CONFONZ — Last week saw two ubernerdy conferences for customers of two big software companies in San Francisco. BEA's conference at Moscone West was completely fucking empty. There were a handful of people on each floor, all looking around wondering why there was no one nearby with which to press the flesh. VMware's conference, at Moscone North and South, by contrast, was hopping. With a massive Treasure Island party and no expense spared on the food and conference bag, VMware sucked in the dollars and attention, while BEA sat unloved across the street, with nary a surly teamster to defend it. Hmmm, what's going on here?

No surprise, of course. Isn't BEA a former darling of the VCs and the stock market? Isn't VMware a current darling of the VC's and the stock market? Last week, anyone walking across Fourth and Howard in San Francisco could be forgiven for feeling as though they we looking at "before" and "after" shots. VMware would be the quintessential "before," meaning, they're currently worth billions since Microsoft has barely even stepped into its market for "virtualization" software. BEA Systems would be the "after," showing off the results of having IBM, Sun, and Oracle all stomp into its application-server sphere of influence.

BEA's currently got a rogue stock holder demanding the company be sold off (Oracle, you listening?). VMware is still snug in EMC's bed, around 90 percent of its stock safely in those big ass EMC vaults of cash — meaing it only has one real shareholder to please.