Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Windows Connections: Flight and Keynote

Yesterday was a long day. It began much earlier than normal because of the very sad news about the death of my friend Bob Andrews. There were friends to write, condolences to prepare and phone calls to make.

The flights from Toronto to Phoenix and then from Phoenix to San Diego were full of spectacular scenery, but the day was really only half-way through by the time I took the shuttle bus to W San Diego and got settled into my hotel room. The Manchester Grand Hyatt, where the Windows Connections conference is actually located, is about a 20-minute walk from my hotel, so, despite my initial worries about safety, I did the walk and got registered.

The conference material is incredibly well done, with a CD of all the slide presentations as well as a 600-page book for the Windows Connections sessions and another similarly sized book for the Exchange Connections conference. It’s been a long time since I attended a conference like this, and I have to admit that the organizers have done a spectacular job.

The opening keynote addresses from Perry Clarke of Microsoft and Mark Minasi was, however, a very mixed bag. Yes, I was getting very tired by the time the keynotes started, but Perry’s presentation on the future of Exchange (specifically Exchange 12) was not, in my view, very well done at all. The Elizabeth Ballroom was packed with over 500 IT types (I’d say about 90% male, as usual), there were 3 large screens and the sound system was fine, but Perry’s presentation lacked coherence and he seemed bereft of any energy that night.

Mark Minasi was another story entirely. He is a very gifted public speaker who knows how to blend laughter and insight. His presentation was on the future of Microsoft operating systems. Mark was able to articulate for me the inchoate feelings that had been developing for me about Vista, SQL Server 2005, Internet Explorer 7.0, Vista and Vista Server. As you might expect, it’s a good news/bad news scenario.

But the best sarcasm was held for Windows Server 2003 R2, the incremental update for the server operating system that Microsoft is expecting SMBs to pay for instead of providing it free of charge to existing customers (there is a group exception for those paying for Software Assurance, something which only makes sense for large customers). The only truly useful feature of R2, in Mark’s opinion, is the new printer management console.

Even Vista seems mainly about flash and the “beautiful” (Microsoft’s new adjective to replace “rich” and “crisp”) user interface. The good news on Vista is the direction Microsoft is taking on making it possible to administer operating systems through the GUI, from scripts (through MONAD) and then to automatically create GPOs from either the user interface or the scripts. This is useful stuff.

Anyway, so much for the first day. Now, let’s see what happens today.

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