So I've finally managed to see America. TechReady 5 is a twice yearly technical readiness event that Microsoft runs for employees. What is great about this event is that it rings together people in the field (like me) who are trying to sell/implement Microsoft tech. face to face with the product guys who write this brilliant software. My favourite bit would have to be the incredibledemos that you get to see in the general sessions.
The other day they demoed the next gen virtualization technology in Server 2008. That guy was adding servers like crazy! By the time this technology hits there's going to be cobwebs in most windows data centers because the ops people will never actually have to go in to do anything. Not even to add new servers! Nope, you do that using the new virtual machine management software. Pretty incredible when you think about it. By doing this, they've just gone and abstracted the wires and the cables and the messy work right out of an operations employees' life.
Silverlight continues to wow and show great potential. As of 1.1 (which I believe is available as an alpha) the silverlight runtime is effectively a stripped down CLR. The really great thing here is the great tool support that you get right off the bat. There's Orcas (Visual Studio 2008) which will let you do silverlight projects and there's Expression Blend which is a great tool for generating XAML with an interface graphic designers are going to identify right away. I know Microsoft will get slammed about trying to copy Flash with Silverlight. But as a former Flash developer (back in the days of Flash MX) I can tell you I would've sold my soul for the sort of tools that Silverlight's got. For one thing there's actual debugging support in Silverlight, which is one area where I found Flash sorely lacking.
Then there's the whole buzz around Office. What is so surprising is how quickly the whole concept of an Office application and an office developer has matured. Up until early last year writing an office add-in or an office based application used to be this dark art that few people had mastered. It used to be all about getting office to interop with your code and writing ugly shims that sat between nice clean managed code and the dark underbelly of office. The coming of VSTO and open XML has revolutionized office client applications. What is even more brilliant is products like sharepoint and project server that have given office and office users the ability to stretch themselves across the enterprise.
Ooh, and this has to be mentioned! Saw Bill gates in the flesh in one of the general sessions. Can't say it gave me goose bumps (the guy's just so normal looking) but it's not everyday you get to see the wealthiest man in the world up close! 😀