Tech-Ed 2010 Berlin – Was it worth it? A definitive Yes, but!

Tech-Ed 2010 is over and next year I will have to once again ask myself is it worth it? Standing at the Messe’s train station with around 3k other delegates (the other 3k at the taxi stand) I have no chance to board the first train that arrives, so as I wait for the next one I reflect a little.

To take away my summary, I will be coming back and it will still be one of the major events of the year. But Tech-Ed has lost some of its magic. Let me break that down into Content, Contacts and Context.

Content

The most important part of any conference (for me at least) is content. Different points of view, shiny new technology and buckets full of inspiration. Looking back the three big topics for me (both from my enterprise day-job and start-up dream world) were: OData, Sharepoint in the Cloud and (as always) process experience from those grandmasters of development.

Know-How and stories from CapGemini and the always entertaining Stephen Forte once again reminded me that where I work we have come so far from our early days but still have a long way to go. It is a never ending journey in a constantly changing field.

SharePoint is always interesting and the new Office 365 (the service formerly known as BPOS) offering brings SharePoint 2010 into the cloud. Azure was a hot topic and a couple of sessions tried to build a bridge between the cloud and SharePoint. What was presented seemed like early prototypes and not production ready yet, but we may soon see some ShareAzure or AzurePoint solutions utilizing the best of both worlds. A highlight was the chance to talk to Daniel McPherson (Twitter @danmc) about his upcoming SharePoint AppStore. It’s in beta at the moment and already great for the current BPOS offering. Can’t wait to see how it evolves and hopefully you’ll see some of my products there soon.

Last but not least OData. Before I came to Berlin I thought it was rather uninteresting. It took until the last session of the conference by (Austria’s own) Mario Szpuszta to really get my fired up about the possibilities. Together with the next Entity Framework (coming in Q1) and AppFabric I see a lot of potential to change (and simplify) some major parts of our standard architecture approach.

Finally Windows Phone 7 was the sexy topic of the conference. Sadly not for me since I’m not interested in consumer apps (yet) and the Enterprise story has been pushed to the next release. So that’s a topic for next year. (But it is a neat phone…)

Contacts

I was coming to Berlin expecting to see only a small group of fellow Austrians but I heard the group was larger than last year. But Tech-Ed is about the people you don’t meet so often. I enjoyed roaming the exhibition halls and technical learning center. The Microsoft product teams and invited guests were helpful, interested and just know their stuff. I wouldn’t mind visiting just the tlc every couple of months to talk with those guys about current (high-level, but they know the details too) issues. I’m usually not a big fan of exhibitions, but I visited almost every stand on the first day (during the Keynote) and got all the answers I was looking for and some others too.

Context

Up until now I have mostly praise for the conference. Sadly the context has been on a decline since I visited my first Tech-Ed in Barcelona. Each year recession has hit the conference and this year was no exception. Costs are cut at all ends. There was the lunch bag affair of ’08 (2 warm meals and 3 lunch bags on first, last and country drink day) and this year’s Turnbeutelbag drama. After talking with some Microsoft representatives it is clear that the conference is costly (even though it was sold out) and to be able to put on the show every year without making more loss that the year before they have to shave off some of the bonus material. I understand but I hope Tech-Ed finds back to it’s glory days. The event team improves the experience as best they can every year: the Berlin Messe is a labyrinth and the navigation was drastically improved this year, registration was swift, WIFI was very good and snacks were plenty.

To all who went and all who will be going, I hope to see you next year. Thanks everybody and stealing one of the lesser known Microsoft slogans: “Create Software – Change the World”. (What a dramatic ending…)

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