Posey's Tips & Tricks

Observations from Tech-Ed 2011

As I write this blog It's about 10 on a Monday night. I just got back to my hotel room after a grueling day at Tech-Ed. Even though I am absolutely exhausted right now, I wanted to take a few moments and share with you some of my observations from the first day.

For anyone who isn't familiar with Tech-Ed, it's Microsoft's biggest technology conference of the year. This year the conference is being held in Atlanta, Ga., and even though attendance appears to be way down (presumably because of the economy), there has been no shortage of enthusiasm for the technologies that are being discussed.

I have been attending Tech-Ed every year since the mid-1990s, and as someone who tries to stay on top of the IT industry, I have usually been able to accurately predict the focus of the conference. I have to confess, however, that I really didn't know what to expect this year.

The reason why I say this is because last year Microsoft put an overwhelming emphasis on its vision for the cloud. When I say that its emphasis was overwhelming, I mean that the entire New Orleans convention center was plastered in advertisements for the cloud.  Even as you walked down the hallways, it was impossible to look in any direction without seeing some kind of banner with the word cloud written on it.

The cloud theme carried over to most of the sessions that I attended as well. It seemed that Microsoft was pushing hard the idea that everything should be moved to the cloud, even though the centerpiece of Microsoft's cloud strategy (Office 365) wasn't even near ready for release.

Given Microsoft's full court press for cloud services last year, I wasn't quite sure what to expect this year. Obviously, I knew that Microsoft hadn't abandoned its vision for the cloud, but over the last year the cloud has become something of a trendy industry buzzword -- so I figured that Microsoft would have to tone down the rhetoric a bit. My best guess was that Microsoft would stop throwing around the term 'Cloud' and focus instead on Microsoft Office 365.

After the first day of the conference, I can tell you that Microsoft has indeed eased up on the cloud hard sell. While there has been plenty of attention given to Office 365, I was very surprised to find that the one thing that seems to be receiving the most attention is Windows Phone 7.

Windows Phone 7 was released late last year and is a key component in Microsoft's "Cloud + Devices" strategy. This strategy is based around the idea that applications can be coded in a way that minimizes the work involved in the actual development process while also making it easy to run the application on a PC, in the cloud or on a smartphone.

Windows Phone 7 seems to be an intermediate step for Microsoft. A while back, Microsoft announced that Windows 8 was going to be designed so that it could run on the ARM processors that are used by most smartphones. It therefore seems only logical that in a couple of years all of the cell phone companies will be offering phones that run full-blown editions of Windows.

Even so, it will likely be at a year and a half to two years before any Windows 8 phones make it onto the market. In the meantime Microsoft had to come up with a new Windows Mobile OS. Windows Mobile 6.5 was rapidly losing market share to much cooler mobile operating systems such as iOS (iPhone) and Droid.

As someone who uses a Windows Phone 7 device for their personal cell phone and who also recently wrote a book on Windows Phone 7, I can tell you that in many ways Windows Phone 7 is a huge improvement over Windows Mobile 6.5. In spite of all the great new features though, I always felt as though the operating system was only halfway complete. While the phone is great for consumers, it lacks some features that would make it practical for use in corporate environments. For example, Windows Phone 7 lacks support for many of the ActiveSync policies that are fully supported by previous versions of Windows Mobile. ActiveSync are Exchange Server policies that are used to secure mobile devices.

Much of the excitement today has revolved around a Windows Phone 7 update that has been code named 'Mango'. Although Mango has been described as an update, it can more accurately be described as Windows Phone 7 R2. So far Microsoft has only revealed a small fraction of the improvements that are going to be included in Mango, but what has been revealed is quite significant. For example, Mango will add support for IRM protected messages and documents, true multitasking, native support for Office 365 and even the option to use a mobile Lync client. Almost every area of the mobile operating system will be enhanced by Mango. It appears that Mango will be what Windows Phone 7 should have been in the first place.

It's anybody's guess when Mango will ultimately be released. Microsoft has not given any official release dates, but one person told me that it will likely be released in September, while someone else at Microsoft told me to expect it before Christmas. In any case, Microsoft will be releasing the Mango Tools for developers next week. One of these tools is a Mango emulator that can be used to get a better feel for some of the new Mango capabilities. Historically, all of the Windows Phone 7 emulators have been locked down to prevent anything other than Internet Explorer from being exposed, but hacks that unlock the emulator quickly find their way onto the Internet. Once an unlocked emulator becomes available I will write a blog post providing more detail on the new features.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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