Sessions Unveil Interesting New Products

Microsoft TechEd 2002 took place last week in New Orleans. Nearly 300 technical sessions spread over 5 days provided information to almost 8000 technology professionals from throughout the world. For the past 2 years, most of the larger Microsoft conferences, such as TechEd and the Professional Developer Conference (PDC), covered future products and services; however, this year's TechEd sessions contained current "in-the-trenches" material because the Microsoft .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET have been shipping for several months. I found it refreshing to hear sessions delivered by people who have hands-on experience putting .NET applications into production. Microsoft even asked customers to present some of this year's sessions, which was a great idea because third-party speakers enhance the conference's credibility. Companies such as IBM Global Services and Pacific Life Insurance delivered some of the highest-rated sessions at the conference.

In typical fashion, Microsoft used TechEd to make public announcements about several new products. A roundup of product highlights follows.

Microsoft Commerce Server 2002—The latest addition to Microsoft's award-winning Microsoft .NET Enterprise Servers, Commerce Server boasts new features such as enhanced global online business support. Customers such as RadioShack are already using Commerce Server in production environments. .NET developers will be excited to hear that Commerce Server is both .NET Framework- and Visual Studio .NET-friendly. It features an Application Runtime, Base Class Library, and Common Language Runtime (CLR) Interoperability Layer, which lets ASP.NET applications benefit from core Commerce Server services and systems. Additionally, Commerce Server ships with a fully functional sample business-to-consumer (B2C)/business-to-business (B2B) Web application that has awesome functionality, including end-to-end integration with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2000.

Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server XML Web Services Toolkit for Microsoft .NET—The Exchange 2000 XML Web services toolkit provides the tools and resources that developers need to bring contextual collaboration to .NET-based applications that use Exchange 2000. The toolkit includes sample code, white papers, how-to videos, and a self-paced training course to accelerate the design and development of XML Web services that "talk" on the Exchange platform.

Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Notification Services—Notification Services is the platform for developing and deploying rich notification applications. Taking advantage of the key capabilities of the .NET Framework and the scalability of SQL Server 2000, Notification Services provides an easy-to-use programming model and a highly scalable server engine for generating and formatting notifications based on personal subscriptions. Leveraged in CommNet, the event application that Microsoft uses in front of and behind the scenes at conferences such as TechEd, Notification Services can automatically send email messages to prospective attendees when a meeting unexpectedly changes location. In its simplest form, Notification Services is the SQL trigger that fires when an event occurs. The trigger delivers email and Short Message Service (SMS) messages to anyone who has subscribed to the event. In my opinion, the most exciting aspect of Notification Services is how easily you can implement it.

SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition 2.0—SQL Server CE is the compact database that extends enterprise data management capabilities to devices with small footprints, such as Pocket PCs. SQL Server CE integrates with the .NET Compact Framework through Smart Device Extensions for Visual Studio .NET, providing application users, developers, and database administrators with a highly flexible, easy-to-use platform to build mobile Windows applications that aren't browser-based.

Microsoft MapPoint .NET 2.0—MapPoint .NET is Microsoft's first commercially available Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP)/XML Web service. MapPoint .NET features map data that covers the world. The product can find street addresses in the United States, Canada, and 11 Western European countries and can render maps and driving directions in nine languages. MapPoint .NET is a programmable platform for mapping and location-based services. MapPoint .NET lets ISVs, solution providers, carriers, portals, and enterprises quickly and easily embed maps, driving directions, distance calculations, proximity searches, and other location functionality in applications, Web sites, and services. Microsoft offers transaction- and subscription-based pricing for MapPoint .NET.

I found this year's TechEd to be pretty exciting. By delivering an impressive suite of .NET-based products, Microsoft has proven its level of commitment to .NET.