Microsoft TechEd 2009 lacked drama, excitement

At this week’s TechEd conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft did not present a vision. But that’s okay. That’s not what the conference attendees were looking for.

This may have been the least interesting TechEd that I’ve attended. Granted, I haven’t been to all of Microsoft’s TechEd conferences, but I have attended most of the U.S. events, so there’s plenty of context.

Monday’s low-energy keynote set a low-energy tone for the entire week. While the 7,000-odd attendees uniformly loved the quality of the technical classes, there was no buzz, no theme, no excitement.

The keynote session was chaired by Bill Veghte, senior VP of the company’s Windows business. He gave a general rah-rah about Microsoft’s commitment to growing R&D spending, and emphasized how the company wants to help developers and IT pros succeed in turbulent times.

From there, the keynote moved into a too-long preview of Windows 7, SQL Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2, along with a bit about Office 2010. Veghte and the other presenters cherry-picked a few features of these products to highlight, but there was little reaction from the audience — most of whom were already up-to-speed on these products.

(One of the few applause moments came when Iain McDonald, general manager of Windows Server, told the audience that Windows Server 2008 R2 is “going to be 64-bit only – get over it!”)

From there, TechEd moved into what it does best: technical education. Interestingly, Microsoft’s “hot button” emerging technology topics — virtualization and Windows Azure-based cloud computing — weren’t top-of-mind for the attendees I chatted with. Their focus was very practical: administering Windows Server and SharePoint Server, managing SQL Server, customizing Office, writing and deploying Web applications. (Come to think of it, not a single person mentioned Exchange. I wonder why?)

TechEd. Lots of training, not much vision, not much energy. Let’s see what it’s like next year, next June in New Orleans. In the meantime, mark your calendar for Microsoft PDC back in L.A. on November 17-20.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick