Well I am here at Microsoft's TechEd conference in Australia and am hoping to grab some valuable insights over the next few days for those interested in the comings and goings of Microsoft in the Asia Pacific region.
There are around 2500 attendees at the event – and there was a waiting list of around 400
- All paying attendees have been given an HP Mini 2140 netbook running Windows 7
- Not surprisingly, it is an overwhelmingly "techie" crowd (the average age would be around 40)
The conference kicked off with a keynote session that was focused on products, features, and functions, as opposed to the usual strategic sessions that we are used to as such events. There is a concerted effort to renew the "buzz" around Microsoft – not to get stuck peering into the future but making a difference with the new Microsoft technologies available now (or, in the case of some of the technologies – shortly!).
One of the keynotes introduced a gentleman dressed in the "I'm a PC" clothes from the famous Apple Mac advertising campaigns. He ripped them off, stating that he likes being a PC – that it is exciting to be a PC (thankfully he had another set of clothes on underneath!). It was quite a stunt, designed to generate excitement around the PC platform. I decided that I would tweet about it. I was not so excited to be a PC when I finally got my tweet typed and sent about 20 mins later after my WinXP laptop had booted up… The irony was not lost on me.
But to be honest there is a "buzz" here this year. For the first time in a few years people can actually believe MS's messages. For many years we were being told "no – you, the customer, are wrong – Vista is actually great". This year, Microsoft, and the audience, have something to be genuinely excited about. Windows 7 is a great OS – raising the bar for consumers and businesses. It does what an OS should do – it makes it easy to access what you want to access in a fast and secure manner – it helps you work – it does not get in the way. Ultimately, with all the hype around new operating systems (Win 7, Snow Leopard etc), it is easy to think that the OS is actually important. It is NOT. A good OS should not be noticed, except in your improved productivity.
The cloud-based e-mail services (and more importantly, the simple migration and management capabilities) were also showcased. In many respects it is beginning to make sense NOT to have e-mail in the cloud.
The first non-plenary session I attended was on Oslo – the "SOA enabler" from Microsoft. While the session got too technical too quickly (as they all do at TechEd – although I appreciate I am not the target audience for this event), it was interesting to notice that the room was full to bursting. SOA would appear to be alive and kicking in the MS community in Australia (well – at least interest levels are!).
Initial thoughts from the event are that we can expect to hear and see a LOT about Windows 7 over the next six months or so. Expect your Microsoft account managers to be calling you more often than usual, particularly with the new cloud-based services beginning to be offered in the market, and with Office 2010 around the corner (and the associated SaaS modules). It is interesting that Microsoft seems to be embracing cloud-based solutions – but they are making sure they manage the transition to cloud at a pace that suits them…