New Orleans 1998 – MGS

The MGS in 1998 was a bit different.  I had been working for Linda Griffin for a year, our group had expanded to include a Notes Compete and Sun Compete Teams, and this internet thing continued to grow.  It was my first trip to New Orléans and it was hot, real hot.  It seems when I talk to people they either hate or love New Orléans.    I have to admit it is my kind of town.  Is it dirty?  Yes.  is it crime ridden?   Yes.  Is the weather unbearable?  Yes.  But the state of Louisiana in general is a place with a very rich history and a whole lot of charachter.   You have Cajun, you have Creole, you have African-Americans, White trash, – pretty much everything.  For those readers outside the US, it is in the South.  But unlike all its neighbors who are usually viewed as the bible belt, very conservative, very Republican, the state of Louisiana has never fallen into a defined box.  Louisiana votes the way it wants to vote and is usually ahead of everyone else.  The political history of the state is a very vibrant one with lots of great characters. The current governor is of Indian origin, Bobby (Piyush) Jindahl who is catholic and Republican.  They also have a congressman of Vietnamese origin, Ahn “Joseph ” Cao.   The food is awesome in New Orléans, as good as anywhere in the United States.  In short it’s muggy, political and a great place to  eat…what more could you ask from a conference?

The conference center in New Orléans is huge.  During the technical sessions I just remember it was along way to walk, no matter where you went.  After all that walking you would build up a  sweat and then get to go outside and walk to your Hotel. oh joy.  During one of the early days I hooked up at the end of the day with a few folks from the Internet Custer Unit (ICU) – Dave Derwin, Chris Tham (Cisco Alliance manger) and a guy named Jonathan (we will call him the wine guy).  We went to a famous restaurant called K-Pauls, home of legendary chef Paul Prudhomme.  The nice thing about traveling especially in those days was you got to eat out at some nice restaurants.  I just remember that everything from the bread to the entre to the dessert was fantastic.  Our wine guy picked a great Pinot Noir from Oregon, Domain Drouhin.  Afterwards we went to a Cigar Bar next door with bottle of Scotch.  As the rain poured down in buckets the old wood doors were flung open and we looked out on the down pour looking at some old hotel with the classic New Orleans iron railing.  It was a very cool surreal setting like you would see in the movie “Angel Heart”.

Bourbon Street was just a sea of Microsoft people and a lot of girls on balconies with beads around their necks.  As far as I know none of those girls were Microsoft employees.  It was visually entertaining.  I can see why Bourbon Street is famous. 

The rest of the conference flew by quickly.  I remember my roommate was a guy from Telesales named Michael Stout.  As usual I never specified a roommate and as usual it always seemed to work out well.  I met a lot of nice people by doing that.  As we got to the last days I do remember the executive Q&A session with Bill Gates.  One of my co-workers in the field, who was based out of Chicago asked Billg a question.  The person’s name was Niel Kane and the question was, “what should we do about Linux?”  Bill responded, “If you can’t beat Linux, you should not have a job”.  It’s easy to idolize Billg, especially when you are at Microsoft.    But I realized then that Bill did not get it.  Working withe ISP’s I knew that many were using Linux for dedicated offerings like Send Mail or basic web hosting.  Bill in his response was looking at things visa vis Windows and the desktop.  In the data center, however Linux was taking hold in a big way.  Windows NT was just not designed for a lot of the things that were needed to provide a reliable internet service.  For one there was just so much stuff in  the Windows OS and for many internet services you wanted a dedicated box just to do one thing well and no more.  No reboots, no memory leaks, no multi-tasking etc..I felt bad for Niel but I am happy he asked the question and maybe for a brief moment I understood the evolving world of technology better than Bill did.

We reached the last night and the big party was underway.  This years entertainment was none other than Huey Lewis and the News.  I was never a big Huey fan but listening to the show it was easy to forget how many hits that the News had.  It was a good show.  When it was over I went down to the standing bars they had throughout the conference center and had a Crown Royal, then another and then another.  Luckily my boss Lida saw my current state and got a taxi to drive me to my Hotel.  Which was a quarter of a mile away. 

In rethinking the event it was different in that it seemed like it should have been exciting, but it was missing something.  There were no huge product releases that year and the industry we had grown so quickly in was changing due the emergence of the internet.  I think what was really happening was the center of the universe had started to move from the desktop to the internet, it was just so early that no one could tell.   But that is how these shifts always occur, they star slowly and then they gain momentum.  Little did we know them momentum it would bring.  That is not to say Microsoft did not get it.  Billg had done his “Pearl Harbor Day” speech and we had incorporated hyperlinks into every product we could.  As much as we were trying to embrace we were still trying to find our place in the evolving world of technology.   I shall save that discussion for another entry.  Good night and good luck.

Hans Hoffmann

January 25. 2010

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