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NetApp cancels user conference because of travel cuts

The failing economy has claimed a victim in the world of tech conferences.

NetApp has canceled NetApp Accelerate 2009 — what was to have been the company’s first annual user conference — because of widespread cutbacks in corporate travel.

“We had more customer interest in NetApp Accelerate than we anticipated,” said Elisa Steele (no relation), NetApp’s senior vice president of corporate marketing. “But those same customers told us their travel budgets were being cut and it was difficult to commit to attending in today’s climate of economic uncertainty. For those reasons, we decided to cancel this year’s program.”

The conference was scheduled for Feb. 26-29 in San Francisco. NetApp said all registered attendees will receive full refunds. And from February through May, the company will take the technical content planned for the event and make it available online.

Up to now, there have been mixed signs about the economy’s affect on tech conferences. Our senior news writer, Rivka Little, asked if tradeshows are dead after attending September’s Interop New York, which she described as “slow and somber.” But senior news editor Barb Darrow reported huge crowds at Oracle OpenWorld, and VMworld boasted record attendance as well.

It was probably a little easier for NetApp to pull the plug on a first-time conference than it would be for a bigger vendor to cancel a long-established show. Still, travel budgets are one of the first places that businesses look at when they need to save money. I’d expect all the major shows to remain on schedule next year, but the days of record crowds may be over for a while.

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