Tech Ed 2004 Europe Highlights

Its been a few days since Tech Ed in Amsterdam finished, and I’d intended to post a few of the highlights from the conference:-


During the Keynote every delegate was given a handmade drum and encouraged to play along. This was certainly the most unusual conference idea I’ve ever witnessed. James Pratt and Steve Lombardi graced the stage in Smartphone and Pocket PC costumes to give their demonstration, hats off for them to be able to write and run code with their arms in a polystyrene suit!

Visual Studio now has a new tier of products. The Express lineup represents the entry level products for individual languages (C#, VB.NET, C++) and Web Developer. Also Sql Server Express replaces MSDE as a free database engine based on the Sql Server engine. These products are aimed at learners, hobbyists and academics who want a quick and simple tool to get started with learning managed development, and provide a stepping stone up to more full featured products. The Express products won’t include the ability to developer with the Compact Framework (See a feature comparison here –


Mappoint Location Server which was presented at MDC in San Francisco eariler in the year has been released in Europe. There are a couple of plugins for european operators including O2, with more hoped to follow in due course. Also the Mappoint web service will be getting a couple more mapping providers soon to add coverage for Greece and Australia. Steve Lombardi also indicated that they were looking to increase coverage in Asia and Eastern Europe. Another feature which will be added to Mappoint at some time in a future release is the ability to plot walking directions (currently the system plots routes based on driving), this means it will plot routes that can go the wrong way down one-way roads and take shortcuts through parks etc.

Windows Mobile

Neil Enns gave a great talk on POOM which revealed some of the features due in the next version of Windows Mobile to the COM object model. Neil even had handouts printed with the API showing these new interfaces. Probably the most important feature described was the ability to add custom fields right into the POOM store.

Robert Levy demonstrated separately some code using the Managed POOM APIs which will be in the future platform. This includes the functionality we know and love from POOM along with the ability to send Email and SMS messages. Along with managed POOM there will be managed APIs for Telephony, Configuration and Camera.

Ask The Experts

We got a number of comments on the Tablet PC booth that there wasn’t an area for Windows Mobile or .NETCF developer questions. This was a shame considering the conference included an MDC strand. We actually had the biggest Ask The Experts booth for Tablet PC, but there were no other mobility topics covered. The only Smart Device was a 10ft long radio controlled airship teathered to the Visual Studio booth, which I thought was really cool 🙂

Windows Mobile Pavillion

On the Windows Mobile pavillion there were a number of interesting devices on show. Sprint were showing the Voq and its associated developer kit. Orange had a couple of C500 devices, which are incredibly small and include Bluetooth and a camera and are running Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. Motorola had both the MPx220 smartphone, which has a 1.3 megapixel camera with flash and Bluetooth, and the MPx device which is a Pocket PC Phone Edition which can be opened in both portrait and landscape orientations. This is an incredibly versatile device which is much smaller in real life than you might imagine, however more bulky than a smartphone device. Tom Tom were demonstrating the Smartphone version of their Navigator product which is due for release in September. There will be an update to the SDK to add support for this version. Details on functionality have not be released yet and the device at the show was running a rolling demo, not a working version.

Bags and Goodies

The conference bag was gigantic, a bright orange PVC affair which made delegates look like paper-boys. Thankfully during the keynote we were given instructions on how to wear the bag, given as a spoof of an airplane safety announcment. Now that electronic copies of all the slides, demos, sdks etc are readily available I wonder why it is necessary to carry quite that weight of stuff around. Personally I’d rather have a few DVD-ROMs with all of the content on. However I thought including the Compact Framework pocket guide was a really neat way of introducing delegates to managed development for devices.

Venue and Transport

The venue was enormous and one of these exhibition centres which is like a maze inside. Mind you there are some advantages in getting lost in some of the quieter areas, there is generally more snack food left! Transport to and from Schipol airport was provided for all attendees along with a travel pass for the entire week for all delegates. This allowed unlimited use of the metro, tram and bus system around Amsterdam.

By Peter Foot

Microsoft Windows Development MVP