Last week, I hung out with 16,000 of my closest Microsoft friends in Toronto at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. It was my 9th conference and each year has a unique theme and focus.
This year had decidedly different theme, one that was quite subdued. The stated theme was, “A New Era. Together.” The subtext seemed to be, “Hang in there with us; we’re getting better.”
Steve Ballmer was kept on a tight leash during his day 1 presentation. Instead of his usual enthusiastic rants and dances on stage, he was interviewed by an editor from Forbes. The interview format kept Ballmer focused, moderate and sometimes inaudible (due to microphone issues). This interview was baffling in itself, seeing how just a week before, Forbes had summarized a Vanity Fair article blasting Ballmer. But I suppose that’s a topic for another time.
Kevin Turner focused on R&D investments and product development, citing that, “Every single product in our portfolio is getting refreshed and re-launched in a 12-month cycle . . . [it is the] single largest release cycle in our history.” There was almost an apologetic note to his comments, as he ended with this slide about our common reality that proclaimed, “See it as it is. But not worse than it is.” How’s that for a rallying cry?
Even special keynote speaker, Deepak Chopra seemed a bit subdued. The content was inspiring, if you could wade through his monotone delivery.
From the technology perspective, the overarching conference themes were:
- Win the consumer (smartphones, tablets)
- Win the future of productivity (Office 15 and Office 365)
- Win the infrastructure (cloud, on prem and hybrids)
Office 365 was this year’s technological darling. Big Data was a big topic (pun intended), but case studies were few. One of the coolest presentations was from Tami Reller, who showcased Windows 8 on a variety of platforms and showed the latest hardware from Asus, Acer, HP and Lenovo (they even have a laptop called the Yoga!).
From a BI perspective, there were some inspiring and worthwhile moments:
- There are now SQL connectors to Hadoop opening up opportunities in big data
- Microsoft is “very close” to feature parity for BI in the cloud
- The VTSP program will continue, allowing us to work in tandem with Microsoft to solve customers’ most pressing BI problems
- We can expect increased velocity for SQL releases in both cloud and traditional platforms
- Microsoft’s BI mobility roadmap is expected later this year
Next year WPC will be in Houston (in July!) Hopefully, next year’s conference will be as smokin’ as the weather.