Boston—what a cool city! As an American citizen by birth, I’ve heard of this city throughout my school years and have a basic familiarity with its history but actually visiting Boston in person makes it all brand new for me. It’s easy to forget that Boston is a harbor city until you actually visit. I also had a brain lapse and forgot that both MIT and Harvard are located here too. At any rate, it’s a physically beautiful town, eminently historical (for an American city anyways), and the food so far as been awesome (thanks Chris for the 2lbs of steamed clams Monday night! It was a great choice to host the annual Microsoft WorldWide Partner Conference, or WPC.

So here I am, typing away in the SBS Lounge area of the WPC. I’m at the WPC with I’m here with a bunch of other folks from the SBS product team, including the General Manager for the Windows Server Solutions Group, Chris Phillips; Kevin Kean, Product Unit Manager for SBS; Steven VanRoekel , A Director in the Windows Server Marketing group, and several other Marketing and Development folks from SBS.  I’m the sole UA guy, but as you can see, I’m far from lonely! And hey! At last night’s WPC Reception, I ran into Tyler Parris, a former Editor on the Windows Server UA team, but now with the MBS ERP group at Microsoft.

So this is Day 2 of the WPC, and today was the official launch. Yesterday, Day 1, was more or less your standard meet-and-greet, get registered, and get the lay of the land type of thing. The kickoff and general sessions began today.

The actual WPC 2006 event is being held in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, which is massive. Just one of the exhibition halls easily seats some 8,000 people.  There are attendees in excess of 10,000, representing over 60 countries, so says Allison Watson, VP for Worldwide Partner and Small Business Group, the host for the event.

Steve Ballmer gave the keynote speech with his characteristic football coach style.  Some people give him a hard time about it but I’ve come to like it over time. Kinda cool to see “the” CEO in America get all worked up and sweaty about software.  At least it keeps you awake…

Anyways, the theme of this year’s WPC is “People ready” software. The idea is pretty simple but still fundamental. Concentrate on building software that enables people to do what they do best. Ballmer summed it up by saying, “People don’t buy information technology for information technology’s sake; people buy information technology for what it enables them to do.” So that’s what the conference is about: helping partners see the value that MS products offer and then helping them see how to leverage that value in ways that make them  profitable and their customers productive and happy.

The big takeaway for me here has been to realize that the work that happens in one building in the small city of Redmond, WA is the lifeblood for thousands of partners all over world. For real. All over the world. It really gives you pause when you think about how partners the world over often look to our documentation to spin up on SBS  so that they can deliver on the services they offer to their customers. I guess you can sum it up by saying that User Assistance matters!

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