This year's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference kicked off on Sunday, July 11th, with a Day of Giving featuring a host of volunteer projects for the local D.C. community, providing me with the opportunity to participate in the "Salute to Our Troops" at Nationals Park. It felt strange to arrive at the ballpark at 8 in the morning as opposed to the more traditional arrival time for afternoon or evening games. The street outside was quiet without the usual throng of vendors and peanut hawkers, the stands were empty, and the stadium seemed huge in its emptiness until I turned a corner and found myself sucked into a wave of energy from the throng of my fellow volunteers, all of whom were ready to roll up their sleeves and get started on the task at hand of stuffing backpacks. The organizers quickly set us up into assembly lines and we were all given "jobs" in a back-to-school backpacks assembly line. The backpacks and the contents being stuffed into them (items ranging from crayons, notebooks, pens, pencils, rulers, etc.) were for the children of military families in the D.C. area. My assignment was to make sure that the assembly lines did not run out of supplies, while my colleague Jill Kunkel got busy stuffing pencils into the slick looking pencil cases.
It seemed that the bins with the heaviest item (notebooks) would run out the quickest while the bins with the lightest item (rulers) did not run out at all – something to do with volume and mass! The constant frenzy of lifting heavy boxes of notebooks and carrying them to the assembly line, and the amazing energy in the room, accompanied with a loud bell going off every time we had packed 500 backpacks, resulted in getting the job done in record time as there was no slowing us down. So, it was no surprise that we finished ahead of schedule, stuffing over 5,000 backpacks before proceeding to a rooftop barbecue and the opportunity to meet with wounded warriors and their families and thank them for their service to the country. What an amazing event as it gave to us more than we could have ever given back!
Sunday afternoon presented me with a dilemma, however, as Microsoft had provided the volunteers with tickets to that afternoon's Nationals game … which conflicted with the final game of the World Cup! I decided to catch a bit of both and, after taking in a bit of the Nationals game, went across town to the Convention Center to get registered for the conference and watch the World Cup there. The TV just inside the entrance of the convention center was surrounded by a group of attendees and, as I joined the throng of fans, I quickly realized that I was surrounded by fans from across the globe, all cheering for their respective teams in their native language and adding a true global feel to a sport that crosses so many borders. The final score from Spain caused a ripple of cheers in Spanish and English, and some groans from the fans of the Netherlands, and as the crowd dispersed, I made my way to the registration desk to get equipped with my conference badge.
Monday morning, I arrived at the Verizon center extra early for the kickoff keynote of WPC 2010. As we waited for the keynote to begin, an a capella group entertained the crowed, followed by a video of attendees singing "Oh Cloud," a broad hint as to the theme of what was to follow. Allison Watson, Corporate VP of Business and Marketing for North America, kicked things off and introduced Jon Roskill who will be taking over as the Vice President of the World Wide Partner Group. It was an emotional moment for her as this was to be her last WPC, and the audience cheered her and honored her commitment to the program. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage next to the cheers of the audience, and was asked to join in the singing of "Oh Cloud." Unsurprisingly, the main message of Steve's keynote was the Cloud and Microsoft's commitment to it.
By the time Bob Muglia, President of Server and Tools Business came onstage, we had settled in for a lineup of Cloud-related announcements. Bob spoke about how Partners would be able to build public and private clouds using the Windows Azure platform. Tami Reller, Corporate VP for the Windows Business demonstrated the second public beta of Windows Intune, an application that allows you to manage and secure all your PCs from anywhere. We saw an impressive lineup of laptops that were small, lightweight but powerful, with dual screens, screens that swiveled and could be used with touch or with a keypad. A couple of lucky attendees received the laptops that they had held for a few minutes of the demo! Note to self: must sit in the front row of the next keynote! The keynote addresses were wrapped by Stephen Elop, VP of the Microsoft Business Division, who spoke about Microsoft Online Services and the growing number of partners who were gaining ground offering of this service to their customers.
The remainder of Monday and Tuesday were a whirl of sessions, meetings in the WPC lounge (more on those later), and visiting the expo center and the various lounges scattered all over the Convention Center. As I write this, I am looking forward to Wednesday's keynotes, most especially a distinguished speaker we are all familiar with, President Clinton, and I will be reporting back in this forum on his speech and the other activities of the WPC 2010.