Microsoft yesterday gave TechEd attendees a preview of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 after conference organisers apparently strong-armed an exhibitor to reduce exposure for VMWare, the main competitor to the new product.

Before the Virtual Server was even shown to TechEd attendees, Microsoft was making sure that it was the only game in town, with the organisers asking exhibitor Microway to stop distributing VMware badges to attendees and to remove VMWare signage from their booth. Microway is a well-known Australia software tools distributor and their booth in the TechEd exhibition hall featured signage and brochures for a number of the products that they distribute, including VMWare.

Representatives from The Forum Group, which is organising the show on Microsoft’s behalf, approached Microway to remove the signage yesterday prior to the Virtual Server session, citing that VMWare was considered a “competing product”. Of the other exhibitors Builder AU talked to in the exhibition area, none were asked to remove signage or alter their stand despite offering products that directly compete against Microsoft products.

When Microsoft was asked who specifically requested the removal, a spokesperson attributed it to “the events staff”. The spokesperson said it “happened all the time,” citing an incident involving distribution of a Linux CD at a previous show.

Virtual Server 2005 is set to be released “soon” according to Microsoft and a release candidate of the product is available for download.