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Microsoft honors its most valuable volunteers

PC World

By Tom Sullivan

REDMOND, Washington (IDG) -- People were whispering on Microsoft's campus here Friday, but it wasn't about Web services, Xbox, or what comes after .Net.

Instead, the absurd buzz circulating around Microsoft on Friday morning was about a wedding. That's right, one of the people who is attending Microsoft's MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Summit this week decided to bring his fiancee along, and the word is that they are going to get married in Redmond, Washington. What's more, they plan to exchange wedding vows wirelessly -- with their Pocket PCs (see"New Pocket PCs Cater to Connected Travelers," link below).

The newlyweds-to-be were in town for the annual MVP Summit, an event the company holds to honor folks who don't actually work for Microsoft but volunteer their time and technical expertise via online communities and newsgroups to help others solve problems they are having with Microsoft software. INFOCENTER
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In its seventh iteration, the MVP event drew more than 400 attendees, including firefighters, doctors, retirees, hobbyists, consultants, trainers, authors, and a 15-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida, who was accompanied by his father.

This might seem to be a motley conglomeration of experts, but Microsoft takes stock in what they say. "Our MVPs are our biggest fans, and at the same time our biggest critics," says Denise Rundle, general manager of Microsoft's support automation group.

Rundle adds that Microsoft holds the event for two reasons. The first is to give its MVPs a technical-intensive education and strengthen their relationship with Microsoft's development teams and senior engineers. Second, Microsoft solicits feedback from the MVPs on its products so it can take that input and improve its software.

On the education side, Bill Gates, Microsoft's chair and chief software architect, walked on stage amid a standing ovation and described to attendees his vision of the "digital decade."

The Digital Decade

"What we have done so far is really just scratching the surface," Gates said, adding that this decade will see major productivity enhancements (see"Gates Unveils Portable Tablet PC," link below).

Gates listed the key elements of the digital decade as hardware and software advances, Web services, and trustworthy computing. He said that the current decade will see more productivity advances than any other decade in history, and added that the next 10 years will be more fun than the last 20.

"I'm very lucky in making these speculations because I have a $5 billion R&D budget, and I can tell [Microsoft employees] to make it happen," Gates said.

Make no mistake about it, these attendees are Microsoft's devout. After Gates's keynote, in fact, many used the question-and-answer session to praise their idol.

"I just want to tell you that you're my hero," one woman said.

Another thanked Gates and Microsoft for making software and referred to Sun as "the negative people, the jerks."

Anti-Sun sentiments were rampant. Even Josh Mitts, the 15-year old .Net expert and youngest MVP, took the opportunity to criticize Sun in a fashion akin to Microsoft's own product managers.

"SunONE (see "Microsoft, Sun Vie for Web Services, link below) is vaporware. .Net is where technology is going," Mills said strongly.

Another attendee said everyone is impressed with the wunderkind. "That kid is a genius."

Mitts said he gained knowledge of .Net by using Microsoft's software to build applications and Web sites as part of his work with his father's company, Treasure On the Net, which offers interactive marketing services.


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