You know things are about to get technical when the trivia question broadcast across huge screens at the front of the auditorium asks you which came first - The Nintendo 64 or the Pentium II?
And while only some of those present would know Windows was created in 1983 but didn’t ship until 1985, everybody must have wished they had bought Microsoft shares when they first floated in 1986. Welcome to Microsoft’s annual TechEd conference.
The three-day event boasts eight technical tracks, 100 sessions and 80 speakers, including 60 flown in from overseas. It was opened by Microsoft Australia managing director, Steve Vamos.
“TechEd gives us the opportunity to connect with the technical leaders and professionals who have so much say and influence in the way our technology is adopted and whether it is actually used,” he said.
With that he set the tone for the keynote, saying it was primarily an opportunity for IT professionals to give the software giant feedback on how it was doing.
“It’s an opportunity for us to find out what we’re doing well and particularly what we’re not doing well,” he said.
If that set the tone, then the tongue-tying title, ‘Visualise Yourself Fully Optimised’ set the theme.
When it came to work people these days were pretty much fully utilised, Vamos said, but few could say that they were fully optimised.
“We can all contribute more and we can all be more effective,” he said. “The key to that for business and government, and in our day to day lives, is that technology is a key enabler in the extent to which we are fully optimised.”
In a change from convention, Microsoft then wheeled out a non-IT professional in the form of Canadian marine biologist, Dr Joseph MacInnis.
MacInnis, with 5000 hours below the waves and thirty major expeditions under his belt, set to work immediately by drawing parallels between heroic oceanic exploration and working in the mysterious deep that is today’s IT environment.
“I look out into this audience and see a room full of IT experts that share some of the qualities of my fellow explorers of the ocean,” he said. “You’re all highly educated, very skilled, driven by curiosity and use hot technology every day you come up against new boundaries seeking new solutions in new frontiers.”
People were extremely lucky to live in a golden age where humans could simultaneously reach outer space and the bottom of the deepest oceans, MacInnis said.
“We do not go into the ocean or outer space without people like you who come up with software solutions that allow us to make the dives and do the science,” he said. “You are very much a part of this.”