In my 5 years in the business, today is the today I'm most proud of. Not because we are finished with BizTalk Server 2006 - we are not - but we are making lots of progress having released our second CTP build that works on the RTM versions of SQL and VS.NET. Incidentally the quality of this build is pretty good, and beta 2 is currently in release candidate mode so we aren't too far away from another release which is a true beta. With beta 2 our early adopter customers will have the option to go into production - so we are at a more scalable, more stable, more feature complete point than we ever has been at this time in the cycle.
No - today it is all about visibility. As a BizTalk guy I've longed for BizTalk Server to be part of the Microsoft Application Platform so that all those developers who really need BizTalk Server but weren't aware of it could finally take advantage of it. Well the time is right, the product is right, the need is right and we are going out super loud. You can bet that with BizTalk Server 2006 your skills will be in demand more than ever before.
Having said that we thought we could accelerate things from a pricing and licensing perspective - which we also announced today. When I started in this business 5 years ago we introduced a price-point that while high from a Microsoft software perspective was dramatically lower than our competitors. Today, we do it again. As part of the pricing for BizTalk Server 2006 we have bundled ALL of the adapters your need to connect systems together. Yep, one price, one SKU, for all the adapters you need. No other competititor does this - each charging between 10-30k per adapter. I love this because it means I don't have to remember 16 different SKU names - I'm sure you'll love this from a price perspective. After a bunch of research we discontinued Partner edition - look for us to reinvent that as a much more targetted Express Edition in the next product cycle. Another thing I like about our new licensing is that for standard edition the connection limit is gone and we support 2 CPUs; the key differentiator has always been failover in Enterprise edition so let's keep it simple and just use that. All those folks who have provided me with suggestions on pricing and licensing on my travels - I hope you are happy because this matches a lot of what you have been asking for!
If like me, you have been installing lots of different builds of SQL and VS.NET on your machine over the last year or two today is a great day. Those products are done. With BizTalk Server we are marching to Beta 2, RC, and RTM. BizTalk Server 2006 will be the strongest quality release in our history and both SQL and VS.NET are better because of the joint work we did in terms of perf and stress testing the products.
P.S. If you attend a launch event (like the one I'm keynoting here in Detroit tommorrow) you get a free copy of BizTalk Server Developer Edition.