Thursday, March 03, 2005

Microsoft DevDays 2005 The Netherlands

Being a lead-developer within my company I spend the last two days at the Microsoft DevDays 2005. Our company is not 100% Microsoft orientated (we in fact often program in non Microsoft programming languages as well), but we also extensively work with the Microsoft platform and .NET. So off I went.

Overall I must say I found it a big disappointment. Not just because of the snow-storm that stranded me in Den Hague (Dutch city), due to public transportation breaking down. Normally I would have gone by car, but as I am hopeless when it comes to directions, unfamiliar with Den Hague (a city notorious for it's endless traffic jams and impossible mazes of roads) and the weather was impossible, I thought "why not give public transportation a try? They go from my door to the congress centre's door directly).

I mostly was disappointed at the very commercial and repetitive nature of the conference. It felt like all lectures where aimed at selling me a new product. Selling it towards developers that is. Showcasing all the new features and how great they where. Don't get me wrong, some features looked exceptionally yummy! I just don't need an over an hour lecture about them, I get it within 5 minutes. And the features that didn't interest me, well then a lecture really becomes quite long. Especially the pre-conference lecture of 4 hours! Then imagine a few sessions in essence covering the same material from a slightly different perspective.

I also must say I had trouble seeing the examples and sheets on most screens. In the smaller conference rooms you just couldn't see most due to people being in front of you, in the big conference hall the letters simply could not be read from large parts of the room. Despite them getting extra enlarged.

Overall it seemed like the presentation of two new products. Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. Which looks quite nice combined with their new team development options. In fact I really liked what I saw there. The other main product was SQL Server 2005. Which looks like it has gotten some nifty new features. The XML native support looks beyond yummy. In fact I wish MySQL would also get something like this for one of our own software products. The Service Broker also looked good (shame the follow up lecture about it was cancelled).

What made me less happy was the ability to fully code applications within SQL Server now, and especially their reporting service. I am sorry Microsoft, but it is giving me flashbacks of ill constructed "applications" in Access forms with Access Reports. I already heard a few people behind me say "oh, that is handy". I fear in the future we will see many ill constructed reports "application" with company critical information.

I must say I was also impressed with Indigo looks to offer. I will admit, the heat in the room at some point got to me and I had some trouble concentrating at some point due to that (also take into account I had been stranded in the cold for hours the day before and was over-excaused). What I caught however looked very promising. I hope it can live up to that promise, and not be the horror that SOAP is.

Overall I did find the entire conference to commercial, it where mostly sales pitches aimed at developers. And the endless amount of goodies you could win or get for free are nice, but I would have preferred more stands with actual INFORMATION. Not just the ability to win something. I guess walking away with a free USB key and all is fun, but I primarily would like some information, to expand my horizon and to gain new knowledge. This mostly was me seeing some new software products and what their new features are.

Side note: I've seen 1 presentation's demo code crash, in another presentation Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 crashed, and in another presentation it was mentioned he couldn't show some things as it would crash his laptop. I guess it's clear we are dealing with Microsoft here. Al through especially ironic as most of their new features are about "quality code" and "less bugs" :). Mind you, it's also a good lesson: do not demo beta software.

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