When I started to write this, I'd planned to let readers know whether Microsoft's "The New Efficiency" events were worth attending. What I think doesn't seem to matter, however—I checked the events' site, and it looks like registration is closed for all of the upcoming New Efficiency events. I assume that's because they're all full, and I again assume that it's in large part because Microsoft is giving a free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate ($320 value) to anyone who attends the free events.

So plenty of IT pros think it's worth watching a four-hour presentation for $320 worth of software, but what about the presentations themselves? I attended the presentations on Windows 7 last week (there were also presentations for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010) and I have to say it was worth the time and drive to Denver for a better look at the new OS's features.

I've probably read (and edited) as much about features like BranchCache and BitLocker To Go as anyone, but it makes a real difference to see these features demonstrated live, or at least well illustrated with slide shows. I especially liked the session on Windows 7's new deployment technology. I think anyone who has to deploy Windows regularly will love the new features and quick deployments, especially anyone who hasn't deployed Vista yet. The presenter even did a live, hands-off deployment to Windows 7 from Windows XP, preserving user data and installing Office, in around 45 minutes. (Not that I was all that impressed. I installed the Windows 7 RC on an underpowered virtual machine in 34 minutes.)

The atmosphere was casual and there was plenty of Q&A, so The New Efficiency is a good learning opportunity. If you're curious about Microsoft's big new releases and you can get in, I recommend hitting one of these events.

A final note for anyone hoping to check in, grab your free Windows 7, and head home: No way. Event officials didn't hand out the software until the end of the day. So go ahead and attend the presentations, you might learn something.

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