I’ve been down at Microsoft’s Tech.Ed 06 conference this week, where 2600 devotees are wandering around, attending sessions and getting up to speed on the latest from Redmond. Oh, and playing a bit of Xbox 360 while they’re there.

Just about everyone that I’ve spoken to has been impressed by the event, and one distinct difference that I’ve noticed this year is a focus less on the technology for the sake of it, and more on how it can enhance customer experience. Yup, this from Redmond! The company is realising that it’s making products for a huge cross-section of people and it doesn’t matter what geeks find cool and usable if mainstream users are left in the dark. In the words of one Microsoft techie that I spoke to, “[the company] is moving from being technology focused to customer focused”. The keynote was even delivered by an anthropologist and not a geek – a fascinating swing away from the heavy tech focus of previous years.

This isn’t to suggest that Microsoft’s annual geek fest is losing its technical content – far from it – but it’s a nod towards a changing tech world where everyone has to use a computer, not just geeks.

One cool element of the event is being run by Dev’garten, where attendees are encouraged to come and contribute code to an application for a charitable organisation. A document plan is available and anyone can contribute as much code as they want. Those responsible are describing it as a community project, and the source will be handed over to the charity upon completion.

The entire project relies heavily on Team Foundation Server and code is checked by a team of leaders before being rolled into a final build – hopefully by the time Tech Ed wraps up tomorrow. Very cool, and a clever use of the available technology to actually get something useful done.

Check out our Tech.Ed 06 aggregation page at http://www.builderau.com.au/special/teched2006/index.htm? for news, blogs, photo galleries and some video content as we finish the edits.