No Hurd? Absurd!

Opinion by Don Tennant, Editor in Chief of ComputerWorld.

JULY 18, 2005

Editor�s Note: This editorial was filed before the cancellation of next month�s HP World 2005 Conference & Expo was made public.

I have to admit I almost never read the ads in Computerworld, or in any other publication for that matter. That doesn�t mean you shouldn�t read the ads in Computerworld. In fact, you absolutely should. I have kids to feed and a car payment to make.

But I happened to notice an ad in last week�s issue for the HP World 2005 Conference & Expo, “the industry�s largest independent HP-centric technical training event,” which is produced by the Interex Hewlett-Packard user group. I learned from the ad that the event will be held Aug. 14-18 in San Francisco, and that the HP keynote will be delivered by Ann Livermore, executive vice president of the company�s technology solutions group.

The ad caught my eye because it reminded me of the big brouhaha going on last summer over HP�s decision to stage a “unified” user group conference this year rather than just support the conferences of the independent HP user groups, which include Interex, Encompass and OpenView Forum International (OVFI) [QuickLink 48613]. Some users were concerned that the HP conference would compete with the independent events, which the user groups depend on for the bulk of their revenue.

The unified conference, called HP Technology Forum 2005 and slated for Sept. 12-15 in New Orleans, is being produced by HP in collaboration with Encompass and the OVFI, but without Interex -- the largest HP user group, with about 100,000 members. To HP�s credit, however, the company has maintained its support of the Interex event. Not only is Livermore delivering a keynote, but HP is serving as a “premier sponsor” of the event. (Incidentally, Patrick Martin, CEO of StorageTek, another premier sponsor, will also deliver a keynote. It would be worth the price of admission to hear what he says at an HP user group conference, given that his company is being acquired by Sun Microsystems.)

Now, interestingly enough, Livermore will also deliver the main keynote at the HP Technology Forum. So in that sense, it�s clear that HP isn�t giving its own event any preferential treatment over Interex�s HP World.

On the other hand, is it just me, or is it downright peculiar that HP CEO Mark Hurd is going to be a no-show at this inaugural unified conference? Wouldn�t you think that HP�s new CEO would do whatever it takes to be available for his company�s signature user event? Could there be a more opportune time for him to finally appear before his customers so they can hear directly from him what his plans are for the company, and he can hear directly from them what they want those plans to be?

According to an HP spokeswoman, Hurd won�t be able to make it because of a “scheduling conflict.” It�s just odd. It�s like Larry Ellison having a conflict that precludes him from attending OracleWorld. Ellison will, of course, deliver a keynote at OracleWorld, which will be held in San Francisco the week after the HP event. And guess who�s also going to deliver a keynote there? That�s right. Mark Hurd. How�s that for peculiar?

Seems to me that if you can accommodate a conference to talk to Oracle�s users, you can figure out a way to talk to your own users at some point during a four-day event the week before.

HP�s users deserve to hear from Hurd. Here�s hoping he can rearrange his schedule.

Don Tennant is editor in chief of Computerworld. You can contact him at [email protected].