Microsoft's TechEd 2010: the highlights

Windows 7 SP1, Cheap HD video conferencing, and more

Silverlight video library

Windows 7 doesn't need much of a service pack, says Microsoft and so Windows 7 Service Pack 1 didn't make much of an appearance in the opening keynote at this year's TechEd conference.

"Windows 7 is great, it's rock solid, people are deploying it like gangbusters - we're seeing a lot of positive feedback," senior Windows product manager Justin Graham told TechRadar.

So all you'll get when SP1 comes along (the Windows 7 SP1 beta release date is "by the end of July") is the updates you already have if you use Windows Update and some hotfixes that haven't previously been made available.

Microsoft couldn't give us any details of what these cover or when the cutoff point for including updates in the service pack will be: "There's still a lot of hotfixes and updates to come before we go to SP1," group product manager Ward Ralston told us, confirming that even though it's just updates there will still be a public beta for SP1.

Office Communicator 14

You may not be longing for the virtualised GPU in Windows Server 2008 R2 on your desktop, but we'd like to see features from the upcoming Office Communicator "14" that Microsoft showed off for the first time at TechEd come to Windows Messenger; in particular the HD 720p video conferencing using what corporate vice president Gurdeep Singh Pall said was a $50 webcam instead of "the $300,000 solutions that you might have seen".

He predicted a wide range of high-definition cameras from hardware manufacturers and Microsoft president Bob Muglia added that "we do expect in the not-too-distant future to see HD cameras being built into laptops".

Communicator also gets the same kind of social networking makeover as Messenger gets in Windows Live Wave 4, with status updates and photos for the people in your contact list, colour-coded to show whether they're online (and the same mini-contact card that pops up when you hover over an email contact in Outlook).

Communicator 14

MESSENGER-LIKE: Communicator 14 will show Facebook-style updates for contacts - with photos

Document sharing is now based on Silverlight for better reproduction of files (the same way Office documents in the Office Web apps look better if you have Silverlight installed).

These two apps aren't likely to ever merge into one single messaging tool (because Communicator has tools like links to your voicemail, with transcriptions done by Exchange Server), but features from one often show up in the other later on.

Azure, Silverlight and Bing

You might never use Microsoft's Azure cloud service yourself, but Microsoft CIO Tony Scott gave us another reason to be fond of it: the Microsoft teams use it to build some services much faster.

He demoed Showcase, a new Silverlight tool on the Microsoft web site for browsing and watching the multitude of videos that Microsoft creates. Instead of trying to find where Microsoft keeps the how-to Office videos or guessing where a video about the Sidewinder keyboard would be, you can look through categories or search. It's no YouTube but if a Microsoft product video ever goes viral, the site won't fall over.

Silverlight also made an appearance as part of the latest Bing news. You still have to pretend to be American to get the Silverlight preview of Bing Maps but it's worth it for the latest version; it's built in Silverlight 4 so as well as smooth zooming and apps that layer more data over the map, you get a right-click context menu.

There are more new apps, including a live weather map from WeatherBug, but the big news was the release of the Bing Maps SDK, letting any developer build map apps and submit them to the Bing gallery.

Bing weather map

APPS AHEAD: So far there's only been a handful of Bing map apps like these US health details and the new weather app; now anyone can get the SDK to put their own data on top of Bing Maps

Microsoft distinguished Engineer Amir Netz showed it off with an app using the Silverlight Pivot control; this uses Deep Zoom to let you zoom into high-resolution images at a remarkably high speed, then rearrange them (into a bar chart, say).

Silverlight pivot

SILVERLIGHT PIVOT: Pivot lets you zoom in to each card - or rearrange them into a chart; it's a great combination of high-resolution images with the real data behind the images

Netz looked at DVD sales, with sales charts made up of DVD cover images, then used those sales figures to colour code areas on Bing Maps. The Silverlight Pivot control will be available in July, so we can look forward some interesting ways of visualising information on Bing Maps.

Pivot silverlight control

NEW VIEW: Sales figures for DVDs - each coloured block is a DVD cover

Unlike Apple's WWDC, TechEd isn't a conference where Microsoft announces new products; it's for business developers and IT professionals to get hands-on details about how to use Microsoft tools.

So when senior product manager Augusto Valdez showed off Windows Phone 7, he concentrated on showing accessing SharePoint from an email-like list and adding comments to Excel spreadsheets.

He also showed the phone getting email from two different Exchange accounts – which also means you'll be able to get push email from both Hotmail and Gmail on the same phone, for example.


Liked this? Then check out Hands on: Windows Phone 7 review

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