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Let's get digital... digital: Microsoft Ignite switches to online-only as 2020's tech calendar clears

2021 looking ever more virtual and distant. Did March feel like a year for you too?

Microsoft has switched its September Ignite event to a digital affair even as other organisers hope for a return to some semblance of "normal" by August.

Planned to take place in New Orleans in September, Microsoft's Ignite event is a big deal for the company and attracts tens of thousands of attendees. Those lucky ticket-holders get to rub shoulders with fellow IT pros and crowd conference rooms for the hundreds of sessions regarding the company's take on the digital world.

Which, in a nutshell, is the problem.

The logistics of such an event take some planning and Microsoft has opted to hedge its bets with a switch to digital attendance. It has already had good results with online-only events: WSLConf, which was hosted with Linux chum Canonical, turned out to be quite the success after a rapid reshuffle to the web. We also understand that Teams stood up well to the demands of the recent MVP Summit after that was swiftly shifted from in-person with mere weeks to go.

The big test will come with the company's Build event, due in May, which has also had to go digital, but for which Microsoft has had a bit more time to prepare.

The company has also upped the attendee limit for live events hosted with Microsoft 365. Through July 1, as well as Teams Meetings for up to 250 participants, live events hosted in Teams or Yammer for up to 10,000 attendees will be supported and up to 100,000 attendees "hosted in a customised event experience" will be doable using Microsoft Stream.

With all the fuss over Teams lately, we're heartened to see Yammer getting a nod every now and again.

Microsoft has also shifted its late 2020 partner event, Inspire, away from being an in-person gathering.

Veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reported earlier today that Microsoft was planning to go even further and rethink pretty much all internal and external events through fiscal 2021. This would mean that, like May's Build, Build 2021 could also go digital as well as next year's MVP Summit.

A bold move, and we've contacted Microsoft to see if this will indeed be the case. If so, it will at least give those affected more time to plan ahead even as venues look glumly at their balance sheets. It also calls further into question the future of tech events as companies ponder if in-person shindigs are worth the bother and expense.

Not all companies have thrown in the towel. While September's Ignite event is now definitely off, the Cloud Native Foundation's KubeCon Europe 2020 remains very much on, albeit rescheduled to August 13-16.

The event features some Microsoft speakers (among the usual suspects from the likes of Google, Red Hat and the Linux Foundation). We've asked the software giant if it plans to go digital for all events or just its own and will update if it responds. ®

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