Each year, Microsoft-watchers spend untold hours speculating about what will be revealed at TechEd. Some years it's easy to guess; for example, in 2005, everyone knew months in advance that Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 would share the spotlight. Already this year, Microsoft has introduced, shipped, or started talking about a slew of new products and technologies. TechEd has gotten to be such a huge event that it can be hard to find the real nuggets of gold among the large number of sessions and vendors. Here's my quick guide to what to look for at this year's show from a messaging and collaboration perspective.

First, you might want to think of TechEd as a debutante ball for Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007. The product is getting ever closer to release, and you should expect to see a lot of sound and light focused on its capabilities as a complement to, not a replacement for, existing PBX systems. Expect to hear a lot of talk about "Quality of Experience" (QoE), which Microsoft is pushing as a better metric of voice and video quality than the traditional Quality of Service (QoS) metrics. I'm hopeful that Microsoft will be showing some of its partners' very cool Communicator phone experience devices (see "Endpoints Are the Beginning of Easier Communication," May 17, 2007), but the company is keeping mum on the details.

Next, expect to see a number of major vendors finally announcing their support plans for Exchange Server 2007. The new disaster-recovery and high-availability features in Exchange 2007 have caused some upheaval in their respective market segments, but now that Exchange 2007 is getting some deployment traction, it's time to start separating vendors who "get it" and will support the new technologies from those that don't.

Third, there are some very cool-looking hands-on labs scheduled. My current favorite is MBL06-HOL, which covers the ins and outs of deploying certificate-based authentication for Exchange ActiveSync on Exchange 2007. There are also other hands-on labs focused on Exchange 2007, including one on using Microsoft System Center Capacity Planner to size Exchange 2007 deployments, several on moving to Exchange 2007 from Exchange Server 2003, and both self-paced and instructor-led labs on using cluster continuous replication (CCR). There's a wide range of Exchange-themed sessions, too. I expect Ray Mohrman's session about what will be included in Exchange 2007 SP1 to be full on Monday (and probably on Friday, when it's repeated). Cliff Didcock's unified messaging sessions (one of which is a "tales from the trenches" session) should be interesting as well.

I'm presenting one session this year: On Wednesday afternoon, I'll be talking about Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange Server and how its system of multiple scan engines works. Apart from that, I'll be wandering around the event. If you get a chance come over and say hello!