Blogger: Larry Cannell
Today is the final day for the FASTforward 2009 Conference. This is the fourth year it has been held but the first one planned, developed and run under Microsoft management. Now, I have been to many Microsoft enterprise IT conferences, but this one is different from any other I’ve attended.
Granted, there has been plenty of corporate speak, the occasional mind-numbing speaker (note to self: pacing, mumbling, and having no slides to help listeners follow you is not a good idea), and the obligatory sales pitches (from both Microsoft and FAST speakers). However, a number of things jumped out at me this week that may reflect changes coming to Microsoft or may just be anomalies which the corporate immune system will soon correct:
- FASTForward 2009 had the coolest Contoso and Litware demos I've ever seen at a Microsoft Conference. For those of you not familiar with these names, Contoso and Litware are pseudo-companies Microsoft often uses in mock-ups to show off their technology. For example, instead of the staid, boring default SharePoint themes showing how Litware manages their documents, this week we saw a cool website featuring David Bowie!
- It is strange to be at a Microsoft conference and hear words assuring customers that their investments in Linux and Unix-based solutions are safe.
- Although I’ve heard Microsoft people refer to “user experience” at previous conferences (usually in passing), this week’s speakers talk about user experience like they mean it.
- I haven’t seen any bloggers make note of this, but in Clay Shirky’s keynote Monday afternoon, products from Microsoft competitors (IBM’s Dogear and Apple’s iPod) played important roles in his examples. I am sure someone from Microsoft reviewed these slides but they were left in anyway. Maybe not a big deal but there are many companies that would not have allowed this, regardless if they were expressing interesting ideas.
Time will tell if these changes extend beyond this conference. Do they reflect a change at Microsoft? Are they a reflection of an aging company going through a mid-life crisis trying to find its new identify? What do you think?