Is Microsoft backing away from Chicago for Ignite 2016?

I’m in Seattle this week (technically Bellevue) for the Windows in Higher Education conference, but another Microsoft conference is getting a lot of attention tonight.  Earlier this evening I was alerted to a story on the Chicago Tribune website, “Microsoft cancels Ignite conference for Chicago in 2016.” As you know, Ignite was scheduled to take place May 9-13 in Chicago next year.  According to the Tribune, sources say that Microsoft attempted to reschedule the event for later in the year but were unable to do so because McCormick Place was already booked. As a result, they say that Microsoft cancelled the event. The Tribune says they contacted Microsoft via email,  but they declined to comment.

The McCormick Place calendar of events still lists Ignite, so we’ll have to wait and see if that changes.

So until we hear any official word from Microsoft, people have started speculating about what this means for Ignite overall.  I’m hopeful that the event will still take place, that Microsoft just wanted more time to put the event together. It does make you wonder, however, why they wanted to push it back. Might they be rethinking how the event is structured? Taking the criticisms from last year to heart and making changes? Was it related to product launch dates?  Maybe they just want to put more distance between Build, WPC, and Ignite.  Hard to say.

I’m sure whatever official statement comes out won’t go into any real details. And contrary to what some might think, my membership on the TechEd and Ignite Roundtables for the last two years did not make me privy to any advance notice about this turn of events. I was shocked when I read the story.

If Microsoft is keeping Ignite in its current format and sticking with the jumbo-sized version, I’m curious what kind of success they will have in finding a new venue. With 20,000+ attendees, the short list of cities that can accommodate Ignite is, well, short. And with a year (or less) to go, I’m curious what kind of availability they’ll be faced with. Whatever the case, it sounds like they really did not want to stick with the May timeframe.

I feel bad for Chicago because snagging Ignite was a feather in their cap and a big boost to the tourist economy there. If this news is true, it’s a big blow to the city.

What do you think? Is this good or bad news for the IT Pro and Enterprise Dev community?