Kinect. Azure. Windows Phone 7. SharePoint. SQL Server. These were but a few of things Microsoft showed off at the recently concluded Tech Ed Conference in Atlanta. In the keynotes and classrooms, and on the exhibit hall floor, there was much to capture the imagination and tickle a fancy. Here are our top five things:

The Universe

During the opening keynote on Monday, Microsoft displayed the WorldWide Telescope, which was developed in collaboration with NASA to explore the universe. With simple gestures, one can explore the solar system, the Milky Way, our galaxy and beyond—in 3D, no less. This view allows the examination of how the universe formed since the Big Bang. I know this was demoed at MIX11 and other TechEd events, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it, and it was WAY cool! Here’s a link to an earlier demonstration.

The Glitch Mob

Guys dropping the beats with no turntables. They use touchpads—buttons and sliders—to create amazing sounds, and they rocked the warmup to the opening keynote with amazing house music. It was visually interesting and sonically superior. Wonder if they do weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Microsoft Pavilion


Back at the exhibit hall, Microsoft’s pavilion for learning about its technologies (Azure, SharePoint, Office 365, Exchange, Lync, SQL and much more) was filled with experts white-boarding solutions to problems folks just walked up with. It was an energetic scene, with wild gesturing and excited discussion as the proverbial light bulbs went on all across the area. A nice job by the host to make so many experts available to answer so many people’s problems.


Windows Phone 7/Office 365

Despite numbers that show Microsoft shipped only 2.5 million phones in the first quarter of 2011 (Apple shipped 18.65 iPhones, and 35.7 million Android phones were sold), I believe Microsoft will change the market. Bringing the Office tools to the phone makes the platform more of a productivity solution, and enterprises would rather have their workers using SharePoint than Angry Birds. Of course, as workers get to dictate which devices they insist upon for use in their jobs, Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up. The Nokia partnership is a good start, but they need to step it up.

Grape City

Kudos to this component vendor for having one of the coolest booths at the conference (and I don’t say that only because I was one of their “celebrity cooks” who was given the privilege of submitting a recipe and doing a book signing of their compilation “.NET Gurus Can Cook”; nor because my boss leads off their promotional video). I say it because they had a pool trick-shot artist who hit a cue ball out of a guy’s mouth and pocketed the shot, and other nifty tricks. Oh, and Grape City’s Spreadsheet component remains one of the industry’s best.