I guess it doesn't really matter, but as I'm writing this, I'm not sure what the
official name of the event I attended today actually was. The phrase
"Heroes Happen Here" was used a lot, as was "Launch Event".
But since these are apparently taking place around the world for the next few months,
I also heard the phrase "Launch Wave Event" a few times.
Well, whatever you call it, if you're interested in what Microsoft is up to these days
and you're able to find one close to you, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Note: Looking back at the top of my agenda, it looks like the official
name is the "Microsoft 2008 Launch Wave".
It's obviously not a coincidence that Microsoft launches multiple products at a time.
With the release of the new server platform, they need to release the new development
tools. They did it with Windows Server 2003 and Visual Studio .NET 2003.
A couple years later it was Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006.
This time around the products in the mix are Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008,
and SQL Server 2008.
What this means is that, while you can always find Microsoft events to attend, you don't want
to miss these big launch events because they only come around every couple years.
As with most events these days, registration was handled prior to the event. The day before
my event was scheduled, I received a confirmation email with a barcode to be print and take
with me. Upon arrival, they simply scanned the barcode, handed me my welcome bag, and ushered me
into the Partner Expo.
Breakfast / Lunch
Along one side of the Partner Expo room were three tables covered with little black cooler bags.
You were given the choice of a cooler labeled Chicken, Turkey, or Vegetable. Thinking these were odd
choices for breakfast, it quickly dawned on me that this was lunch as well. I opted for the turkey.
The breakfast portion included a muffin (there were various flavors, mine ended up being banana-nut),
a cup of yogurt (though the utensil pack did not include a spoon), an apple, a granola bar, and a
bottle of orange juice. Not too shabby.
The bottom half of the cooler did in fact contain lunch. Considering what often passes for food
at this type of event, the turkey sandwich was quite good and even included bacon! A bottle of
water, another apple, and a Snickers bar rounded out the meal and left me relatively impressed.
The food was nothing fancy, but as far as box lunches go, it was quite good and the reusable
cooler if came in was quite nice as well.
The Partner Expo (aka. The Race for Goodies)
The least important (yet most fun) reason not to miss these events is that they always
have the best goodies. Sure you end up giving your contact information to every
company that can afford a booth in the partner pavillion, but isn't that why SPAM
filters were created? In all seriousness, the goodies were above average, but still
nothing to write home about.
Fujitsu stood out with two of the best pieces of swag... a rubber duckie and
a LED keychain flashlight. Either one alone would have put them near the top
of the list. Offering both sealed the deal.
Other offerings included a couple of
T-shirts, a Starbucks gift card, a monitor sweeper, an AC to USB wall charger,
miscellaneous flashing LED thingies, an odd coaster from MSDN, a useful but
hideously ugly green bag from Dell, and curiously enough another rubber
duckie... this one orange.
The free pens they hand you to fill out the request for information forms get cheaper
every year... in all but two cases I handed them back in with the forms.
Blue Ridge Networks offered a BIC Grip Roller (a long-time favorite of mine)
and while Idera's bright orange model was actually pretty cheap, it looked cool
and actually wrote half way decently as well.
I've manned my share of trade show booths and trust me... it's not fun. As a result,
I make it a point to try and hit most of the booths just to see how good a job everyone
is doing. Overall the results were mixed. I won't call out the people who fell short, but
I would like to give a mention to the guys from
Wintec Industries. They were there to
highlight their memory and HDMI cards as well as a new WinHomeServer chassis.
They were professional, friendly, and even helpful despite wave after wave of
attendees looking for nothing more than free stuff.
Keynote and Tracks
Normally this is where I would tell you about all the cool new stuff like
Hyper-V, IIS 7, Server Core, and how Windows Server 2008 is now secure by default.
But, this time I'm not going to do that. The reason I'm not going to is because
Microsoft did something relatively interesting. They posted all the sessions online
so that you can experience them all for yourself.
So... I'm not going to waste your time going over what the keynote and various
sessions covered. Check out the links at the end
of the article for links to the Heroes Happen Here site and the Virtual
Launch Experience. The Virtual Launch Experience is quite cool. You can watch
the keynote and attend sessions at your convenience. It's almost as good as
actually being there.
I will let you know that aside from the keynote, the presentations were split into 4
different tracks that you could attend based on what you were most interested in:
I'd normally attend the developer track at an event like this, but I've already been using
Visual Studio 2008 for a while now, so I opted to attend the IT Pro track to learn more about
the cool new features in Windows Server 2008.
According to the event site, I was expecting to receive NFR copies of each of the products being
launched. And I did... sort of. The Windows Server 2008 licences are actually one year evaluation
licenses... a little disappoining. The Visual Studio 2008 Standard Edition seems to be a full
version that doesn't expire. As for SQL Server, the kit contains a CTP version. To get the
release version you need to register and it'll be shipped to you when it's available.
The one surprise on the sofware front was that Microsoft gave each attendee a full NFR version
of Windows Vista Ultimate with Service Pack 1. I'm not sure if they're trying to boost
the Vista install base one developer at a time or if it was just a thank you for
taking the time to show up, but it was a nice little surprise that I, for one, wasn't expecting.
Like I said, I'm not going to waste your time rehashing all the cool stuff that is covered in the
sessions. The time you'd spend reading my take on them is probably better spent actually watching
them yourself. If you can get to a live event, it's certainly worth going... if you can't,
give the Virtual Launch Experience a try. You won't get the software or the goodies, but
you can still get the information.