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Microsoft-focused user groups form coalition

With Redmond's blessing, more than a dozen user groups have joined forces to maximize their resources.

A contingent of IT user groups have come together to launch a non-profit company that will serve as an educational...

conduit and liaison to the group's major sponsor -- Microsoft.

The organization, to be called Culminis Inc., will represent about 7.5 million IT users from various user groups. Its members include users from the Association of Information Technology Professionals, Boston User Groups, Carolina IT Pro Group, Huntsville NT User Group,, Network Professional Association, New York LAN Association, New York Enterprise Windows User Group, Orange County NT User Group, Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS), San Francisco Network Technologies Users Group and Vancouver Technology User Group.

Culminis' biggest advantage is it will be a way to share resources, such as speakers, marketing dollars, software or anything else …
Kurt Windisch, PASS,

Organizers said Culminis is open to all IT Pro user groups, and that leaders of those groups can visit the Culminis Web site for more information, or send them an e-mail.

Microsoft is attempting to build stronger ties to IT professionals through user groups, and this is a part of that effort. "Culminis' biggest advantage is it will be a way to share resources, such as speakers, marketing dollars, software or anything else it might be," said Kurt Windisch, director of program development at Levi, Ray and Shoup Inc., a Springfield, Ill., law firm. Windisch is also on the board of PASS.

The organization's official launch will be at Microsoft's TechEd conference in late May, but some events are scheduled for this week, said David Sanders, executive director at Culminis, which has its headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.

Microsoft seeks Longhorn feedback

Sanders said user group meetings in Charlotte, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York will be hosting "live meeting" events with Microsoft to provide Redmond's software engineers with feedback on the next generation of Windows -- Longhorn and Longhorn Server.

Sanders said Culminis' main purpose, in addition to these events, will be to provide IT user groups with a direct channel to Microsoft. He said Culminis is also hoping to recruit other companies as sponsors.

Culminis will also serve as a point of distribution for potential partners who want to send software to user group members.

At this point, Culminis probably won't be a single point of contact for all user groups, but that may well be the goal. And the reach of some of its member groups should help in achieving that goal. For example, PASS is a global group with its own conference and contacts at Microsoft.

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