Despite meager attendee turnout, lingering swine flu threats, a staggering IT economy, and uncommonly gloomy skies over Southern California, Microsoft launched TechEd 2009 this morning in Los Angeles by announcing that Windows 7 would ship before the end of the year. Acknowledging the difficult financial situation that many IT organizations are in these days, Microsoft senior vice president Bill Veghte praised IT pros for attending the show and lauded them for making the trek to Los Angeles in such difficult economic times.

"Microsoft is committed to ensuring that IT professionals and developers continue to have the platform and technologies to drive maximum value and business results. Getting the most out of IT investments is even more important in today's economy," Veghte said in a prepared statement. "It is these very skills that make them so valuable and why we constantly strive to empower them with an integrated suite of products and technologies that help them anticipate and respond quickly to changing business requirements. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2." Veghte also confirmed that Windows 7 would ship before the end of the year. "With early RC testing and extensive partner feedback we've recived, Windows 7 is tracking well for holiday availability."

Veghte's keynote focused on the benefits that IT pros realize by using Windows Server 2008 R2 with Windows 7, and pointed out that RC versions of both are now available. (Download links: Windows Server 2008 R2 RC and Windows 7). New to Windows Server 2008 R2 is File Classifications Infrastructure (FCI), a new feature that provides a native file classification solution. A Microsoft press release also pointed out several Windows Server 2008 R2 features, including improved IIS 7.5 support and the long-awaited Live Migration virtualization technology feature. (Read more about the new features in Windows Server 2008 R2 in Michael Otey's "New Features in Windows Server 2008 R2" article, and in my interview with Ward Ralston, the Windows Server 2008 R2 Group Product Manager.)

In other news from TechEd, Microsoft announced a new lab certification exam (Certification exam 083-640 (TS: Configuring Windows Server 2008 Active Directory), indicated that a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of SQL Server 2008 R2 (formerly SQL Server ‘Kilimanjaro’) will be available in the second half of 2009, and announced that an invitation-only Office 2010 Technical Preview will be available for download in July.

Check Windows IT Pro and our editorial twitter feeds for more news and opinion from TechEd 2009, including the results of our Best of TechEd Awards.

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