Part II: PDC 2009 – Thoughts and Observations on PDC

Can’t believe another PDC came and went. The year is whizzing by so fast. Here are some thoughts and observations from PDC 2009.

1. Overall, I thought that this year’s PDC was more mellow than last year. I didn’t feel the same energy level. Perhaps it was partly due to the economy – less vendors, less attendees. Perhaps it was due to just having the PDC in back-to-back years. Remember, it was three years between PDC 2005 and PDC 2008 so there was a lot of build up of excitement for developers to get together and check out what was new. To keep the energy level high, it may be in Microsoft’s interest to keep at least 2 years between PDC conferences.

2. During the first day keynote, Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, kept coming back to the vision of “Three Screens and a Cloud”. He was referring to Microsoft’s goal of providing seamless integration between the Computer, the mobile phone/devices, the television and the cloud. However, this PDC 2009 conference was more about one screen – the computer – and the Cloud. We will need to wait until next year to hear more on the story of the other two screens.

3. During the first day keynotes, there were two guests that surprised me. The first surprise was Matt Mullenweg, the creator of open source blogging engine WordPress who came out to announce that they are working with Microsoft to run WordPress on Windows Azure. So it was announced that Azure supports MySQL, Java, and PHP. Microsoft has been putting a lot of resources into partnering with the open source community. Now, I’d like to see WordPress working with SQL server.

4. The second surprise was Vivek Kundra Chief Information Officer at the White House. He had words to say via satellite.  It’s pretty cool that the Federal CIO took time out to address the attendees of the PDC. He spoke on the partnership between government and industry and the future of exciting new applications driven by innovations like Cloud computing and the democratization of data. One example he mentioned was around the Department of Defense opening up GPS data to enable innovations in GPS enabled devices. He also talked about how NASA is making Mars Pathfinder data available for the Pathfinder information challenge a citizen scientist contest.

5. Vivek’s presentation helped reinforce the announcement of Microsoft Dallas a new data set subscription service available on the Windows Azure platform. This is pretty cool. This service should help developers to more easily access data sets for their applications that would otherwise be difficult or too expensive to get. It’s in its early stage so we’ll see how this evolves.

6. Another surprise was the presence of the iPhone for two demos during the keynotes, especially after the hoopla over Bill Gates banning iphones from his house earlier this year.  First, during his video presentation, Vivek Kundra demoed an iPhone App for job searches, in part using data from Then on Day 2, Scott Guthrie attempted to demo Silverlight streaming on the iPhone. I say “attempted” because the demo failed and the several backup iPhones also failed. Got to feel for any speaker and, especially any keynote speaker, who has a demo blow up. Scott Gutherie handled it well though. I took a look at the video posted at on my iphone and I thought the video looked pretty cool.

7. Scott Guthrie talked about Silverlight 4 for his keynote which he announced is going to beta during his talk. He used some gratuitous demos to show different new features of Silverlight 4. Then, Brian Goldfarb came out and demoed a Silverlight App that interfaced with Facebook.  I thought that with the next version of Silverlight, I can see the possibility of some really cool business applications. It should be an exciting launch. Scott Gutherie also announced some recent wins for Silverlight with powering future huge online events like the Winter Olympics and Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

8. There were less Expo vendors compared to last year. You can tell the economy is affecting Microsoft partners. However, they used the same conference hall footprint so booths were far apart. Even with people in the expo floor, things looked sparse.

9. I was able to attend the PDC Underground Party at the Conga Room. The was a long line to get in. Mr. Scott Guthrie even did a talk on Silverlight during the party. Does this guy ever rest? And our friends at Neudesic sponsored a lounge area where they were hand rolling cigars.

10. Microsoft also had one of their Server Containers on the Expo floor which you could walk though. This is the kind of container that will be used to house Windows Azure. This particular unit was one that will sit outside. In the cloud data center, you will see stacks of these in many rows.  The servers in this demo container looked to be DELL rackmount servers. however, in a real production environment, I’m not sure what servers they will use. A while ago I saw a picture of a Google server (sorry wasn’t able to find the link) that they use for their cloud and it was a really stripped down thing.  I asked the Microsoft staff about it but they didn’t say what the production servers would be.

11. Ray Ozzie announced that Windows Azure will go live into production on January 1, 2009. For a period of one month, it will still be free as Microsoft tests out there billing system. I’ve seen many different types of billing systems and even for something seemingly simple like say billing for web hosting, billing can get very complicated. Now, with something like the pay as you go model of the Cloud and different metered things triggering microcharges, this billing system is going to be really complex. I don’t know if a month is going to be enough time for testing. In any case, on February 1, 2009, Microsoft plans to start billing for Microsoft Azure.

12. I met with many people and some of them asked me about how Windows Azure was going to affect us. I’ve discussed this topic before and having talked with Azure staff and seeing the presentations, I still believe that shared hosting is not threatened. The user will have another choice for hosting and depending on their needs they will choose what is right for them. The Cloud is not the right choice for every hosting need.  I spoke to many attendees as well and they have a lot of concerns about the Cloud and I think the adoption is not going to be as fast as reported.

13. Ray Ozzie also talked about the two Cloud data centers in the US that are live now. Two more are being built in Europe and two more are being built in Asia. These international data centers are to go live next year or two some time.

14. At the MSDev booths, they were giving away T-shirts and they made you fill in the t-shirt “_______ was my idea” going along with the “Windows 7 was my idea” campaign. They took pictures with the people and their shirts. Some other shirts proclaimed “The Internet was my idea”, “Web 2.0 was my idea” so here is the one I did right quick:

15. And oh, did I mention they gave out laptops?

Takeshi Eto
VP Marketing and Business Development

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