**UPDATES BELOW ORIGINAL ARTICLE**
Things are constantly evolving for Microsoft – particularly for the Microsoft that is now led by Satya Nadella. Microsoft’s CEO is attempting to make the company as agile as possible to glean gains wherever it makes sense and to make hard decisions where investments are murky.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Microsoft recently canceled its consolidated and rebranded IT conference, Ignite. If you follow the bread crumb trail, this decision has under analysis for some time. Event marketing to Twitter and Facebook simply stopped dead about 4 weeks ago.
In the news article, the Chicago Tribune declares the loss of revenue for the city of Chicago, affecting 50 hotels and about 90,000 room nights. However, when you dig deeper into the story, it seems that Ignite is not being canceled completely, but that the company is just cancelling the event in Chicago. The venue for the inaugural event this past May, McCormick Place, was not available to be rescheduled later in the year. With the consolidation of several different IT events into one, the intent of Ignite is to bring together the most people at once to deliver a single company message. Ignite speaks to the IT crowd, specifically those involved in deploying and managing Microsoft products. Apparently, that message won’t be ready by May 2016 and probably speaks to Microsoft’s product timelines for 2016 – possibly that target dates have slipped a bit. But, even with a minor slip in product dates, how much exactly does it cost to terminate a contract with McCormick and the city of Chicago? It has to be significant, so Microsoft can't be taking decision to cancel Ignite in Chicago lightly.
Many will look at this news and think that Microsoft is cancelling Ignite outright. That could be the case, but, personally I doubt it. There’s just too much value for Microsoft to be able to deliver a single message to the largest customer based possible.
I’ve reached out to Microsoft for clarification on the news and will report back when things are more clear. This is all based on the Chicago Tribune report, but that entity should be trustworthy enough. However, IF TRUE, I do have a couple ideas to volley.
First, if Microsoft’s product schedules are slipping and the messaging won’t be ready by May 2016, the company will need a venue to host 20,000-30,000 attendees. If Chicago is not available, what’s left? There are a few conference locations that could host larger numbers. Houston and Orlando come to mind. Orlando was the location for the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this year, and Houston was the last location for TechEd (the pre-Ignite event branding in 2014). Houston was not a popular choice, though (but, neither was Chicago).
My second idea follows a vein of rumor that simply won’t go away. There’s rumor that Microsoft’s consolidation of events into Ignite was just the beginning and that the software company would eventually merge or co-locate all of its events. That would mean that BUILD and WPC would become part of an even larger event. More attendees, you ask? How can that be, considering Ignite seemed overcrowded and poorly managed with 28,000 this year? It’s not out of scope by any means. I reported earlier this year that Microsoft was already prepping for an event upwards of 40,000 attendees.
A third idea comes on the heels of AzureCon – Microsoft’s first completely online “conference.” I’ve had discussions recently with ‘softies and others that AzureCon, if successful, could be a template for future Microsoft events. Why spend marketing resources and experience the headaches of planning an in-person conference if an event from the Cloud can do the job just fine?
Whatever happens, we’ll let you know. It’s possible that Microsoft is not ready to explain what’s next for Ignite. And, when I say “not ready,” I don’t necessarily mean the company doesn’t want to, but that it can’t because the decision has not been made yet.
There's been a lot of shuffling internally at Microsoft since this news broke over the weekend on the Chicago Tribune and here on WindowsITPro. According to sources, an internal Yammer feed, which includes someone very high up, states that Ignite is NOT canceled. However, it doesn't say whether or not its being rescheduled or moved to another city. Sources also say that Microsoft intends to release information about this tomorrow to help clarify the future of Ignite.
P.S. Puget Sound Business Journal has now also picked up this story: Microsoft cancels Ignite 2016 conference. And, it's amazing to me when news outlets pick up stories and include components of ours, yet don't give attribution.
Microsoft Ignite will be in Atlanta September 26-30. It will be a standalone event and Microsoft went out of its way in a private email to say that BUILD will not be merged with Ignite this year.