I like to think of myself as a geek, I'm always in know of the latest gadgets, when the latest software releases are out and of course wanting them all! That's why when Microsoft SA invited me to TechEd Africa 2013 I couldn't say no. It was to be my first time so I had no idea what to expect, after receiving my agenda it dawned upon me that many of the topics that were being discussed were way above my level of knowledge but regardless of this I thought it would be cool to see what it was all about. This is a brief summary of my time at TechEd 2013, for those who didn't follow my tweets during the time I spent there.
The opening day started off late, since many of the delegates had to fly in from various destinations and check in to their respective hotels before making way to the ICC to register and to attend the opening Keynote address. I arrived a bit early but it was fun seeing geeks in the bus loads invade the place, all of them beaming with excitement for what the next 3 days had in store. The opening Keynote wasn't what I had expected but basically gave us an insight into what Microsoft are planning now. Cloud computing as mentioned in my previous post is changing the world of IT. Previously people used to email documents to and fro in order to get work done, sometimes the documents were too big to send over email so it had to be cut to a disk or put onto a portable hard drive. With cloud computing, multiple people can now work with a single document that is stored on the "cloud" thus saving time, which essentially saves money and ups productivity.
They then went into examples which involved high end coding, explaining the how certain tasks could be integrated using Microsoft Azure and Visual Studio. During all of this they demonstrated something really cool called "Windows To Go", in the given example the two coders want to work with the same file in the cloud but because the file is made from the latest Visual Studio which requires Windows8, the one coder had Windows 7 installed on his notebook. This was a problem but with Windows to go, which basically is a USB flash drive with Windows8 on it he was able to reboot his laptop with Windows8 even though Windows 7 is his primary OS. No installation was required.
After the Keynote was complete we were invited to the opening party which was being hosted but the City of Durban at the City Hall. I'd hardly call it a party as the organization was poor, layout was terrible and the queues was horrendous, thus making most people leave early.
I kicked off my first proper day at Tech Ed with the 'Unvieling of the Windows Phone" session, the speakers were Anthony Doherty and Luca Decour, both from Microsoft. They gave us an insight into how and why Microsoft developed Windows8 mobile the way they did. They looked at what the competitors had to offer and decided that there was a need for a change. What they came up with was rather cool. The only phone to have a live tile start screen that could be customized to your preference, hence making it more personal to you. They also researched the top selling apps and to date have 48 out of the 50 available on their app store. Instagram isn't one of them but will be available soon. Another cool feature is "kids corner", everyone has that problem where either your kid or someone elses wants to play with your phone but you don't want them access everything that's on there. This setting allows you to set which apps they can access but locking everything else. In some cases it wont only be handy for kids but also other adults!
The expo was a major draw point with many of the brands having set up exhibits, Global Micro who are one of the man sponsors of TechEd were having sessions every hour and at each session gave away an iPad Mini so you can imagine every one of them was full. Mimecast were giving away a trip for two to the Italian GP and many other stands had cool giveaways and freebies , so you can imagine me being an Indian, was in my element as we love our free stuff! I went home with loads of freebies everyday.
That evening HP hosted a private invite only party at the Bellagio night club in Morningside, not the best venue but as the night went on, it really turned out to be a great party. Then again there was an open bar so everyone was merry!
After the late night it was a struggle to get back to the ICC by 8am on day 3 as the media were hosted to a round table discussion with members of Microsoft SA, Intel and Global Micro, the topic of discussion "The PC - dying, dead or very much alive?". A lot of scenarios were given and the general consensus was that the PC will never really die. As technology evolves, one would expect devices to become smaller but in the case of mobile phones its quite the opposite with many of the high level models getting bigger mainly due to screen size. Which leads us to the 3 screen lifestyle that many now lead (mobile phone, tablet, laptop/ desktop) and as technology progresses more and more things in our lives turn into "PC's" our day to day appliances are already under going this change with our fridges, televisions and also now with home automation our homes are capable of internet connectivity.
For the past 11 years, Microsoft have been running a competition that is open to University's world wide called the "imagine cup". The competition slogan is "Dream it, Build it, Live it" and that's essentially what it is, entrants dream up and idea, build it using resources given to them by Microsoft and live it in a real day scenario. This year a team of 4 from the University of Johannesburg consisting of students Jan van Niekerk, Lorenzo Boccetti, Merrick Bengis and their supervisor Dr Ian Ellefsen took top honors with their winning solution "Sentimeter". What it is, is an innovative tool that allows businesses to see what people are saying about them on social media platforms. From this they can track the positive, negative and also queries related to their business. The team will be competing in June at the world final which is being held in St Petersburg, Russia, hopefully they can bring home the winners medal.
That evening was the official TechEd closing party which was hosted by Microsoft at the Durban Exhibition Centre. It was a grand affair with the entire arena decorated with the theme "Africa Rising". There was ample food and refreshments for everyone, I was lucky enough to score an invite to the VIP suite where I got to mingle with some of the main people that were involved in TechEd 2013. It was a night to let your hair down, sit back and enjoy the entertainment that was provided...well not many sat as the DJ kept the crowd on the dance floor.
Yet another late night but this time round the organizers of TechEd took this into account as the first sessions of the morning began at 8.30am giving most of the delegates time to crawl into the ICC. First order of the day was attending another session on the Windows phone device. This time round we learnt how Microsoft took it upon themselves to find out from the public, what they wanted in a phone The first thing many mentioned was the importance of security, with many people storing personal info on their phone and now with banks offering apps for mobile devices, they were concerned if the devices got into the wrong hands. Hence the primary focus when building the OS was security and giving the user peace of mind.
The last session I attended was on Internet trends, Jaco Benaude gave us some interesting stats on the world wide web as well as other stuff pertaining to technology. One of the things he mentioned which caught my attention was that the quality of the internet in SA is averaged at 84% and we rank 39th overall in the world. Which is pretty good, obviously the downside is our pricing but lets hope that changes in the not to distant future.
Before I knew it, it was time to attend the closing keynote. Most of it was about 4 Afrika, a Microsoft iniative to supply and educate the children of Africa from a young age with the latest technology and introduce them to the internet. 45% of Africa's population is under the age of 15 years old and they are our future, Microsoft is aware that this continent is our future and can see the chances of growth and that is why they are investing in it.
To end off, it was a very memorable experience attending TechEd 2013. I learnt a lot, met many new faces and got to know so much more about the company and what they're doing. Here's looking forward to TechEd 2014.
A big thank goes out to Natassia Badenhorst from Flesihman Hillard who made this all possible.