On Monday morning at about 5:30 AM I hopped in my car to drive into San Francisco for the Microsoft Launch event at the Moscone center. To my surprise, I actually got there in an hour. (The toll plaza area can keep you for half an hour by itself sometimes...). So I took a little morning nap in my car until 7:30 until I met up with a friend for breakfast at Mel's Drive In. While we sat by the window having breakfast, we noticed several taxi's circling the block ever couple of minutes that had "Visual Studio 2005", "SQL Server 2005", "Biztalk 2006" and "November 7th" covering them - an interesting marketing approach.
Around 8:15 AM I arrived at the "Moscone Center West" and took the escalator up to the 2nd floor where registration was at. A fairly long line had already formed but I made it through in about 15 minutes. A "welcome bag" of goodies accompanied registration, along with the usual attendee badge flare. For Ballmers' keynote, I think it was just dumb luck that I got to sit up in the "VIP" area - my friend had a "VIP" badge, so when our badges were checked when approaching the VIP seating area, he got through and since my badge was turned backwards (not purposefully, just by chance...I didn't even know the "VIP" designation was on the badges...) I got in by association and got to sit about 5 rows back from the stage.
The room ended up pretty packed.
A few minutes past 9 AM and they unveiled the "mystery" band - Cheap Trick:
Then Ballmer came out:
Ballmer's keynote went on for about an hour and a half - a few different people came up for demos (as usual) and then afterwards we were free to attend the sessions of our choice. I mostly attended the developer track sessions before lunch and dropped by a few different cabanas periodically to try and hear if anything interesting was being discussed. Before and during lunch I went into the Hands-On Labs room where about 100 computers were set up so anyone could come sit down and try out the products themselves. I mostly used it as an opportunity to play solitaire and minesweeper while I ate my lunch, and to play around a little in Windows Forms 2.0. Microsoft provided about 10 people in the Hands-On Labs room that went around and helped people that had questions - it seemed like that room got packed early and stayed packed for the rest of the day.
In the vendor booth area they had the OC Chopper Bike on display:
After lunch I went to the "Data Platform Track" room (across the hall from the Hands-On Labs room) to hear about SQL Server 2005 features. I heard Dave Campbell talk about some of the interesting new features related to Scalability and Security. Then later on, Euan Garden held a session that focused on the new SQL Server Management Studio - that looks to be aggregating the functionality previously offered by Enterprise Manager, Analysis Services Manager, and Query Analyzer - all in one nice multi-threaded tool. They even demo'd some cool features related to Dynamic Management Views and how they make use of Reporting Services in Management Studio to display reports about the server - basically putting an understandable view on the usually cryptic data provided by the DBCC commands. What made Euan's session even more fun was the attire he made the presenters wear during their time on stage - I have no idea where Euan came up with this - you'll have to ask him:
After the SQL Management Studio demo - things started winding down as everyone went to pick up their free software and some snacks as we waited for the night of fun to start at 6:30 PM. Finally we were let upstairs to the 3rd floor where the AC/DC cover band "AC/DShe" was rocking out:
Their lead singer ("Bonny Scott" a.k.a Amy Ward) really got into it and had guys handing her beers and singing into the mic when she would point it towards the crowd:
After AC/DShe finished their set, Mikey from Orange County Choppers came on stage to let everyone know Paul Sr. was bringing the bike up - at which time you could hear the chopper engine from the other end of the floor. Something else funny - he kept on saying "F*** Oracle!" and got a lot of the people in the crowd chanting it with him:
After that, there was lots of great food and beverages for everyone. Prize drawings (65 inch HDTV's stuff like that) and celebritiy look-a-like picture taking and picture taking with the guys from Orange County Choppers:
Lots of gaming too - both at the XBox kiosk's
and on some big-screens:
There was also a big game room open for anyone that preferred old fasioned games like pool, air hockey, or foosball:
I got to chat a little with Carl Franklin and his co-host Richard Campbell after they interviewed Eddy for a little while. After catching a couple of songs by Cheap Trick (who played later that night) I decided to call it a night and drove home.
All in all, it was a really good time - lots of cheap stuff on sale at the "Microsoft Store" they had setup by the vendor booths, lots of free software, good deals at the book store they had there, and good food and lots of good, smart people to chat with. There wasn't much talk of anything Ajax, Google, Web 2.0, etc. by anybody - just a lot of focus on the software being released and how it's going to make our lives a little easier - which is always a good thing. I hope this post encourages other people to attend the Launch event closest to them - it might not be as big of a show as the launch here was - but it's worth the time, especially if you're new to the 2005 products or even if you just want to mingle and network with other people in the industry. If anyone wants to know more or has questions feel free to contact me via the contact form.