So I have now spent a couple of days at TechEd – attending sessions when possible, and meeting with some Microsoft executives to discuss their strategies in more detail, I have also spoken with the "real" attendees at the event when possible (after sessions, in coffee queues, etc) to get their take on the proceedings.
As hypothesized in my first blog post, my first impressions were correct. Microsoft is a much more positive organisation – no longer apologising for its past sins (Vista, Windows Mobile 6 etc) but looking forward to better times where solid and reliable platforms, such as Windows 7 and Windows Mobile 6.5 will help their customers to make better use of the great platofrms that already exist within their customer base (such as Exchange, SQL Server. Windows Server and SharePoint).
The focus of the event was definitely on Windows 7. Windows Mobile 6.5 received a good billing too. There was considerably less focus on the Dynamics business applications compared to previous years – and the same can probably be said for the major server platforms, such as Exchange and SQL Server. Mind you this may reflect the "stream" of presentations that I attended and the execs I met – although when I searched the agenda, there were very few "strategic" presentations around these platforms – they were all very hands on or practical sessions (i.e. there were sessions titles "Top 10 reasons to upgrade to Windows 7", but as far as I could see, there were no sessions spouting the benefits of Exchange – most of the Exchange sessions assumed customers already had Exchange). The Unified Communications push is definitely still there too.
The netbook experiement was interesting. I was hoping the 2,500 netbooks would be loaded up with heaps of social networking goodies – but they weren't. The opportunity for the major social technology experiment was lost – but there was still the Microsoft Live Communications Suite loaded onto the devices – and all users were given a three month trial of the service. This service DID allow attendees to contact the speakers and other Microsoft reps with questions and comments – something that would have been limited otherwise to the few breaks between sessions. It has increased the contact and communications between attendees and between the attendees and the Microsoft speakers – so conceptually more of the attendees will get their questions answered at the event, as opposed to go away wondering.
One area of potential improvement for Microsoft regarding the enterprise roll-out of Windows 7, should be in better exposing the many short cuts and management tools to the IT support staff responsible for rolling out and supporting the new OS. There are many tools that Microsoft has written to make it easier to roll out and manage Windows 7, but more could be done in bringing these tools together as a bundle, and exposing these tools to the target users. I feel that at the moment they have not done a good enough job in marketing or educating users on these capabilities. Having them all brought together as a single "suite" or perhaps having a role-based view on which tools would be useful to certain roles (i.e. Level 1 help desk staff, deployment managers etc) would also increase their exposure and ensure companies get the full value from the work that Microsoft has done in the development of these tools.
But overall the general message that Microsoft customers and prospects should take away from the event is that the company is more focused than ever on the success of their customers. Their technologies have been tweaked for the new generation of users entering the workforce, while at the same time making them more stable and usable for their existing users. Windows 7 should hopefully do what an operating system is designed to do – make users more productive than they would have been otherwise – make it easy to do things on the computer and online, and abstract the technology level to a point that users shouldn't need to care.
Were you at TechEd – do you have any comments? Feel free to add them below, or e-mail they to me at tsheedy at forrester dot com.