I want to shift gears slightly from my ongoing coverage of Team System and look at some other developer-related topics. Foremost is the upcoming Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005 (PDC05), which is scheduled for September 13-16 in Los Angeles (http://msdn.microsoft.com/events/pdc). PDC05 isn't about current technology; it's about Microsoft's plans for the future. Thus, PDC05 will cover technology such as Microsoft IIS 7.0 and Office 12.

If you're a Microsoft developer and have never been to PDC or Microsoft TechEd, you should make it a career goal to get to one of these conferences. Each one has 6000+ attendees and provides access to a large number of industry leaders. The main difference between TechEd and PDC is that TechEd focuses on helping you work with current technology, whereas PDC focuses on preparing you for the next generation of technology. I personally like PDC better because I like the opportunity to learn where the development discipline is going and be introduced to materials that aren't readily available through my own investigation.

An event like PDC05 takes you away from your normal set of technology coworkers and gives you the opportunity to be exposed to the thoughts and direction of other IT professionals. As a PDC05 attendee, one of your goals should be to try and see what the industry leaders really think is the up- and-coming technology. You shouldn't just sit in the formal sessions. You should also engage these leaders at the social events, in the informal Bean Bag Lounge, and in the "Ask the Expert" sessions. In addition, you should drop by the vendor area and talk with representatives in the booths.

When you're talking with an industry leader or vendor representative, you might be tempted to bring up a bug or issue that you can't seem to resolve with a current technology or product. However, I suggest that you save that conversation for a Help desk call. At the PDC, you should be looking for insight on the big picture and how to approach upcoming changes in the development environment.

One topic you'll encounter frequently at PDC05 is Windows Vista, formerly code-named Longhorn. I don't know why Microsoft decided to change the name. However, one advantage is that we're going from three names relating to this new technology (i.e., Longhorn, Avalon, and Indigo) to just one name. For now, you'll still find material referencing the old names, but over time that will change. Referencing all the technology under a single name will help reduce confusion.

The Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) has a development center for Vista at http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsvista. This center includes a link to the beta version of Vista. The center also provides other links, including a link to the Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly known as WinFX) download, white papers, and technology demos. A good place to start is to read some of the white papers and discussion documents that explain the underlying factors driving Vista's design.

What the Vista site doesn't include yet is much information about IIS 7.0, which will be part of the new OS. Information about IIS 7.0 is still scarce because of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), but word is starting to come out. For example Brett Hill, a server evangelist for IIS 7.0 and Web Services at Microsoft and a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro, has some good comments on his blog at http://brettblog.com/permalink,guid,99fe51bc-52b5-4d1b-bbfc-eb1c97dc8fc6.aspx. Similarly, Scott Case, the newly appointed Director of Technology at InterKnowlogy, was recently up in Redmond on a special session devoted to IIS 7.0 and managed to post a couple comments on his blog at http://blogs.interknowlogy.com/scottcase.

Scott is back in Redmond this week getting the skinny on the next version of Office. (You, too, can get the skinny about Office 12 from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/default.mspx.) Office 12 will include a new version of Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, which is probably the most successful server product since Microsoft SQL Server 7.0. Between SharePoint Portal Server and Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System, there's the potential for a company to focus just on supporting the Office suite. In short, such a company doesn't attempt to use ASP.NET and Windows Forms to create custom solutions but looks to leverage the Office tools to set up and maintain its Office environment.

As you can see, Microsoft is moving forward with more than just Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005. There are other mainstream efforts, such as Office 12 and Windows Vista, you need to keep up with. Anytime Microsoft releases a new OS, it's a major event--and Vista definitely seems to be living up to that standard.