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Lotus says travel realities won't loom over Lotusphere

News summary: Despite the new realities of U.S. business travel, Lotus has high hopes for attendance at Lotusphere 2002. However, this year's attendance in Orlando could be down more than 50% from last year.

Notes/Domino professionals may be rubbing fewer elbows and dancing in shorter conga lines at Lotusphere 2002.

The depressed high-tech economy and fear of air travel could reduce attendance at Lotusphere 2002 to half of last year's estimated 10,000 attendees, say some Lotus watchers.

Still, Lotus' events team is showing a brave face, despite the new realities of U.S. business travel.

"We're expecting an optimal audience, given the state of the economy and the events of 9-11," said Sandra Marcus, director for worldwide corporate events at Lotus Software. "We've got a really positive story to tell about what we're bringing to the marketplace."

Marcus said attendees and exhibitors are paying the same registration fees they did last year. (Attendees are shelling out $1,650 for the five-day show.) Lotus is not offering discounts, and non-attendees will not be able to view Webcasts of the show's technology and strategy sessions.

But without an incentive, many Notes/Domino pros will likely skip the event.

"Among the people I know who are not going, half are people whose travel budgets vanished, or their jobs vanished," said Scott Wenzel, a Notes/Domino specialist and publisher of the "Totally Unofficial Gonzo Lotusphere Site."

More on Lotusphere
Visit searchDomino's Lotusphere 2002 Special Events Page for the latest articles and product announcements from Orlando.
Wenzel said many of his friends also have employers "who don't want them flying to a big, high-profile conference site like Walt Disney World."

Not technical enough?

But Notes/Domino developers will more likely miss Lotusphere's parties and pool-side antics rather than the show's sessions and labs, which are increasingly geared toward business strategists and Lotus business partners.

"There are a number of people, primarily hands-on technical types, who would rather skip Lotusphere and go to TheVIEW's shows or Lotus DevCon," Wenzel said. "Lotusphere started out moderately technical, and the overall shift away from hard-core tech to marketing offers that sort of person nothing."

IT analysts don't mind the change. Mark Levitt and Robert Mahowald, who follow Lotus for research firm IDC, will both attend Lotusphere in January.

Lotus usually tips its hand at Lotusphere, Mahowald said, and hints at which products and services it will be pushing in the year ahead.

The IDC analysts will also check on the health of Lotus business partners and review their new products. "And that, of course, leads us back to how well Lotus is doing, and what they are emphasizing with their partners," Mahowald said.

Lotus is, however, promising more than just marketing this time around.

"It looks like Lotus may indeed return to more technical information, especially that which helps customers get more out of what they already own," said Wenzel, whose own presentation will be about making Notes/Domino R5 more accessible to employees with disabilities.

Lotus may also be focusing on its current products, like R5, because Notes/Domino Rnext -- which will have been three years in the making when it is released sometime in 2002 -- won't be ready for the January show.

Lotus general manager Al Zollar told searchDomino recently that his company will be releasing a final version of Rnext in the second half of 2002. And while Zollar said "we will be talking a lot about Rnext" at Lotusphere, he also seemed anxious to avoid hyping the new product.

Events director Marcus, meanwhile, said Lotusphere will be a success because -- while overall attendance will be lower -- just as many Lotus customers and business partners will be participating. "A consulting company might just send one or two fewer people," she said.


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