One of the amazing things about Steve Ballmer is even in a room of 1500 MVPs covering like 80 different product groups and disciplines is how easily he answers questions and by that I mean how much he knows about all of Microsoft's groups and products. Now when you think of how much he likely needs to know about things outside of Microsoft such as the general business environment, governments, regulatory, HR, stockholder, partnerships, etc, all I can say is its freaking amazing that when a MVP gets up and asks a fairly technical question that he can answer it intelligently and explain why Microsoft did something in some way. Steve's ability to absorb, organize and retain information is nothing short of incredible.
Now there is no doubt that Steve is passionate about Microsoft and what they do and he does get the value of MVPs and isn't afraid to demonstrate it to those in attendance. This year he wore a WHS sticker (Windows Home Server) on his forehead and he also challenged the MVP who asked him to as well. I mean frankly who wouldn't want a CEO who 'gets' it and is willing to do whatever to help is company and its teams succeed. There was a long time MVP who passed away just shortly before the Summit Meeting and Steve wrote a more then just a brief note of condolences to his family. In the news every day we repeatedly see examples of morally and ethically corrupt leadership which makes CEO's like Steve Ballmer a truly refreshing individual who really care about his employees, their work, and his company and is willing to be just another guy on the team who enjoys a good laugh (he has quite the wit).
So this year Summit was a little different then in years past as my group 'Developer Security' really wasn't doing anything at the Summit so there were no formal meetings for our group, so I just sniped other meanings mostly around C# and developers. We did manage to put together one meeting sort of on a whim as Adam Shoeswack who is the Threat Modeling guy at Microsoft rounded up some of the Windows 7 guys to do an overview of some of the Threat Models they put together and offer their comments around the process and tools they used. This was immensely interesting as something I've struggled with, is just how much time/detail do you try to capture in the Threat Model and so I discovered I've been over doing it a bit. The more I learn about Threat Modeling the more I believe that it is an absolutely essential process in software design.
One of the interesting things is Jesper Johansson is a Developer Security MVP. Now for those who those who don't know Jesper he used to be one of the security heavy weights at Microsoft, so in years past he was standing at the front of the room teaching us about security, now he sits beside you in the audience and is still teaching us about security. Despite the fact he has more formal education then everyone else in the room, likely has done more then anyone else in the room, he has always been very approachable and willing to share what he knows with anyone. If anyone was entitled to be a snotty expert its him, but its just not how he is and you can't do anything else but admire him for that.
This year's MVP Summit was a bit of a lower budget affair then in past year's but despite Microsoft's Billions of dollars of cash in the bank, they were actually been an example of fiscal responsibility in terms of cutting back on swag, hotel expenses (I know some MVPs who have lost their jobs or are very concerned about future employment and such). The core reason why we were there was actually increased as there were more sessions offered, and more opportunities to connect with Microsoft staff and other MVPs. I come away from this Summit feeling like I know where Microsoft is going, what they are working on and it fits rather well with some of the plans that I have concerning software development and schedules. Of course everyone wants everything right now, but what we have works for my immediate plans, what we will be getting and when fits my schedule to the point that when they release final versions of their products to clients, I will be ready to take full advantage of what is coming when its released.
Now we are under NDA when we attend these sessions as Microsoft tends to pull back the covers and there are no marketing guys anywhere as these guys are all product managers, coders etc who are involved in at the actual produce development level (ie these guys cut code). So I can't share the details of what was shown to us or otherwise discussed, but I'm happy with what I saw in products like Visual Studio 10 and Windows 7. There is the usual cool new features and enhancements, but I also did see evidence that some of the older features or previously released half baked features were going to be tightened up, which was great and frankly needed and in some areas very much needed.
One of the things that I saw which was somewhat concerning is a number of product streams are getting similar features which will likely drive some confusion as to what technology to use when, but it might be more a matter of who is available and they can use the technology they know to do the same job as someone else. Now some developers might not like that, but certainly their employers do.
In short an excellent conference and I hope I get the opportunity to attend next year.