Letter From the Chairman To the UniForum Membership:


The one certainty in our world is change. Over the past few months your Board of Directors and the UniForum staff have wrestled with serious issues about how the Association will continue to serve its members and affiliates in the face of changes that affect our industry, our membership and our organization. Rest assured that the Association will continue.

UniForum was founded as an association of industry professionals dedicated to the commercialization of UNIX. Their efforts were immensely successful and UNIX became the first great example of open standards computing. It remains today the leader in mainstream business-critical computing.

Its main task complete, the Association faced the challenge of redefining its role. We knew that we stood for more than just one open technology -- we wanted to see open standards computing thrive and prosper. Whenever there is a community of development working within a common framework, technology surges forward. The best example is where the UNIX community, and the developer community that built the Internet, overlapped with a common heritage and both produced incredible results. Open standards have moved computing ahead faster, and created more value, than any alternative. Competition, open standards, choice, free markets, and the advances that come when more than one person or company can contribute to the foundations, all stand in stark contrast to the death of creativity and lack of quality that is the inevitable outcome of monopoly.

UniForum with its show, conferences and educational programs has been deeply involved in the broader mission of open standards computing. But our initial success with UNIX meant we were most often viewed as "UNIX Only". Our annual conference and trade show in particular has been branded a UNIX show.

The Association has continuously revamped and modernized the content of the annual conference and trade show, emphasizing educational quality throughout. Nevertheless, vendors continued to present UNIX solutions, attendees expected to see UNIX solutions, and our new content did not change the market's view of the event. UNIX is in the mainstream of business computing, and those solutions can thus be seen anywhere. Despite the high quality of our event, the financial return from UniForum '97 was lower than expected, and the exhibitor sign-up rate for next year's event has been minimal. In short, the event is no longer financially viable. This has had a severe impact on the finances of the Association. Combined with some shortfalls in other programs we are in the midst of what can only be called a sudden financial down draft.

As previously reported to the membership, we expected by this time to have combined our day-to-day operations with The Open Group (TOG). Timing issues, having to do with new strategic plans at TOG, have delayed this implementation; and while we share common goals and have active projects ongoing with TOG, the official combination must be deferred.

We face two challenges: how to return to our roots as a professional member organization focused on today's issues of open standards computing; and how to operate without our major revenue source.

To meet these challenges the Board will:

1) Return the Association to its roots as a volunteer-driven organization, cutting organizational overhead, eliminating programs with small demand and concentrating our efforts on the needs of individual members and regional affiliate organizations. The Association plans to move its offices to shared facilities with the Washington Area UNIX Users Group (WAUUG); and we expect to appoint Alan Fedder, WAUUG Executive Director, as the new head of operations. Alan is a vigorous supporter of UniForum's ideals. He is an experienced show and conference director and, as a past member of our Board, brings a wealth of Association knowledge, and a clear dedication to member needs and development.

2) Continue to offer our members forums to share their commitment to open standards computing; publish a newsletter and/or journal; produce the Open Systems Products Directory; develop and build training and educational opportunities; and provide a variety of other member benefits.

3) Prepare to cancel the major 1998 UniForum Conference and Trade Show, after consultation with our show manager, Softbank Comdex, Inc., and investigate a new venue for our annual conference.

4) In accordance with our by-laws, inform new Board nominees of these changes and delay the Board election temporarily. Because this major financial crisis accelerated just as Board elections were nearing, we felt it would be unfair to the newly nominated candidates, and dangerous to the Association, to hand over these problems without making a full attempt to solve them.

5) Reconfirm with the Board nominees that they still wish to run under these changed circumstances and, if necessary, reconvene the nominating committee to provide the membership with a full slate of qualified candidates. We believe that future Board members will have to be more active on a volunteer basis in program operations. Elections of a new Board will be re-scheduled at the earliest possible time.

6) Continue to find every avenue to work cooperatively with The Open Group, USENIX and other organizations, as appropriate.

This has been a difficult time, and I would like to thank the staff of the Association for their long and dedicated efforts. I am happy to report that some key individuals will continue their service to the Association. I would also like to thank Tom Mace, our Association President, who stepped in at a critical time to help us face these challenges. Finally, I'd like to thank my fellow Board members who continue to give so generously of their time and talents.

I am pleased that the Association will go forward with new energy. We can return to our roots, refocus on individual professionals, then look to the future and to everything UniForum stands for. Be assured that we will continue to communicate with the membership as events warrant and that your opinions, suggestions and offers of volunteer assistance are welcome.

Michael Tilson


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