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Smiles, but less joking at 2012's HP Discover

WhitmanDiscover SherylCrowHP's announced its executive keynote lineup for the June HP Discover 2012 show, the biggest HP-centric conference for the year. At the last HP Discover the company was still debating with Oracle over the future of the database on HP servers, but it stood on the verge of a splash into the tablet marketplace. That was just two months before the TouchPad belly-flop and one quarter in front of the ouster of a second CEO in as many years.

Current CEO Meg Whitman will speak on Making Technology Work for You, "focusing on the challenges that enterprises face today, and the breadth and depth of HP solutions that help them to address those challenges." The conference runs June 4-7 in its usual location on the Las Vegas strip, this time at the Venetian Hotel and Sands Convention Center. A SWSMYT code at registration earns a $300 discount.

Like last year, another Discover keynoter has a strong entertainment platform. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will be onstage with Whitman and later hosts an exclusive preview of DreamWorks' Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. Less obvious comedy won't be on the stage this year, after Jake Johannsen opened for CEO Leo Apotheker in 2011. One ironic Johannsen joke that's not likely to be recycled: "As a comic, it seems to me there'd be a joke I could make about HP's last CEO... but there's not."

Whitman might not see the humor in such a barb, but the commentary on HP's show -- produced with the aid of the Connect user group -- may run just as unfettered. Last year the vendor hosted a raft of bloggers in a new program to earn more notice for the conference. Geekzone made the conference a feature on its tech blog, and the longest keynote of that show was an HP Cloud marathon full of boardroom-level buzzwords for IT planners. HP's putting the buzz on after-hours with a closing show a bit less legendary than last year's Sir Paul McCartney concert. The closing celebration sponsored by Intel starts with Sheryl Crow and finishes with the founder of the Eagles, Don Henley.

The executive VP of HP's enterprise computing business is now Dave Donatelli, more entrenched than ever after HP kicked Ann Livermore into the company's board of directors suite. Donatelli leads the list which HP offered of its key executives speaking at the show. Todd Bradley appears, now executive vice president of both Printing and Personal Systems, even after that TouchPad debacle. Others include Bill Veghte, chief strategy officer and EVP for HP Software; Mike Lynch, executive vice president, Information Management; and John Visentin, executive vice president for the company's support and consulting arm, Enterprise Services.

HP's Q2 '12 quarterly results report (on May 23) will be about two weeks behind in the rear view mirror when HP Discover opens up. This has always been a show aimed at an audience well below the financial analyst crowd. The company discounts professional certification for IT workers who attend. Last year's show had more than 10,000 attendees and 1,000 partners on hand, the vendor reported.

Discovering something to hear before the gentle humor of Madagascar or the dulcet tones of Crow can be planned using the online session discovery tool at the event's website. Three months ago, only four sessions were listed online as being delivered from customers. Now that wing of content is beefed up to 160 with the likes of a strategy review from Brian O'Reilly of the Las Vegas Sands, who's giving a case study to show "how Las Vegas Sands (Venetian) accelerated its IT transformation program." IT managers from Royal Bank of Canada, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, and payroll provider Paychex will also speak.