R.I.P., TechEd

R.I.P., TechEd

And MMS, MEC, and the SharePoint, Lync and Project conferences too

How do you follow-up on a TechEd that featured only cloud-based product updates and not a single on-premises upgrade? Why you kill TechEd, of course. And then you bring it back from the dead. . . as something else entirely.

What that something else is, we don't quite know. This week, Microsoft announced, a bit too vaguely for my tastes, that it would host "an inaugural, unified Microsoft commercial technology conference" in May 2015 in Chicago. You had to really parse the announcement to interpret the underlying message, however: This new conference is replacing TechEd. And the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS). And the SharePoint Conference. And the Lync Conference. And the Project Conference. And the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC).

"As we took stock of the past conferences and looked forward to the next year of conferences, we decided we can do better," Microsoft's Julia White explained. "Microsoft's own cloud first, mobile first strategy must carry through to our conferences for all of us to be successful together."

Doesn't sound like they just killed TechEd, does it? Well, you'll have to take my word for it, because as noted, the announcement is vague. (Check out TechEd is Dead, Long Live TechEd for a longer peek at that bit of this story.) But I did ask, and yes, this new conference, as yet unnamed, will replace TechEd and all of Microsoft's other IT—and enterprise—focused conferences. (The developer show, Build, is unaffected.)

As it turns out, TechEd's demise had been rumored for some months. In fact, I heard about this possibility first from Windows IT Pro's Rod Trent, who had also correctly anticipated the demise of the MMS, which was itself rolled into—wait for it—TechEd earlier this year.

If I'm being fair to Microsoft, and what the heck, someone should be, TechEd was about as out of date as their pre-cloud product release cycles, and it was arguably time for change. Here it is, trying to get partners and developers to follow it down the dark rabbit hole of "cloud first, mobile first," and the rapid release cycle, and it was basing a lot of its external communications around these old-school trade shows.

More to the point, perhaps, these shows are expensive, and not just for us. While a single unified show will probably be more expensive than just TechEd for Microsoft, the budgeting has to include comparing it to all those other shows too. Something tells me Microsoft will save a lot of money doing this, not just from having a single event but from the very practical side effect that many previous show-goers will simply choose to become educated electronically and via other means.

(If you're looking for in-person learning and networking, you could also seek out smaller, more personal shows like our own IT/Dev Connections 2014, by the way. It's in Vegas in September, just saying.)

Ultimately, this new unified Microsoft commercial technology conference, whatever its name, is a chance for Microsoft to do with its conferences what it has already done to its product lines and corporate structure: Streamline them and make them more efficient, more focused on the realities of today's market, and more relevant to show-goers. Maybe complaining about that—though like many of you, I do have many great TechEd memories from over the years—isn't the right approach. But the grumbling I've seen so far is certainly understandable.

The thing is, this is still an uneasy time for IT pros. Microsoft has taken away our TechNet subscriptions, many of its certifications, a long-time focus on on-premises solutions, and now our trade show. A year ago, I was asking semi-rhetorically whether Microsoft hated IT pros. Today. . . I don't know. It's complicated. The changes Microsoft is making are a matter of survival. Respecting that doesn't make it any easier on the rest of us.

So we'll see. The firm promises an update in September, at which point it will possibly announce the name of this new show. Please, Microsoft. Just leave the word "One" out of it if you can.

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