This week's TechEd 2006 conference in Boston is notable for a number of reasons. First, it's easily the biggest show ever to grace Boston's beautiful but underutilized Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC). Second, and more important, perhaps, Microsoft is using the show as a coming out party for its next-generation tools for IT professionals. And so far, the reaction from show goers has been overwhelmingly positive, although many I've talked to have expressed a certain resignation at the work that they face.

During Sunday night's keynote address, Microsoft executives revealed that the company will ship Exchange Server 2007 Beta 2 by the end of July and deliver the final version of the product to customers by late 2006 or early 2007, as previously promised. Beta 2 will include various email-protection, mobile-device, and operational features that Microsoft says embody its "Amplify the Impact of Your People" vision.

Microsoft also unveiled its corporate-security-and-access product strategy at the show. In addition to talking up the recently released ISA Server 2006 and Antigen products, Microsoft said at TechEd that it will be consolidating its corporate security products under the Forefront brand. Products under this brand will begin appearing in beta form later this year, including Forefront Client Security (formerly Microsoft Client Protection).

As for the show itself, it's as big as ever, from what I can tell, and the sessions so far have been well attended and interesting. I'll be at the convention center all day through at least Wednesday, but the actual conference runs through the end of the week. No doubt there will be more to report from TechEd 2006 as the show continues.