DALLAS, May 30, 2003 — The annual TechEd conference has always been a prime opportunity for software developers and IT professionals to interact directly with Microsoft officials. At TechEd 2003, Microsoft shares the spotlight with a diverse crowd of technology-industry luminaries who specialize in helping customers, students and end users implement and use Microsoft technology.
Microsoft .NET technologies – which have rapidly captured the interest and imaginations of developers, academics and consumers – are prominently featured in TechEd 2003.
The 11th annual gathering, which starts Sunday and lasts through June 5, kicks off with a set of pre-conference tracks, presented by industry thought-leaders from a range of partner companies and academic institutions. The tracks are intended to help attendees gain objective insights into developing and deploying solutions using Microsoft technologies. In the process, these industry leaders can show their wares to a large audience of potential customers.
“These featured presenters include leading book authors, seasoned systems integrators, influential academics and incredible software developers who have a ton of knowledge to share,” says Eric Ewing, a senior product manager at Microsoft.
Writers in the Software Legends Forum
Eight authors of books on programming with the Microsoft .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET will headline the pre-conference events with the first-ever “Software Legends” forum on Sunday. Open to all registered attendees at no additional charge, the forum offers an entertaining and interactive way to engage with legends: Don Box, David Chappell, Billy Hollis, Juval Lowy, David Platt, Jeffrey Richter, and Yasser Shohoud. In technology circles, this is lofty company: Richter, for example, is the author of Applied Microsoft .NET Framework Programming, which ranked first in sales in the Computers & Internet category on the Amazon.com Web site in November 2002, and also won several technology-industry awards.
“A year ago, developers were just beginning to buy books on application development using the .NET Framework,” says Ewing. “Now one of these titles was the number-one best-selling book on computing, which shows that there is a hunger for .NET information.”
Billed as a “no PowerPoint, no marketing” forum, the Software Legends track also promises some lighthearted, entertaining moments, such as plans for keynote speaker and .NET consultant David Chappell to perform his own version of “My Favorite Things” on a grand piano.
“We recognize that developers learn from each other and from important sources outside Microsoft,” says Ewing. “The new Software Legends event provides a way for TechEd attendees to get an inside track before the main show and to learn directly from the best-selling authors and experts in the field — essentially ‘the greatest hits of .NET.'”
Legendary Lineup: A Preview
Because the TechoEd luminaries are constantly on the road, interacting with the .NET programmer community, they have gained insight into the more pressing issues facing developers
An oft-repeated sentiment is that “languages still matter,” says Chappell. “Developers want to know, should they use C#, VB.NET, or can they stick with C++? So many people are now actually using the .NET Framework that these detailed concerns are coming up, which is a very good sign of .NET adoption and momentum.”
Richter noted that “garbage collection” — the recovery of pooled computer storage that is being used by a program when that program no longer needs the storage — is another concern within the development community. “Garbage collection ensures that objects are not leaked and that memory cannot become corrupted,” Richter explains. “It is one of the four core .NET technologies, and some programmers fear it will compromise their application’s performance. As part of my presentation, I will offer tips for how to best utilize a garbage-collected environment to increase programmer productivity.”
Platt plans to touch upon rapid application development in his presentation Sunday. “Developers are concerned with the speed with which they can write reliable, correct and robust code, both Web and non-Web,” he said. “My talk will focus on real-world tips and tricks – things you won’t find in the documentation.”
For more information on the Software Legends, including a list of their book titles, visit www.softwarelegends.com .
First Academic Track Draws Faculty, Students
Increasing interest in .NET from the academic community led to the launch of TechEd’s first-ever track specifically for academics. With a deeply discounted registration fee and free Pre-Conference Day events, university faculty and students can more easily gain access to the rest of the .NET community at this year’s show. Special events include a .NET curriculum workshop to be held Sunday, an informal focus group to facilitate exchange between faculty and academic publishers, and TechEd’s first exhibits by universities to demonstrate .NET research in academia.
“The academic community understands that the .NET Framework opens up new doors for learning and research.” says Heidi Dill, Microsoft’s marketing manager for academic events, who has spent much of the past year on the road meeting with professors. “They have unique needs that set them apart from the broader .NET programmer community, such as how to rapidly develop curriculum to roll out effective courses on .NET technologies.”
Platt, who taught the first .NET courses at Harvard University, says events such as this workshop and the Software Legends forum should prove invaluable to academics. “They will see all kinds of new things at these forums and discover ways to design assignments that stretch their students,” he says.
Access to industry and technical professionals is imperative, according to Dr. Richard Vedder, MIS professor at the University of North Texas. Attracted by the new academic track, he is attending TechEd for the first time.
“Much of what I teach is not found in any standard textbook,” says Vedder, who spent much of spring term converting an advanced class on Visual Basic 6.0 to one on Visual Basic .NET. Though his desk is piled high with .NET books, Vedder says he has reached beyond traditional academic channels to ensure his course content is accurate and relevant.
“Educators have an obligation to prepare students for their chosen careers, and that means teaching the latest technologies used in business,” he says.
The number of .NET courses taught in higher education is growing rapidly; more than 18,000 students participated in Visual Studio .NET training at 20 universities in the United States in the past year, according to Dill.
Microsoft’s outreach to the academic community, and its efforts to connect academics with others in the professional world, has been well received by professors responsible for designing .NET curricula at their universities.
Dr. David McDonald, academic program director at the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University, notes that private and public sector professionals have common ground when it comes to learning about .NET:
“Both constituencies are concerned with productivity,” McDonald says. “The business person is concerned with competitively marketing new applications, while the academic is concerned with producing quality degrees in information technology and computer science.”
McDonald recently conducted a two-day training session on Microsoft technologies for faculty at his university, and, like Vedder, has reached beyond strictly academic sources for the best information available.
“The overloaded academic has little time to learn a totally new IDE,” says McDonald. “TechEd is a great aid in gaining the knowledge our technical folks need to get the .NET architecture up and running campus-wide. And any help we can get to fully integrate .NET into our curricula is a tremendous benefit.”
.EDU Showcase — Another TechEd First
Investment in .NET by the academic community has already resulted in compelling new research, some of which will be on display at TechEd next week. Five universities will exhibit their .NET projects as part of the .EDU Showcase, a new event designed to facilitate closer links between academics and private industry.
Participating institutions include Purdue University, Rice University, University of Pennsylvania, Seattle University and Queensland University of Technology, according to Dill. Seattle University will feature its work with “Terrarium,” a virtual ecosystem, designed on the .NET Framework, which allows users to create the beings that inhabit it.
The No Limits Tour, a behind-the-scenes look at the technology and people that power Champ Car racing, will also be on display. The No Limits Tour features a real-world Champ Car with a built-in, .NET Framework-based system that enables pit crews to intently monitor the car’s vital signs in real time using wireless telemetry — showcasing powerful applied technology in engineering. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the professional drivers, learn more about the telemetric application and compete in simulated races.
Casting INETA at TechEd
Other Pre-Conference Day events include a gathering of the .NET user groups represented at the show. Convening under the common banner of the International .NET Association (INETA), the groups utilize TechEd to learn from each other and directly from Microsoft, according to Bill Evjen, executive director of INETA.
“We now have more than 90,000 individual members worldwide,” says Evjen, adding that the number of .NET user groups has grown from zero to 307 in just over a year. “INETA provides a unified voice for user groups to Microsoft, and serves as a common focal point for .NET best practices.”
INETA’s Pre-Conference Day events include recognizing members for outstanding service and celebrating the launch of the group’s new Web site. Perhaps most importantly, says Evjen, gatherings such as TechEd allow the usually virtual technical community a chance to connect in real-time.
“Monthly meetings and gatherings such as TechEd are an especially important source of support for those outside of metropolitan areas and in other countries where there may be less active technical communities,” he says.
Getting Real at TechEd
The many constituents who gather at TechEd help create opportunities to learn from each other as well as from Microsoft and its partners, attendees say.
“Get-togethers like this allow participants to express their thoughts, which may have a direct influence on products,” says Richter. “This cycle is extremely important and is what keeps Microsoft technologies and products relevant in today’s world. The whole ecosystem benefits.”
Kevin Schuler, of InDepth Technology, agrees.
“We are a community that is passionately learning, working and improving,” Schuler says. “Our feedback enhances products, and our passion evangelizes them.”