As for the keynote
I thought the keynote for DevDays 2004 - Austin was a bit underwhelming. Jay Skelly ran through quick demos of InfoPath, BizTalk 2004, and SQL Reporting Services. I've seen the InfoPath demos before, and I don't think this one really demonstrated its power from a developer's point of view. It was more like “hey look, you can draw a form and fill in data”, which might lead someone to think “I guess its Microsoft Access for Web Services”. Maybe that's the intended effect, but I think it really undersells its potential.
The BizTalk demo was semi-interesting, as it demonstrated orchestrating a distributed transaction system through a slick GUI... but I was left thinking there must have been a lot of preparation beforehand to get the demo to the state it was in, and therefore, could not get a good feeling for what it might really be like to work with the product.
And I'm still not sold on SQL Reporting Services. It looks like a replacement for Crystal Reports. Crystal Reports is the product that they have been bundling with Visual Studio for a few years, but has yet to gain the utilization you might expect from a bundled product. I was never sold on Crystal Reports, and I don't personally know anyone that was. So, why should I be interested in SQL Reporting Services?
Steven Fulcher the showed a glimpse of “Whitehorse”. Now you've got my attention! It looks like Whitehorse will finally put VS.NET in the hands of system architects, in a way that Visio was never able to. I'm not an expert in this field, its possible that other products, like Rational's XDE, may already provide this functionality, but I have never seen them presented so “approachable”. A co-worker was disappointed in the fact that Microsoft is creating their own graphical representation of systems and integration points, instead of using common UML symbols. Funny, I think that's exactly why I liked it.
J Sawyer ended the keynote with an overview of XP SP2. It was all material that has been online for a while now, but I understand not everyone follows MSDN as rabidly, and it is important to get the word out on the major changes. And it reminded me that I really should grab the beta soon and start testing my apps.