MS Launch: Random Thoughts

I’ve been to lots of Microsoft product launches in my day… and yesterday’s launch of Windows Server 2008 – Visual Studio 2008 – SQL Server 2008 was no exception. Some random thoughts about the event:

The presenter was good. Yesterday’s presenter was young(ish), bald, energetic, slightly goofy, and easy to understand. Which was a huge plus, since Charlotte usually has some English guy that mumbles and stammers (ever seen The Simpsons or Family Guy do an impression of Hugh Grant? He’s just like that.)

The material was pretty good. I don’t know if Microsoft considers Charlotte to be a second- or third-tier market, but most MS events in this area work this way: some guy (and it’s usually a guy) that might (or might not) have good public speaking skills is picked to host an event. He then picks his favorite 800 new features in [product]. He then sets up virtual machine demos for each of those 800 new features. At the presentation, he begins by giving an overview of the new features in [product], then starts the demos. By demo 4, he’s figured out that he can’t possibly do all 796 remaining demos in the time alloted… but instead of choosing his 10 favorite (or the “most important”) features from the remaining demos and carrying them to completion, he’ll try to blast his way through the remaining 796 demos, barely getting 3 steps into some 19 step process. So after demo 4, most of the rest of his demos are like this: “OK, the next cool new feature of Windows Vista is “Previous Versions”… I have a demo here and… OK, here’s what we do… we open a Word document… and delete all the text in it [audience gasps]… we then save the document [audience gasps louder]… OK, so your user has now accidentally overwritten the document, right? Well, we just right-click the document… and click the “Previous Version” tab… and you can see the document’s history… I’m going to pick the version I saved last night… annnnnnddd… annndddd… you’ll have to forgive me, folks, I’ve got 5 virtual machines running on this laptop… Hmmmm.. well, if we had the time, you’d see the same document as before, instantly restored. OK, so on to User Access Control!” It’s annoying – thankfully, yesterday’s event had none of that.

The schwag was… Attendees received copies of Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and the CTP of SQL Server 2008 (with the option to get the full version when released). This is nothing to sneeze at, of course… it’s several thousand dollars worth of free software. But there were no t-shirts, no pens, no notepads. Heck, I was even expecting to get a bunch of ads and “special offers” from the “launch partners” in a plastic bag along with the software. But no – all I got was the software, held in place by a rubber band:

MS Schwag

That is exactly what was handed to me. Man, is MS getting cheap or what? They also sprang for “breakfast”, which was a paper bag with a blueberry muffin, orange, apple, granola bar and “fun size” Baby Ruth and Milky Way bars. People in larger cities reported that they got their breakfast in “nifty insulated plastic lunch bags” (like this). I just got a damn paper bag!

The Server 2008 license is interesting. The Windows Server 2008 license is technically valid for only 1 year. It is not timebombed in any way, and our presenter said that Microsoft has no problem with anyone using this software for as long as they want, provided that they don’t use it on a production machine. So why the “1 year EULA limit”? It’s apparently because if they gave away shrink-wrapped copies, they’d have to have everyone fill out a 1099 form and pay tax on it. This way, MS can claim that it’s a “demo version” and the value is therefore zero. What’s surprising is that our presenter told us all this straight-up. MS is basically thumbing their noses at the Treasury Department, and is plainly, out in the open, telling everyone that this is a tax dodge!

The Charlotte Convention Center is weird. Charlotte’s new light rail system has a line running directly through the Convention Center. The smoking decks are right next to the rail lines… as in, I could have spit on a passing train if I wanted to. The trains run on electricity, and there are some high-voltage tracks out there… so there are signs out in the smoking areas warning people to NOT jump the rail in case of fire, but instead of go back inside the building and exit on 2nd Street. I know this sounds snarky, but I’ve always heard that the last thing you want to do in case of fire is go back inside a burning building. Hmmmm.

The Westin is funny! When you take the College Street exit from I-277, you’re dumped onto College, which is a one-way street. I normally pass the Westin Hotel’s parking deck to park at a lot directly across from the Convention Center. This time, I opted to park at the Westin (which turned out to be a good move, as the lot I would have parked in was full, and it’s giant pain in the ass to get back to the Westin deck). Anyway, as I stood waiting for the elevator in the Westin parking deck, I noticed some business cards in a holder mounted just above the call button. The cards said “You are parked on level…”. Westin has cards with the parking level printed on them, so you can remember where you parked when it’s time to leave. It’s a nice touch… only the name of my parking level was…

Westin Parking

Sweet! Westin named their parking deck after a bowel movement!

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