HP user groups plan merger to boost bargaining strength

Three independent Hewlett-Packard user groups plan to merge into a single organization with more than 50,000 members in an effort to increase their clout with the IT vendor.

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Three independent Hewlett-Packard user groups plan to merge into a single organisation with more than 50,000 members in an effort to increase their clout with the IT vendor.

The groups also hope to reduce costs while using their combined resources to reach younger users of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s technologies through social networks and other Web 2.0 tools.

The planned merger involves Encompass, which originated as a group for users of the former Digital Equipment; HP-Interex EMEA, a Brussels-based surviving affiliate of Interex, a US group that folded in 2005; and ITUG, which represents HP's NonStop user community.

ITUG stands for the International Tandem User Group. Tandem Computers were the original developer of the NonStop systems line, which HP acquired along with the remnants of Digital when it bought Compaq. in 2002.

Encompass and ITUG, which are both based in Chicago, have about 16,000 and 2,500 members, respectively, while HP-Interex EMEA has 33,000. The planned merger has been approved by the boards of the three user groups but still requires the approval of their memberships.

Officials from the groups said that they expect to have the new organisation in place by HP's annual technical conference, which is scheduled for June in Las Vegas. Among the things still to be determined is a name for the combined group; for now, it's being referred to by the code name Endeavor.

"It's more than a merger - it's creating a new organisation, and the new organisation is targeting the needs of a larger community," said Scott Healy, ITUG's chairman. ITUG "will stay a strong community within the larger group," he added.

But he added that many of ITUG's members are also responsible for systems other than NonStop machines, and that the merger of the user groups will help them gain access to a broader base of peers as well as more training programs.

One HP user group that isn't involved in the planned merger is Vivit, a Boulder, Col.-based group that formerly was known as OpenView Forum International. Buik said Vivit, which focuses on OpenView and other HP software products, was asked if it was interested in joining the other three groups.

Vivit officials weren't immediately available for comment.