Thursday, December 08, 2005

View from Nice - HP Software Universe 2005

The joys of IT conferences - travel to some exotic destination for a week, and then only get to see the inside of the airport, hotel and conference centre! It isn't all it's cracked up to be!

So far, HPSU2005 has been an interesting trip (we travel home tomorrow), with some good contacts made. This has been a sea-change event for me, in that for the first time I have spent more time in 1:1 and HP:Partner meetings than in the actual conference sessions. It makes sense as all the key people are in the one location, and (to some extent) away from the normal work stresses and people calling on their time. We have been particularly lucky in that our HP relationship folks, distributors and partners are all here, along with a handful of customer contacts. In that respect, it has been a real success.

In addition, Nice seems to be a fabulous conference location. The conference centre (the Acropolis) is large, accomodating and easy to get around. There are loads of hotels within walking distance of the conference, and the choice of restaurants is extensive. The airport is only 15 minutes from the centre of town too - a welcome change!

However, I have to say that in comparison to other conferences (Lotusphere (many times), Planet Tivoli, IBM Software University etc) I have attended in the past, HPSU has been a disappointment in a number of ways.

  • The technical content (yes I know I'm supposed to have left that behind!) has been limited, particularly around new products. HP has only released two significant new/revised products here - Service Desk 5 and OV Dashboard - which given the supposed breadth of HP's OV solutions, and market-leading position, has been very disappointing.
  • The exhibition area, though big and well designed, is approximately 90% HP-manned stands. This again contrasts significantly with previous events, where a thriving ISV community has given a 60/40 or even 50/50 vendor to ISV split. This concerns me as often it is the ISV products that drive the vendor to further market success, particularly in a mature prodcut segment such as systems management.
  • The numbers attending have been fairly low - with approximately 3,200 here on the first day. However, this has steeply declined since then, to probably 1,500 today. I think this is down to a number of things, but principally that the event is too close to Christmas, and that HP offer reduced-price Business Days tickets for just the first two days. Now I do realise that Business Execs will not be able to give up a huge amount of time to an event such as this, but effectively giving them a Get Out clause after half the event seems strange to me. Again, this contrasts with Lotusphere where there are business-focused sessions and events for the duration of the event.
  • The main evening's entertainment at a cold out-of-town racecourse does not compare well with trips to Universal Studios in Orlando (Lotusphere again), or even an Amadeus-themed gala at the Hapsburg Palace in Vienna (Planet Tivoli). Need to try harder HP!
So, all in all, a bit of a mixed bag. Too significant to miss, but not 100% what I was after... C'est la vie!

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