TechEd has rediscovered developer buzz after a period where Microsoft seemed to be unduly concentrating on business.

At the software giant's annual convention even the overflow sessions on C# were full. LINQ (Language Integrated Query) promises to reduce the gap between conventional programming languages and database access (and an XML database is as good as an SQL one for LINQ).

Anders Hejlsberg's (C#'s designer) enthusiasm for LINQ was compelling, leading many to wonder whether C# really is edging ahead of Java.

The big news, at least in terms of news coverage, was Microsoft's announcement that Vista has been "released to manufacturing" but the Vista blog shows how enthusiastic some people are over the new operating system. The biug question is: how many potential customers for Vista will be prepared to upgrade in the short term ? Some major institutions are still struggling to migrate from NT to Windows 2000. Vista will most likely a great success; it's just a case of when.

The keynote theme of TechEd was Education. Microsoft announced the worldwide roll-out of its Student Partners programme (it already runs in 15 countries, increasing to some 50 countries). The existing Student Partners are an enthusiastic bunch - sometimes helping out their lecturers by taking classes in modern technologies.

There remains the question of whether universities and schools should be teaching specific vendor technologies like .Net. Having it on a CV may help a new graduate get a job, but long-term, it is the understanding of the basic principles which lasts. Microsoft's contribution to education seems fairly benign in practice: Dr David Grey from the Dept. of Computer Science at Hull takes advantage of Net assistance from Microsoft for practical examples but doesn't by any means teach a "degree in .Net", he said.

Microsoft also announced Imagine Cup 2007 - a technology championship where students across the world are encouraged to try to overcome a number of technical challenges. Finals will be held in Korea next year.

Microsoft also announced Release to Manufacture and full details of the .Net Framework
v3.0; Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office System and ASP .Net; Beta 2 of the ASP.NET AJAX extensions (formally codenamed Atlas); and the Release Candidate of SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition (not to be confused with SQL Server Express or Sybase SQL Anywhere). SQL Server Compact Edition is a rather neat full-function embedded relational database for local (offline) use with extensive synchronisation features.

Most of the tools are available for download and an Office Business Application Reference Architecture Pack for Supply Chain Management, which should bring you up-to-date on what Microsoft means by Office Business Applications can be found on the Microsoft website.

An enjoyable TechEd once again, with some genuinely new technology. Oh, and Vista is finished...