news Software giant Microsoft is considering a radical overhaul to its giant TechEd event in Australia that would essentially spell the end of the iconic conference in its traditional mega-format, with the company instead believed to be considering a series of smaller conferences around Australia in its place.
For those IT professionals who work closely with Microsoft software, and especially the company’s widespread developer community, the trek to the company’s annual TechEd conference has become something of a global pilgrimage.
The local event is typically held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in September each year (as well as locations in other countries on a rolling basis), and features a bevy of imported technical leaders giving keynotes about Microsoft products and wider trends, as well as dedicated training and education sessions on virtually every topic possible to discuss about Microsoft products. Microsoft’s extensive partner ecosystem also attends and presents, and there are numerous parties, dinners, networking events and giveaways (including the iconic TechEd bags, seen above) each year.
However, over the past month speculation has increasingly focused in Australia’s technical community about whether Microsoft is still planning to hold its annual TechEd conference in Australia. The dates for TechEd New Zealand 2014 have been announced (9 to 12 September), but Microsoft has not confirmed the Australian dates for the local event.
Delimiter has received unverified information to the effect that squabbles between Microsoft Australia’s internal divisions about how the event would be funded have meant the event is likely to be drastically reshaped in Australia this year and may end up being organised as a series of smaller events rather than the one large mega-conference over several days.
Microsoft Australia would not provide extended details about its local plans for TechEd Australia 2014, but instead issued a brief statement noting an announcement about the conference was imminent: “TechEd is Microsoft’s premier technical education event for IT Professionals and Enterprise Developers. While we are always looking at new ways in which to engage and excite our technical communities, there is certainly no truth in the rumours that we have cancelled TechEd 2014. We intend to announce details for this year’s event within the coming days.”
If Microsoft does dial down TechEd in Australia in 2014, the move will come as part of a wider trend towards decreasing the importance of such large conferences in Australia. Networking giant Cisco, for example, which used to host its giant Networkers conference in Australia in a similar fashion to TechEd, now opts for a less high-profile event called Cisco Live.
And even the giant CeBIT conference held each May has been forced into reshaping itself for this year’s event starting next Monday 5 May, with the event to be held significantly away from Sydney’s central business district in Olympic Park, due to the ongoing reconstruction of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour.
However, any move to cut down TechEd in Australia will come as a significant disappointment to much of Microsoft’s local IT professional and developer community, which has long viewed the event both as a significant educational and networking experience, but also as a chance to get away from the daily grind to the Gold Coast for a work-oriented excursion with like-minded souls.
I have to say, radically reshaping TechEd as Microsoft appears to be planning to do has its good points and its bad points. If the conference does go to a series of smaller events around Australia, there is no doubt that it will be harder for Microsoft Australia to attract the big international keynote speakers for such events, and many conference attendees will be disappointed by the lack of the big centralised event on the Gold Coast.
However, Microsoft’s product cycle has recently changed significantly due to the onset of the cloud computing paradigm, meaning it largely no longer has many huge products on one, two or three year refresh cycles that it needs to get its developer and IT professional community educated on in one big event each year. It may suit the company better to have a series of smaller events, perhaps held more regularly to reflect ongoing education.
I’ve been to quite a few TechEds in Australia over the years. I, and many others, share an emotion for the conference which can only be described as a deep fondness. There are so many memories — both during the day and at the parties at night. However, things do move on, and all good things come to an end. Perhaps it’s that time for TechEd Australia.
Let’s just hope Microsoft continues to give out those backpacks every year anyway. I still see them everywhere — airports, at other conferences, around the CBD. They’re an iconic part of Australia’s technology landscape.
Image credit: Microsoft