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Steve Ballmer may have said something interesting; we couldn’t possibly comment...

A non-report from the third and final day of Microsoft’s BI conference

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As a journalist, this is achingly tempting to believe but, before writing it, we thought we had better just check those boring old ‘fact’ things and so we asked Microsoft why it was banning the press. The response was that Microsoft would “like to focus on the fee paying attendees so that they value the event.”

Right. So that meant this was all about the feel-good factor for the attendees. Tell them the press was excluded and that this was for-their-eyes only. Wow. That’s going to work. Right up until the point where those 2,590 people work out for themselves that, for exactly the reasons outlined above, a secret shared with 2,590 computer-literate people is about as exclusive as shopping at Wal-Mart. I’d give that about eight seconds.

For some reason the keynote was delayed by an hour. We may not have been allowed to attend, but we circled outside the keynote, waiting to pick off attendees as they staggered out into the light. When they finally emerged, the story got even weirder. No secrets and no announcement that it was a ‘secret’ session. So, no feel-good factor. In turn, no feel-bad factor 8 seconds later, but then what was the point of the exercise?

We’re left with two alternatives. It is a conspiracy of some kind. Oh, so tempting but a conspiracy has to have a point. THEY have to have an ulterior motive. What? Where? How? We can’t see it.

The other possibility is that it is simply a mistake. Someone in Microsoft said “Let’s do the news on the first two days. Steve won’t be doing any so you’d better tell the journos not to bother waiting around for the keynote on the third day.” By a process of Chinese whispers that transmogrified into “Journalist are banned from Ballmer’s keynote.” Once the edict had been passed, too much face would have been lost in admitting the mistake so they ran with it.

So, ironically for a BI conference, Microsoft demonstrated Business without the Intelligence.

So, what can I tell you about Steve's keynote? One of the attendees, Eric Rydberg from EDS (not a journalist) gave me a detailed account. He said it was fine. Ballmer was quite energetic but not as pumped as he has been on occasions. No bouncing around on stage. He had some other guys up on stage. They talked. One was a bit boring. No great announcements. Others confirmed the story… Or lack of it.

So, the bad news is that you have had to sit and read this long and rambling account of how Microsoft managed to accidentally ban journalists from a keynote. It's a first in the history of technical conferences as far as I know. The good is that it is probably more exciting than the same number of words devoted to Ballmer being slightly interesting, a little bit bouncy and not announcing any news.

But ignoring all of that - was the conference good? It was fantastic. Microsoft may make mistakes but it does know how to put together an excellent conference. The speakers were good, the material was excellent. I was delighted to see several sessions’ ‘chalk and talks’ devoted to my favourite language, MDX. If you work in BI using Microsoft tools then you must attend the next one. And who knows, you may get to see some bloggers being brought to the ground by security guards, so bring a camera. ®

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