If you read the official IBM announcment for ConnectED 2015 posted by Mat Newman, you will notice a few interesting details.
First of all, the event is shorter than previous years. It starts on Sunday and ends on Wednesday instead of Thursday. On Sunday IBM has scheduled the Leadership Alliance meeting, which previously been held in the late fall in Boston. This is of course much more cost efficient for business partners, esxpecially international ones, who only have to pay one airfare and one hotel cost. But it also means that business partners who are invited to LA have to choose between presenting at the Sunday JumpStart sessions and attend the Leadership Appliance meetings. In the past, Sunday has also been the day for the Business Partner Day, hopefully IBM is not putting that on the same day as well.
Second, the conference will be held only at Walt Disney World Swan, not at both Swan and Dolphin as in previous years. This indicates a somewhat smaller conference. The Swan ballrooms combined can seat about 2700 people, with the other meeting rooms seating an additional almost 1000. So a qualified guess is that the number of participants will be limited to around 3000 or just above, assuming the keynote/OGS will still take place in the Dolphin. However this is not that much less than Lotusphere/Connect in the last few years. The labs and the sessions we all come to love (“Ask the Developers”, “Ask the Product Managers”, “Gurupaloza”) will be back, and I would be very surprised if there will not be a product showcase of some kind. There are also more interactive elements planned, like roundtables.
Third: ConnectED will be more of a technical conference, similar to the developer conferences IBM had back in the 1990′s. It will be bigger than a LUG (Lotus User Group) conference, but have a much more technical agenda than Lotusphere and Connect in the last few years. In my mind, this is a good thing. Perhaps less catering to press/analysts, “suits” (CEO/CFO type managers), project managers and similar non-technical crowds and more to the hard-core developers and admins who actually use the products.
Personally I think this is a good move by IBM. Separate out the non-technical attendees and focus on the technical side, instead of mixing technical and strategic sessions in a big messy conference. I am excited about ConnectED 2015, even if I am suspecting it will be the last conference in Orlando. Some years ago (2006? 2007?) IBM announced that they had renewed the contract for the conference (back then still called Lotusphere) until 2015.
With so many other IBM conferences merging together and taking place in Las Vegas, I would not be surprised if Lotusphere/ConnectED will suffer the same fate in 2016. I hope not, as Dolphin/Swan is a more intimate setting, where people can meet and socialize in the evening (as well as a day or two before the conference). With IBM pretty much taking over “Swolpin” (Swan and Dolphin) during that last week of January, there are very few non-conference people around. That would not be the case in Las Vegas.
No matter what, I will try to again be able to go to Orlando this coming January and see all my friends and learn more about Notes, Domino, Connections and the other products in the ICS stack. Hope to see you there!