The HP 3000 is going to outlive the HP user group that was founded to serve it.
Interex, the HP user group that began its life serving HP 3000 customers in 1974, is apparently ending its existence before HP stops servicing the system. What's more, the organization is cancelling its HP World conference less than four weeks before the expo was set to open in San Francisco at the Moscone Center on Aug. 16.
Reports from two sources in the Interex volunteer management confirmed over the weekend the user group will be going out of business. Greg Cagle, a volunteer co-chair of the HP World program committee, confirmed in an Internet message to the 3000-L newsgroup that this year's conference had been cancelled. The HP World conference has always been the financial keystone of the user group, which saw HP scale back its sponsorship last year of the group's annual North American event.
In a bit of odd coincidence, the group's final conference, last year in Chicago, was held in the same city where its first conference took place in 1974. Many HP 3000 community members said their attendance at 2004's HP World would be their last.
"I think the HP conference drove the final nail in the coffin," said former Interex boardmember Paul Edwards who operates HP 3000/9000 consultancy Paul Edwards & Associates.
HP's 2004 move to establish its own show wasn't supposed to contribute to any instability for the user group. User group officials and HP both believed the HP technical conference wouldn't pull down the Interex expo. The user group relied on an operating reserve which it built up during its more profitable years, then spent down in tougher seasons, all funded from HP World booth sales and sponsorships. HP announced its own HP technical conference last summer, one to be held this September in New Orleans. Interex had licensed the name HP World for its conference from the vendor in 1996. The conference had been offered to HP 3000 customers, and then to the HP computing community at large for 30 years.
But the group's top management wondered as early as 2000 what the role of a vendor-specific user group would become in a commodity computing, heterogeneous IT world. HP took a hard tack away from specialized computing products when it embraced Unix and Windows environments and pushed its PC and printer businesses harder than enterprise systems like the HP 3000 and HP 9000. More common platforms meant HP was focusing less on Interex's heartland: SMB customers using specialized environments such as MPE/iX and HP-UX.
"The proliferation of platforms — 75 percent of our members have multiple platforms — means that they have less time to focus specifically on HP or any other vendor," said executive Director Chuck Piercey in 2000. "They don’t have the luxury of focusing on the HP 3000 like they did 10 years ago. We have less mindshare, and have to be more effective with the mindshare we do have. It squeezes the value proposition: you have to deliver more value cheaper and faster."
OpenMPE, the volunteer advocacy group that's still working with HP on 3000-related issues and concerns, now emerges as a prospective focus point for the 3000 community's communication with the vendor. HP had planned to address several concerns about the vendor's end-game for its support at this year's HP World.
Interex looked sound this year to many in the HP 3000 community, especially those suppliers offering migration services for the platform's owners. Many of the HP 3000-related companies which had booked HP World booth space as of Friday were promoting products and services built around migration. A multi-company booth at the front of the show floor included two HP e3000 Platinum migration partners. About one third of the booths on the last week's show map were listed as either unsold or on hold, although the largest booth areas had been sold.
Rumors still unconfirmed as of this morning in the 3000 community included news that Interex had already filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and that the user group had laid off its staff on Friday, July 15.