Tech Ed 2008: Things I Learned at Tech Ed 2008

After spending two weeks in the vicinity of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando attending both Tech Ed 2008 Developers and Tech Ed 2008 IT Professionals, I think I've learned a few things from the experience.

Verdict on the Split Show: Mixed
During both the Tech Ed Developers and IT Professionals shows, I asked quite a few vendors, attendees, and speakers about what they thought of splitting the show into two separate events. Nearly all attendees loved the idea, like Tom Wilkinson, an IT Pro I talked to during the developer week. "I think splitting the shows is a great idea...a few other guys I talked to have also been very pleased," says Wilkinson. "There are lots of topics to discuss, so splitting itself in two makes sense to me." Vendors tended to have a more negative reaction, with a few complaining about the need to choose between both events, while a few others grumbled about the lack of big Microsoft news to draw more press to the event. Regardless, the lifeblood of Tech Ed is always the thousands of hard-working IT Pros who attend the show to improve their skills, network with peers, and spend a few minutes on the Simpsons ride at Universal Studios.

Microsoft: No News is Good News
Other than news that Bill Gates made his last keynote address (at Tech Ed 2008 Developers last week), both Tech Ed shows were unusually barren as far as Microsoft news was concerned. Other than the upcoming release of Silverlight 2 and updates on Microsoft's growing virtualization product portfolio, there wasn't much in the way of Microsoft news to report. Perhaps the most important Microsoft news came from unofficial sources: Tech Ed Vendors and attendees. Based on discussions our editors had with both groups, it's clear than the explosive growth of SharePoint and increasing penetration of virtualization are on the minds of lots of people.

Welcome to the Future
Several members of the Windows IT Pro editorial team are former Microsoft employees, and they can attest that the relentless desire to keep improving and revising their product portfolio has helped make Microsoft the successful company it is to day. Yet based on some comments from show attendees, some of the sessions held at Tech Ed this year reveal that Microsoft wants to discuss using products that many IT pros haven't adopted yet, let alone know much about. The process of dogfooding -- extensively using their own software before releasing in to customers -- results in many Microsoft employees getting a false impression of how soon their products are being adopted by customers. Pushing the envelope is a good thing, but Microsoft sometimes forgets that their customers aren't always so eager to jump on the latest and greatest technology as soon as it's released. (See Vista, Windows.)

Silverlight: Look Out, Flash
With the news that Silverlight 2 is just on the horizon, it's beginning to look like Silverlight may have a very bright future ahead of it. The conventional wisdom is that web designers and creative types prefer flash, and that the legions of .NET developers have manys reasons to prefer Silverlight. I've thought for a long time that Flash is in dire need of competition, and Silverlight is shaping up to be the best alternative yet. True, Silverlight won't displace Flash overnight, and both will coexist on the market for the forseeable future. That said, it's unusual for Microsoft to be playing the underdog against a dominant player in the market. More competition is always a good thing, and I think our Web 2.0 experiences will be much better thanks to Microsoft putting the screws to Adobe/Macromedia.

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