Microsoft's TechEd conference, which kicks off this week, is always the company's most important event for IT professionals and developers. This year, however, the event in Orlando takes on extra significance.
Microsoft is in the midst of a historic and extensive wave of upgrades for its enterprise products, working on new versions of Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics ERP applications, Visual Studio and Windows Server, and recently shipped new versions of SQL Server and System centre..
Many present will be looking for details about Windows 8, the new version of the Windows operating system for desktop PCs, laptops and tablets. Many Windows 8 testers have complained that in the beta versions of Windows 8, the Metro UI is confusing and difficult to use with a mouse and keyboard in regular non-touch screen PCs, and that toggling between it and the traditional Windows interface is problematic.
Microsoft will, most likely, talk about the OS at length as it continues to promote it among enterprises. Aside from the new Metro UI, Windows 8 has a significant number of new and improved enterprise IT features, Microsoft has said.
However, many industry analysts are skeptical about enterprise adoption of Windows 8, since many organisations have recently migrated, or are in the process of migrating, to Windows 7.
"Once Windows 8 is released, Microsoft can begin to have conversations with enterprise customers," said Al Gillen, an IDC analyst. "You'll see it utilised initially by customers who have an immediate need for tablet devices. As far as traditional desktops and laptops, I don't think most organisations are going to rush into Windows 8. We'll see some deployments, but those will be fairly light."
Microsoft declined to say how many people are expected to attend the conference, but the total has exceeded 10,000 in previous years. For example, about 10,500 customers, partners and Microsoft employees attended the 2010 edition of the show in New Orleans. In addition to its main edition in the U.S., TechEd is also held in other parts of the world.
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