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Preview: Microsoft Conference Season Right Around the Corner

Spring is in the air in the northern hemisphere and that means Microsoft conference season is upon us.

Microsoft's Big Three tech industry-facing conferences start next week and run into mid-July. The technology giant has a lot of major products nearly ready for general availability, making the conferences even more noteworthy than usual for the Microsoft vendor ecosystem, partners, developers and customers. The big shows, in chronological order, are Microsoft Build, Microsoft Ignite and the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC).

Microsoft Build
San Francisco, April 29-May 1

Microsoft's developer-focused conference has emerged over the last few years as a major source of news about the entire Microsoft platform. A more closely controlled affair than the other two, this show is almost all about Microsoft rather than sponsors or partners.

The official description promises that Build will bring new information about Windows, Azure and Office 365. Microsoft is also intent on spurring developers to take advantage of the cross form-factor elements of the forthcoming Windows 10. The company emphasizes in its Build marketing the oft-repeated-of-late figure of 1.5 billion, the number of Windows devices Microsoft claims in the world. Redmond's hope is that the free upgrade offers for Windows 10 will put most of those 1.5 billion devices on a single platform, making Windows a central development platform for tablets and smartphones rather than the also-ran it has become in the iOS/Android era.

Keynotes are scheduled for Wednesday, April 29, and Thursday, April 30. Last year, Day 1 keynotes included Microsoft senior executives Terry Myerson, Joe Belfiore, David Treadwell, Stephen Elop and Satya Nadella. Day 2 featured Scott Guthrie, Steve Guggenheimer and John Shewchuk.

(Update, 4/24: Count on that Nadella keynote. During the Microsoft Q3 results earnings call Thursday, he said, "Next week at Build, our developer conference, I'll share more about our ambitions and how our next-generation platforms will empower every person and organization.")

Microsoft Ignite
Chicago, May 4-8

Microsoft Ignite is a new mega-conference for Microsoft, replacing the venerable TechEd conference with a new show rolling together TechEd with the programs from the Microsoft Management Summit and the Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Project conferences.

Microsoft seems to be flying the majority of its senior technology executives to Chicago for keynotes and presentations. The main keynotes on the morning of May 4 will be delivered by Nadella. Other senior executives giving heavily promoted sessions or keynotes include Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Enterprise Client and Mobility; Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Skype; Belfiore, corporate vice president of PC, Tablet and Phone; and Harry Shum, executive vice president of Technology and Research.

Among the many other Microsoft heavy-hitters with speaking slots are Dave Campbell, CTO of Cloud and Enterprise; Julia White, general manager of Office 365; Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure; Jeffrey Snover, distinguished engineer and lead architect for the Windows Server and System Center Division; and Perry Clark, corporate vice president of Exchange and distinguished engineer.

Ignite will be an ecosystem affair with hundreds of vendor partners on the show floor. The biggest sponsors of the event are Dell, HP and Salesforce.

Some of the technology expected to debut at Ignite includes an early look at SharePoint Server 2016, which was originally scheduled for general availability in the second half of 2015 but now is looking like a mid-2016 release. Also hotly anticipated at Ignite are clues and demos about Exchange Server 2016.

While those two potential previews have made headlines, Ignite covers a huge range of Microsoft technologies, and Microsoft is promising new information at the show on Azure, Dynamics, Intune, Lync, Office 365, Project, SQL Server, Surface, System Center, Visual Studio, Windows, Windows Server and Yammer. With Windows 10's release now looking like late July, according to a partner leak, expect a lot of detail on the new OS at Ignite.

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference
Orlando, Fla., July 12-16

The final big industry-facing event on Microsoft's conference-season calendar is the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). Happening just a few weeks before the rumored launch of Windows 10, expect Windows client buzz to hit a fevered pitch in Orlando.

As a gathering of partners, WPC has more of a business focus than a technology focus. So in addition to a keynote from Nadella, partners will hear about business initiatives from Microsoft COO Kevin Turner and about partner-focused initiatives from Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group. (Read our preview of key WPC 2015 sessions here.)

While the conference is largely about fostering connections among business partners to jointly sell and implement Microsoft solutions, news about the technology and the roadmap still tend to take center stage. Microsoft has been pushing partners hardest over the last few years to represent cloud solutions based on Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online, Windows Intune and Azure. Expect technology news focused on those products to come out at WPC.

Top-tier sponsors of WPC 2015 are Dell, HP and Nintex.


Posted by Scott Bekker on April 22, 2015


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