IT Forum opens with demo-fest

Cynics might say that Microsoft's demos are better than its products. So it makes sense that the company's enterprise event for Europe kicked off with 90 minutes of demonstrations

IT Forum, Microsoft's enterprise event in Europe, and the preferred destination for European IT managers who don't want to go to Comdex, opened on Tuesday in Copenhagen, Denmark, highlighting the diversity of Microsoft's current ventures. The event will see the first European "pre-launch" of Windows .Net Server, as well as a big promotion for Systems Management Server 2003, which just arrived in beta. IT Forum also features a lot of coverage for wireless LANs, mobility solutions, and Microsoft's newest gadgets, the tablet PC and smartphone. With all that to choose from, Microsoft led the show off with 90 minutes of demos -- showing all of the above, in bite-sized chunks designed to impress, under the ringmastership of Robbie Ray Wright, director of mobility, EMEA, for Microsoft. "We want to make it real," said Wright. "Our goal is to make everybody say 'Ah-ha!'" The demo of Office 11 showed the new face of Outlook, with better ways to sort emails and a different way to slice the screen up and show more of a message in the Preview (now "Reading") pane. Wright introduced XSO, an unreleased preview which allows collaboration between Office and other applications. For instance a travel Web site would be able to reach into Exchange and suggest appointments, updating them according to changes made when the user buys flights or accommodation. "We're working hard to get this out to you after Titanium launches," said Wright. Three-quarters of users in the hall had instant messaging, and Wright promised more integration there, to make "every desktop a videoconferencing centre." Microsoft showed Content Management Server 2002, a way to allow enterprise users to edit intranet Web content. "The business user can manage Web content through a browser," said Wright. Wright demonstrated the Mobile Workplace framework's ability to promote applications delivered on handhelds. The audience was shown a real-estate system that let agents search for properties, and make offers on behalf of a customer from a Pocket PC across GPRS, which could also fetch images of other properties. The smartphone demo used an Orange SPV to watch pop videos and download a Pac-Man game. This, along with the Xbox demos which sat alongside enterprise players in the hall, were things that, according to Wright, "We still have to find enterprise applications for."

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