Toy Box

So, the holidays are finally over. The kids are back in school. And the boxes, packaging, and wrapping paper have all been sent to the recycling bin.

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So, the holidays are finally over. The kids are back in school. And the boxes, packaging, and wrapping paper have all been sent to the recycling bin. Now, it's time for the big kids to play.
While January can be a really down month for most, it signals the approach of the biggest "toy" fairs for others. Like the Detroit Auto Show for gear-heads, this month's LabAutomation in Palm Springs—and the Pittsburgh Conference that follows in February in Chicago—is a time for the lab-coat set to come out of their biomolecular caverns and see the latest and greatest technologies designed to draw the eyes and lighten the budgets.
Of course, the show boasts technical sessions to help the typical bench-jockey learn how to streamline processes, improve yields, and enhance performance. But like few other shows, LabAutomation is designed to draw technophobe and technophile alike to the instrumental eye-candy of the exhibit floor.
Stopping just short of hiring professional models to display their wares—well, there was that one informatics company…but I digress—more than 350 companies gather their best and brightest sales and technical staffs to lure you into their booths. But it's the whir and trill of the equipment that keeps your eyes moving from booth to booth.
"Being harassed by your accounts department to cut costs? Why this little baby practically prints money. (That's a feature coming out in 2008.)"
"Hey big fella, looking to improve your throughput? This puppy'll take you from 96- to 1536-well in two shakes of a robotic arm."
If the people working the booths were about half as tall as they are, you'd swear you'd fallen into Santa's workshop—although Willy Wonka might be a more appropriate analogy. If you listen closely…just under the buzzing noises of mankind and machine…you might just be able to make out the sound of the Oompa Loompas.

On a more serious note: If the rumor mills are anything to go by, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for the suit-and-tie sets of some of the bigger instrumentation and disposables companies as they trawl the exhibit floors for more companies to add to their expanding empires. There are no signs that the current round of mergers and acquisitions are over in this part of the market. So if you see any particularly interesting lunch or drink partners at LabAutomation, be sure to keep your purchasing department on stand-by.
And if you're a small company looking to be acquired or a larger company looking for a mutually beneficial product portfolio for a long-term relationship, you may want to make sure your booth is constantly filled with interested parties, even if you have to buy the attention with high-end give-aways. After all, no one wants to be the one dating the wallflower.

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