting because they spend all day talking to people who don’t know what they do.

Sales tax vendor Avalara, with its employees’ bright orange shirts, wasn’t exhibiting, although its representatives were walking the show floor. The CCH booth was probably half the size of the one it had disguise the shrinkage.

Accounting software vendors who also peddle their own software products were largely absent from the exhibit hall. “Convergence is the place to be,” said one Inner Circle VAR, who once exhibited here. “Have you run into anybody from the United States ?” asked exhibitor.

Resellers who handle the Microsoft Business Solutions Dynamics line have adapted a survival strategy for attending. One VAR said he sent six people to Convergence, he was the only representative of his firm in Denver . Others had scheduled staff similarly for WPC.

And the attendance at the President’s Club Reception, where MBS awards are handed out, was noticeable smaller than in the past when VARs donned tuxedos to have their picture taken with Doug Burgum, who is exiting the company this year.

The pre-event, a day for MBS resellers, got better reviews. But many skipped events on Tuesday. “Where are all the VARs?” I asked one top dealer. “They went golfing,” he commented.

Who could blame them? Each day started with four hours of keynotes from Microsoft executives. Transcriptions showed many were sparse on details. Or the talks moved so fast, there was little to be learned.

The show floor was mismanaged. There was an hour break between the breakout sessions and the Wednesday night reception. Starbucks was more crowded. Booth workers were talking to each other, except for the Microsoft booths, which were busy.

“We’re financing their exhibits,” said one exhibitor. Well, it was supposed to rain just before this story was posted. But nothing has happened yet. and there's another day of the show to go..

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