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Buck up your HP Tech Forum experience

Photosmart335_2 Call center marketers heated up their phones — and yours — this morning to promote this year's HP Technology Forum, the Encompass-HP-OpenView user group event in Houston. We plugged the pre-conference HP-UX training session last week, but didn't note every type of discount to get into the only pan-HP event of the year.

My telemarketer told me this afternoon I had three ways to save money on registration, including becoming an Encompass member for $90. Most interesting? The extra discount you'll get for signing up by July 15 (a Saturday, by the way). Encompass will give the early birds 100 "HP Bucks," good for products at the store HP runs at

You'll get the extra bonus by entering the promotional code HPBUCKS when you register online. HP is a full partner in this conference, much more so than it ever was for the Interex North American conferences of 2004 and earlier. That makes sense when you see the attendees and lineup of sessions. Plenty of HP sales training and presales tech briefings go on at the Technology Forum. It benefits these Americas Presales employees if customers are on hand at the same venue.

Does it say something unseemly about a user group conference when a vendor is involved at this level? Not if survival of the event is the primary goal. (There can be other goals, of course, but primary survival is something Interex placed at risk last year; hence, no HP World 2005.) Still, an event where independence is the top goal will struggle to get a bonus donated from HP — albeit a self-promoting one, since these bucks drive the early birds to the HP online store.

Migration customers from the 3000 community will find more to use from the conference. The Forum isn't aiming to serve the needs of the 3000 customer homesteading on the platform. We'd like to be wrong about that — there's still time for sessions to emerge that would teach 3000 skills. But it looks like the Houston-based conference two months later, the GHRUG event at Clear Lake, is going to be the pan-3000 event for 2006.

What can you buy at for 100 bucks? Well, there's the HP PhotoSmart 335 photo printer for $99, although the fine print cautions buyers that you can't use extra promotions on the purchase of this little gimcrack. It would be too bad if the only thing those bucks could buy was a discount on something like an HP disk drive, or a support contract. But perhaps that might be the best thing for an IT department.

Still, you might want to bribe, er, influence your manager to let you go to Houston and the conference by promising her a swell color printer.

There are other reasons for going to Houston this fall, anyway. For one, the Astros are in town for the week and are likely to playing meaningful games, if you're a baseball fan. (Playing the Cardinals, no less, some must-win games for the home team, over the weekend. You may do better getting tickets for the Reds series during the week.)

If you're a more bookish type, you can browse the independent aisles of Brazos Bookstore. This palace of the printed word, descibed in the NY Times today as "Houston's premier literary marketplace and a mecca for touring authors since 1974," just announced that it will keep its doors open after a threatened shutdown. A mere $275,000 kept the Brazos from folding. That's less than what you're likely to spend on a HP 3000 migration. You could have been in the book business instead.