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Microsoft's message at TechEd: make the most of what you have

Businesses are less likely to invest in brand-new projects, so Microsoft's message at this year's TechEd is for developers to use their existing resources to their fullest.

Microsoft's message to developers at this year's TechEd is to take a break from learning the latest CTPs and previews -- and focus on fully leveraging all the skills they've built over the years.

In a lot of cases, I don't think IT necessarily has to do new things.
Burley Kawasaki
 Director of developer platform product management, Microsoft
The company hopes that this approach will resonate with businesses looking to save in the recession by stretching their existing resources as far as they'll go, said Burley Kawasaki, director of developer platform product management at Microsoft, in a phone discussion with last week.

Developers can be IT departments' "secret weapons," Kawasaki said, if they figure out how to use the tools, skills and packaged applications that their companies acquired in better economic times.

"In a lot of cases, I don't think IT necessarily has to do new things," Kawasaki said. "They already have most of what they need. Now it's just a matter of unlocking it. ... If [developers] are already using a number of the tools they already have, they're light years ahead."

Microsoft pointing to analysts who back up its assertion; one Forrester study reported that upgrading legacy applications and continuing to integrate them is a high priority for many companies.

To that end, Microsoft is taking the opportunity at TechEd to make sure that companies are using Microsoft's resources to their fullest. For instance, a relatively new program called RampUp helps developers learn new technologies based on what they already know, Kawasaki said. RampUp is free and includes topics like SharePoint for Developers and Visual Studio 2005 for the VS 2002 / 2003 developer.

Kawasaki also mentioned BizSpark, a program that gives startups free access to all Microsoft development tools and a free MSDN subscription for up to three years. Microsoft launched BizSpark last year in an effort to lower the barrier of entry for new companies interested in the .NET stack.

Windows 7 release date coming soon

But even as Microsoft encouraged developers to make the most of what they already have, the company continued to show off its upcoming Windows 7. Microsoft released the Windows 7 RC last week, and at TechEd it announced that the OS will probably ship in time for the holiday season this year.

Windows 7 has been out as a public beta since January, and its reception has been very positive overall. The OS makes several noticeable changes, particularly around the taskbar, and Microsoft says it also performs better and has a lower memory footprint than Windows Vista.

Windows 7 will also include native touch support, a feature which UI components vendor Infragistics said it's looking into bringing into its components. Although some components translate easily from clicks to taps, others are trickier from a UI perspective.

For instance, users already know how to select multiple items in a select box by holding shift or control as they click, but that doesn't translate naturally to touch screens, said Anthony Lombardo, lead evangelist at Infragistics and Microsoft MVP.

What remains to be seen, though, is how many companies will invest in the Windows 7 if the economy has not picked up significantly by the time it comes out.

Many businesses are more interested in Windows 7 than they were in Vista, and some are planning to upgrade straight from XP to Windows 7, Lombardo said. But "the timeframe on that is still up for grabs," he added.

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