TechEd Days 3 and 4 aka MEDC

Exchange, Microsoft, Mobility
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As I’ve blogged before, I love TechEd because its such a big buffet of Microsoft technologies, bringing the best, brightest and most successful presentations to what is frankly “the mix” of both developer and system administrator worlds. Truth is, those roles are crossing now, successful system administrators need to have some development and code troubleshooting skills, developers need to be cognizant of security and how components interact. And if you’re learning, might as well take it from the best.

The last two days at TechEd have been my miniature MEDC, which is the king of mobile developer conferences (as a matter of fact, it stands for Microsoft Mobile and Embedded DevCon); I’ve been working in the green section with the UC team answering questions about Exchange, antispam, SMTP and frankly mostly migration and infrastructure optimization types of questions – how many servers, in what topology, what sort of failover, etc. It’s a very hopping place during lunch, after sessions end and so on. But between that I’m pretty much just standing around with the Microsoft developers and product managers, talking about development and.. well.. what else.. pimping software

Meeting The People That Make Me Rich

It’s always a pleasure to meet people that have made a material impact to your bottom line. What makes it extra special is when those are the people you really look up to because they are amazingly creative and solve some of the biggest problems you have.

I’ve blogged about Alex Nikolayev who owns the SMTP part of Microsoft Exchange. Yeah, you read that right – that small chunk of code in Exchange that moves mail to/from the Internet, implements IMF and the big security plugs. I got to catch up with Alex yesterday and talk about “the future” and the present.

While I can’t talk about the future, I can talk about the present. I told him what a difference the Hub Transport Rules have been making for us as of late and he asked if I wanted to be introduced to the person that designed all that. Would I? So, a minute later I started chatting to Naveen Chand who asked all sorts of questions about our implementation, if I had any ideas/suggestions for the next release?


Then it went mobile..

At some point after the UC overload yesterday I trolled over to the Mobility “ring” – they have about 20 devices in a large circle booth, all running Windows Mobile 6. Over half of these devices are the ones you only read about at MoDaCo and Engadget, so you can imagine the “kid in the candy store” experience.

Mobility… is huge. Nearly every theatre event is packed, something that was not quite the case last year. This year even the development sessions were packed. I sat on the floor through two presentations and it just goes to show you that TechEd is a $2K event worth a heck of a lot more.

Now, I don’t get star struck a lot but I definitely had this event with Jason Langridge circled on my schedule for a while. Not just because so many Microsofties have told me that its the best presentation on mobility, ever, but because Jason is one of the most prominent Microsoft bloggers.

And man were they right. Today I went to the second part of the Mobile Demo Extravaganza and not only was the theatre packed but the standing room outside was packed. Rightfully so, if I had this presentation recorded 100% of my customers would be on Windows Mobile devices, not that orange/green puke Microsoft produces, but I digress.

The demo presentation showcased the OS, the gadgets, third party software, applications, uses.. it simply would not stop. Dan Arildson and Jason Langridge knocked this one out of the park that I’m dedicating a separate blog post to all that was demonstrated there.


As a bit of swag for attending everyone got some egrips. This is one product that nobody on the mobile team could stop talking about. It’s a little applicator you glue to your phone to stop it from sliding around. They also sell larger strips, so you can coat your entire phone for extra texture and stop it from slipping out of your hand.

Kind of appropirate to note the post mentioning that british people drop 850,000 phones in the toilet a year. If you have slippery hands this might be it for you.


The big questions

What do mobility guys use as their cell phone? It seems to be a split. US guys seem to be all about Dash and Blackjack, from what I can tell. Others are using that HTC 710 smartphone candybar with the slideout keyboard. While I must admit its a very slick device and works very well, the keyboard is just too small for my taste. To be fair, it’s not the keys that are small, but the space bar that is small, so thumbing around would prove difficult.


I made a point to go and introduce myself to all of the guys in this area because Exchange and mobility stuff are tied in together. And with all the development work going on at OWN centered at mobility I really wanted to offer some suggestions and get an idea of what they are up to so I can adjust our roadmaps.

First and foremost, I wanted to thank them for not going after aggressively. Truth of the matter is, xda-developers is the best resource on the net for professional developers and Windows Mobile enthusiasts. You can get a clue about whats going on with these devices long before they become Engadget eye-candy. This site got into some hot water for hosting roms (images of Microsoft OS and utilities that basically make up the Windows Mobile device) and have been asked to pull them. But it doesn’t appear to have gotten far past that. The reasoning for thanking them for keeping that site alive? Well, it keeps us informed. It also gives us transparency and the look at the technologies that Microsoft is working on. When we write software, we base it on the platform that the company will be buying for the app. So, at the moment we are writing for WM5 and above, above which we wouldn’t have seen until a month or so ago when the emulators showed up. Second, most of us are such enthusiasts that we’re the first ones out there buying the stuff when it gets released! The only people this is really bad for are the carriers which don’t want the lifecycle of the device extended.

Second, I voiced the concerns so many of us in the developer community have with the management of digital signatures. Before your application can be installed on the device it has to be signed. If its not, it thows a nasty error at the user. Siging apps through Mobile Marketplace used to be a fee per DLL signed, now its per cab file. So imagine the cost of correcting a typo or a mistake, etc.

Third, I asked where they were going with the AJAX on PocketIE. This is huge, believe it or not. AJAX, or “partial screen rendering” allows you to take a piece of the IE web page and load information in it without reloading the entire page. This is important if you have a slower GPRS/EDGE connection and the response time just starts killing the user experience. The problem in that case is that users panic when they are about to make a change and their connection just dies. They stop it, attempt to reload (repost) and things just fall apart from there. Well, AJAX is partially supported in PocketIE on WM6 so the future looks good.


Spent the last hour or so in a presentation on programming Exchange Web Services. Then I went to hang out with Jim Harrison who clued me in on COM integration available via PowerShell. Finally decided to call it a day and skip out on the big party at Universal Studis. I’ve spent the past two days in labs, classes and theatre presentations. My OneNote is really getting overweight at this point but so far TechEd has been phenomenal.

Last day… First checking out Alex’s presentations, then trying to see if I can finally meet Eileen Brown. BTW, I am purpousely holding off on blogging technical details about whats going down in these sessions, will be putting together a more extensive report after TechEd is over and I’ve had a chance to collect my thoughts and impressions. What a week.

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