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A Vegas date to save for '08

Encompass_logo There's no Web site up for details, and the invitations have not gone out in the mails, but Encompass has already settled on a site for the user group's annual HP Technology Forum. Don't change your travel plans from last year — the conference song remains the same, venue-wise, and so will not be leaving Las Vegas.

Encompass user group president Nina Buik said in an interview this year that Vegas has plenty of "curb appeal" as a user group meeting destination. She did not say that the city is a major upgrade from Houston's curb, the last venue the Forum used other than Vegas.

But we'll say it, with no disrespect to Houston. People just don't say, "Hey, I'm headed out to a weekend in Houston!" Or if they do, it doesn't get the same response as "Let's hit Vegas for a weekend." Here at the NewsWire it was a short hop from Austin to Houston. Proximity is not curb appeal, however.

So what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, at least for 2008. The Forum is scheduled for June 16-19, 2008, the same dates as HP's Software Universe conference. While the two shows are separated by one mile of the Las Vegas strip, keeping the conference in Vegas looks like coupling up the user's meeting in a permanent way with HP's other customer and partner events.

HP's Universe doesn't have a user group attached to its content, but HP rolls out plenty of executives and demonstrations and 240 sessions, according to a summary from last year. Not that it matters too much, but this will be the first HP user conference since the Interex era of 1972-2005 where the meeting is no longer a movable feast, but instead stays put.

There are advantages to gathering in a familiar place. The Forum is even remaining at the same resort hotel, the Mandalay Bay, so the long winding walks from rooms toward talks will be less circuitous. I stayed at the Luxor last year, which looked like a nearby choice but turned out to be a quarter-mile away on foot — and only one stop away on the free inter-casino monorail.

Last year HP's Storageworks was also held in the Mandalay, so I'd be surprised to see it announced for anyplace else. The arrangement does make for a concentrated week of networking, especially for any HP 3000 shops moving into a final approach for a Unix or Windows landing.

Perhaps Encompass felt lucky in Vegas last year, or found it hit the jackpot on customer compliments for a mid-summer desert conference. Mom will be pleased, on my account. She's been retired in Vegas for more than 17 years, so I'll have a conference of another kind to precede the meeting with users and HP.