TechEd: A look around the show in pictures

By now, you'll hopefully have seen our coverage of the keynote addresses from day one and day two of Microsoft's TechEd 2012 extravaganza in Orlando, along with an interview with Nokia's David Mason about the company's range of Lumia handsets.

But TechEd isn't just about media events; there's much more to it than that. In addition to dozens of workshops and sessions in which delegates can become familiar with (and even certified in) technologies from Microsoft and its partners, there's plenty for everyone to see at TechExpo - an expanse of booths and stands, offering showgoers a great opportunity to talk to the companies that are using and developing those technologies, and to see their capabilities in action.

Let's take a look through some of the highlights, in pictures.

No suits or ties here. With the baking Florida heat outdoors, the Orange County Convention Center played host to the event, with over 11,000 attendees visiting from all over the world, all of whom liked to dress down for the occasion. Well, we are techies, after all.

Hands-On Labs offered a great place for attendees to discover and learn...

...while there were opportunities to fulfil Microsoft certification requirements here too.

But it wasn't all hard work. The Game Zone offered a great opportunity to take some time out from the hustle and bustle of the show...

...to crush your opponents at a game of pool, fußball (table football), or air hockey.

But when you bring together thousands of people in one place, they're going to want to be fed at some point...

...and thankfully Microsoft did not disappoint, laying on a seemingly endless spread of scrumptious food...

...prepared and served by a fantastic team of unsung heroes, working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep all of us happy.

Microsoft sure knows how to spoil its community - they even provided complimentary Haagen-Dazs ice cream, to the great delight of attendees!

Members of the media, however, were herded into the not-terribly-glamorous press pen in a far corner, where we wouldn't get in the way or knock anything over. Despite its modest appearance, the press centre had plenty of features to keep grumbling reporters and writers happy, including a seemingly endless supply of coffee, fruit, desserts and other delicious treats.

But on the other side of the Center, lay the sprawling mass of the exhibition stands...

 

...and, not surprisingly, Microsoft was the largest exhibitor of all. As this year represented the twentieth anniversary of TechEd, the company set up a mini-exhibit featuring twenty years of TechEd swag-bags (the complimentary bags given out to attendees to fill with free treats)...

...providing a great opportunity to look back at some of the company's products from the last two decades, such as old-school Internet Explorer.

Does anyone remember this 'Windows Seven' logo being used?

Here's what the swag-bags looked like from the very first TechEd, all the way back in 1993:

Not all attendees are intimately familiar with all Microsoft products. Some of those that I spoke to had never even used Windows 8 before, for example, and Microsoft made a point of encouraging them - and especially business users - to download the Release Preview to test drive it and see it in action.

These guys were part of a small army of people whose job it was to demonstrate the Nokia Lumia 900 to anyone and everyone they could find, especially those who had never tried one out before. Those who took a few minutes to ask questions and get some hands-on time with the device were rewarded with a free 'I Love Windows Phone' t-shirt.

The Windows Phone stand featured a range of devices for people to try out, and a team of knowledgeable, friendly staff ready to answer any questions:

'Windows Reimagined' is a mantra we've heard over and over again at the show - and since long before then, in fact...

...and the Windows stand allowed visitors to see Windows 8 in action - for the first time in some cases - including tablet hardware such as this slate (spot the Windows 7 sticker).

Windows 8 desktop + Windows 8 tablet = a great solution for business, Microsoft believes. Nice view.

Elsewhere, the Visual Studio stand allowed users to familiarise themselves with the latest version of the software, and get their questions answered on some of the new developments revealed in the keynote on day one... plus this rather awesome Porsche Panamera in VS 2012 livery.

Given Microsoft's emphasis on the cloud during this year's event, the Office 365 stand was understandably popular, with visitors learning how the company's productivity offerings come together into one compelling package, via the cloud.

It featured a rather striking Lego diorama...

...of a connected town, with lovely little details like this office cutaway:

Also on the Office 365 stand were these rather bizarre-looking contraptions...

...which a Microsoft rep assured me, with a straight face, represent 'the future of productivity'.

Microsoft wasn't the only exhibitor though. As you'd expect, Nokia was here too.

But what on earth were all these people queuing for?

No, Nokia wasn't giving away free phones to everyone - but it was giving visitors the opportunity to win a Lumia 900 in its competition. Each contestant would simply pick a tile, any tile...

...and hope that underneath it would lie a free phone. Did this nice lady win?

No, but she did get transformed into a young Asian gentleman.

The real theme of Nokia's stand was to promote the suitability of its Lumia Windows Phones in business. You can read more about this in my interview with Nokia's David Mason.

Vendors of all sizes vied for the attention of conference delegates...

...including some of the biggest players in the industry, such as HP...

...Dell...

...Symantec...

...and, er, Veeam - which is apparently for lovers. Of virtualization.

Perhaps the strangest exhibit was Microsoft's 'Boxing Bots'...

...a Kinect-driven droid battle in a boxing ring.

Check out the bots in action:

This vid shows a user controlling the bots... although the interaction sort of just stops working halfway through, leading one observer to remark: "This is just like every other Kinect game." Ouch.

 

As the sun sets here in Orlando, and TechEd 2012 draws to a close, it remains only for us to commend Microsoft for a great event - and to say a huge thank you to all of those people, whether on the front lines or behind the scenes, who worked so hard to make the twentieth TechEd gathering such a fantastic success.

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