You missed a great event if you weren't in Seattle May 9-11 for Microsoft's first-ever business intelligence (BI) conference. Of course you know I'm biased, but I was just tickled pink to finally get a conference dedicated completely to Microsoft BI instead of just a small corner of a mega-conference's master agenda (like there will be at TechEd 2007 in Orlando June 4-8). It was quite a change to not spend my time convincing folks to attend BI sessions—-all of the sessions were BI!

Microsoft really put its shoulder into this one, bringing out Microsoft heavy-hitters Jeff Raikes, Ted Kummert, and Steve Ballmer and industry experts Michael Treacy and Dr. Robert Kaplan as keynote speakers each morning. In the kickoff keynote, Jeff Raikes covered details of Katmai, the next version of SQL Server, stating that it will be released in 2008, but he didn't announce any official name for "SQL Server 2008." He also talked about the development and early adoption of Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, as well as highlighting some of the recent accomplishments of key global system integrators and Microsoft's impressive investments in the BI space. Perhaps a little dramatically, he declared, "It's a new day for business intelligence." You can find more details about Jeff's speech in the press release at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/may07/05-09BINewDayPR.mspx. Microsoft also provided a press release regarding "Katmai" details; check it out at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/may07/05-09KatmaiPR.mspx.

About 2,500 people attended the BI conference, which--though nothing compared to TechEd with approximately 14,000 attendees--is impressive for a conference's first year. I interviewed a number of vendors in elevators, hallways, and even their booths, and I got a variety of reactions about the conference. Some said that the conference was more technical than they expected, while others felt it was more business-oriented than they expected. But all the vendors were pleased with the turnout and the overall attendee energy.

One of the conference highlights for me--something I always like to mention--was an installment of the BI Power Hour: a non-stop hour of back-to-back clever demonstrations of product misuse in the spirit of humor and ingenuity interleaved with the forceful distribution (i.e., throwing) of marketing giveaways. (Duck! Here comes another .NET t-shirt compressed into a brick!) But I must stay this was one of the more tame Power Hours I've attended. Some of the new blood must not have been fully briefed or must have missed my past event coverage ("Microsoft's First Annual BI Power Hour," InstantDoc ID 46822). Or maybe there just weren't as many demos shoehorned into the time slot. But we did get demos from old favorites Donald Farmer and Brian Welcker, and all-in-all the BI Power Hour was a good session that a Microsoft BI Conference would be incomplete without.

Microsoft made much of the conference portable. Each conference attendee was given a Resource Kit DVD and was promised DVDs of full conference proceedings. Attendees and non-attendees alike can find even more information on the conference resource page, Live at the Business Intelligence Conference. Check out the keynote videos, news releases, and podcasts—-there's even one by me.

So if you're on the BI track or are looking for BI information at technical conferences, keep your eyes open for details about the next Microsoft BI Conference--attending will be well worth your time.