HP User Group Suspends Operations, Cancels HP World 2005

SANDI CAIN, NEWS EDITOR
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Sunnyvale, CA – Interex, the HP user group that has staged HP World Conference and Expo for the past 10 years, abruptly suspended operations on Monday, July 18th and cancelled its upcoming HP World 2005 conference, slated for the Moscone Center in San Francisco August 14-18.  More than 5,000 people attended the 2004 conference in Chicago.

Reports that Interex also filed for bankruptcy could not be confirmed at press time. The San Jose District of U.S. Bankruptcy Court did not show any filing as of mid-day yesterday. Interex treasurer Chris Koppe said he could neither “confirm nor deny” any information regarding a bankruptcy.

A message posted on the Interex home page at mid-day said in part, “It is with great sadness, that after 31 years, we have found it financially necessary to close the doors at Interex. Unfortunately our publications, newsletters, services and conference (HPWorld 2005) will be terminated immediately.” Between mid-morning and 2 p.m. PDT, board member phone numbers were removed from the Interex Web site and the Interex phone message simply said, “Our offices are currently closed.”

The organization claimed 100,000 members.

The Web site billed HP World as the largest independent HP-centric technical training event in the Americas. Conference promotional materials indicated the 2005 conference and expo would “return to its roots as a truly independent conference and expo” providing “unbiased technical information.” The promotion highlighted a lineup of “Marketing Free” sessions in which presenters would be discouraged from touting their own products.

Hewlett Packard produces its own event, the HP Technology Forum, scheduled for September in New Orleans. Encompass US, a Chicago-based HP user group that teamed with Interex to present HP World in 2003 and 2004, has teamed with HP to produce the HP Technology Forum. Asked if Interex planned to sell or reposition HP World, Koppe said there are no plans to continue the show at this time. “The market doesn’t support two conferences,” Koppe said.The show cancellation comes as HP is expected to announce layoffs of about 15,000  employees.

An estimated 5,000 attendees were expected in San Francisco this year, booking roughly 10,000 room nights at area hotels, according to Lysa Lewin, Director of Sales at the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau. Lewin said the estimated economic impact of the conference was expected to be $7.5 million.

Lewin said it would be difficult to replace that piece of business on such short notice.According to the HP World Web site, more than 100 exhibitors were slated to participate. At least one speaker—from HP—also is scheduled to speak at the HP Technology Forum.

Sources said that Interex faced financial challenges in recent weeks  and could not sufficiently promote the upcoming show or make payroll. HP was reportedly asked to merge HP World into its own show. “We approached (HP) on a variety of options and we’re in discussions about some of those,” Koppe said.

HP had tried to combine several technology forums and conferences during the past few years in the hopes of unifying three major HP user groups. Reportedly, Interex resisted the change.

HP is expected to issue a statement concerning the show’s demise later today.

Sources: Chris Koppe, Treasurer, Interex koppe@interex.org, (514) 747-7007; Interex www.interex.org (408) 747-0227; Lysa Lewis, San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (415) 974-6900, convention-sales@sfcvb.org.; Ryan J. Donovan, Hewlett Packard, (650) 857-8410, ryan.j.Donovan@hp.com