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Tech-Ed: Silverlight Goes Silverdark

You know the old adage: "It ain't a conference until some poor schmuck loses his job for mangling a demo."

Well, the Microsoft Tech-Ed 2008 developers confab reached conference status right off the bat, when Microsoft's Webcast of Bill Gates' anticipated keynote address failed to...well, cast.

Unlucky journos and developers stuck in the hinterlands (that is, outside of the Orlando Convention Center) enjoyed an endless loop of peppy, spacey music as they waited for the live Silverlight feed of Gates' speech to kick off. It never did.

According to Microsoft folks, the Silverlight Webcast fell victim to technical difficulties. While both a transcript and stored video of Gates' presentation were being made available online after the fact, neither action remedies the collective abuse suffered by eardrums worldwide, as hopeful attendees sat and waited.

I eventually found an alternate, non-Silverlight ASX video feed on MSDN. That, at least, put an end to the music loop.

Now, I'm not one to make cheap judgments. But if I'm Bill Gates, pitching enterprise-class, mission-critical foundation technologies like the Oslo application modeling and repository project and the newly announced Velocity in-memory distributed application caching technology, I am not pleased.

Silverlight had a chance to do its thing in front of thousands of attentive developers worldwide. This was a real opportunity missed.

We're covering the Tech-Ed proceedings online at But here are a few quick thoughts on the session:

Best Demo: In the interest of full disclosure, I despise demos. But the look into the architectural design tooling in Visual Studio Team System by Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry was pretty compelling.

Scariest moment: Without doubt, the Ballmer Bot. When the 3-foot-tall robot, topped with an LCD screen displaying Steve Ballmer's mug, started chanting, "Developers, developers, developers," I briefly feared I might pass out. Amusing, yes, but too scary, man.

Best Audience Question: The Q&A sessions included developer Bill King's query about the disconnect between Visual Studio and SharePoint. Gates admitted that SharePoint has grown into a true development platform and that the SharePoint product needs to advance to support the types of applications it is now hosting. Look for SharePoint to get a lot of attention in the year to come.

Channeling Roger Ebert: Microsoft has done plenty of video spots over the years, and the 15-minute spoof chronicling Bill's last days at Redmond is a credible effort. The segment with Matthew McConaughey bringing his loose-limbed, stoner-inspired humor in the role of Bill's personal trainer is outstanding. Alas, this thing was one hard-nosed edit away from being brilliant, but the unfunny political cameos and long-winded parade of celebs weighed it down. Bonus points to Brian Williams for his crack about Bill's $7 haircuts.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/03/2008

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