One year after Interex folded, only memories remain

But HP e3000 users, a big part of Interex, will be meeting in November

One year ago today, Interex, the independent Hewlett-Packard Co. user group -- swamped by $4 million of debt -- shut its doors and disappeared (see "HP plans cuts; user group shuts doors: Interex, HP World hit by finance woes"). Today, Interex exists only as an ongoing bankruptcy case and a memory for its members.

"There's been very little effort to revive Interex," said Denys Beauchemin, an IT consultant who was vice chairman of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based user group. "The heart of Interex -- what really created the whole thing originally -- was the 3000 group anyway."

"The 3000 group," as he called it, represents HP e3000 users who once gathered at Interex's annual HP World conference. This year they will meet in November at a conference sponsored by the Greater Houston Regional Users Group.

Richard Pringle, the Houston user group's president, said the conference will provide the latest information on migration, as well as "homesteading" for those who plan to continue running the midrange system. The focus of the November event will be on addressing user issues, said Pringle, who manages infrastructure, including an e3000, with a contractor at a NASA site.

"We're coming from the user's" perspective, said Pringle. "We're not coming from the manufacturer's."

Encompass, a Chicago-based user group that grew out of a different user base, that of Digital Equipment Corp., has been trying to broaden its appeal to Interex members. Next week it will launch an e3000 special interest group focused on migrating off the platform. Although the HP e3000 has been discontinued by HP, support will be offered until December 2008 or later, the company said late last year.

Interex earned the money it needed to operate from HP World. But when HP last year started its own conference, the HP Technology Forum, and scheduled it around the time of Interex's annual conference, the competition was too much for the user group. It began to lose vendor trade-show bookings.

Interex's board could have co-sponsored HP Technology Forum but had decided to remain independent. Encompass, which had co-sponsored HP World in 2004, decide to join with HP.

Former Interex board member Linda Roatch, IT project manager at St. Paul Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn., said she hasn't heard a thing about Interex in the past year. "Not a thing."

More generally, Roatch wondered about the future of hardware-focused user groups, since software is often the deciding factor in a hardware decision. Of Interex, she said, "I think they represented the users. I think that communication vehicle has been lost."

Beauchemin said he "can't help but think this was a major loss of prestige for HP. Interex was unique, and the relationship with HP was unique. Interex was founded on an idea by a few users 32 years ago, without financial help from HP," he said. "The users were so dedicated to the HP3000 computer, they wanted it to succeed and spread. They believed in the concept and in HP itself and did whatever they could to support and promote HP and the HP3000.

"HP benefited tremendously from the existence of Interex and its activity," said Beauchemin. "Interex cost them nothing and they reaped huge benefits from its vibrant user community."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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