Compaq, Dell cut customer conferences

Dell Computer Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp., citing the turbulent U.S. economy and their cost cutting efforts, are putting the kibosh on their own customer conferences this year.

Dell has canceled its annual DirectConnect conference in Austin, Texas, while Compaq will not hold its biennial Innovate Forum in Houston, the companies said.

Dell has held its DirectConnect conference since 1999 for customers, partners and the media, Dell spokesman David Frink said. About 1,200 customers attended last year's conference, but the Round Rock, Texas-based company will forgo the event this year, he said.

"We have decided not to stage the conference, and the primary reason is the current economic environment for everybody, not just Dell or our customers," Frink said. "We have heard from our corporate customer base that travel budgets are going to be tight."

Compaq is seeking to cut costs and decided it was not the right time to hold the Innovate Forum conference, said Compaq spokesman Steve Sievert. The conference traditionally attracts about 4,000 attendees and has been held every other year since 1993, he said.

Both companies said they will reevaluate and consider holding the conferences again in the future.

Last year, Dell's DirectConnect conference included education efforts on products and platforms for customers and talks by executives like Dell founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Dell, Ellen Hancock, chairwoman and CEO of Exodus Communication Inc. and David Pottruck, president and CEO of Charles Schwab & Co. The conference also included plenty of Dell-sponsored partying and a private concert by musician Lyle Lovett at the Austin Music Hall.

Both companies have hit some financial bumps in the road this year. Dell announced in mid-February that it would lay off 1,700 employees, mostly in its Texas operations. Meanwhile, Compaq also made its own cuts when it laid off 5,000 employees in mid-March.

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