Dueling Dev Conferences: What's a Developer to Do?

Dueling developer conferences next month pose a quandary not only for some journalists but for some developers alike. Early in June, both IBM Rational and Microsoft will hold their annual conferences aimed at developers, both in Orlando and both during the very same week. IBM is holding its annual Rational Software Development Conference (RSDC) at the Swan/Dolphin resort June 1-5, while Microsoft is holding the developer leg of its annual TechEd conference at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center June 3-6.

Although both events have been held in Orlando before, this is the first time they've overlapped, and it's presenting a problem for yours truly, not to mention some developers who use both Rational's and Microsoft's tools and would like to attend both events.

This is the first year Microsoft has broken up its TechEd conference into two parts running over two weeks in the United States. The company did so last year for TechEd Europe--with a developer-focused event one week and another for IT professionals the following week. I guess it worked so well that it decided to use the same format in the United States.

But the dueling events serve only to give me a headache, as these are both annual developer conferences that I look forward to covering because of the richness of the content and the access to both the folks behind the technology and users of it.

IBM kicks off the week on Monday June 2 with some of its corporate leaders keynoting: Danny Sabbah, general manager of IBM Rational, and Colleen Arnold, general manager of IBM Global Application Services. On Tuesday IBM comes back with a strong lineup of Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software Group, and Grady Booch, an IBM fellow and renowned developer, software architect and overall technology thinker. However, also on Tuesday, Microsoft counters with none other than outgoing founder and chairman Bill Gates as the opening keynote for TechEd Developer.

Now that's just not fair. How are you not going to see Gates? It's probably his last keynote as head of Microsoft, and it's at a developer event--his favorite audience. However, I have a rapport with both Mills and perhaps more so with Grady. I want to see what those guys have to say. And though I've interviewed Gates only a couple of times, like most everybody else that follows the tech industry I "feel" like I know the guy. But knowing him or not, you just gotta go see Gates. At JavaOne I did an informal interview of the press I knew, and they all said they were going to be in Orlando and were planning to cover Gates.

But you know what the meanest part of this whole thing is? The events surrounding the conferences. Both companies sponsor dinners, parties and receptions with access to their top execs. And this time things are going on every night of the week for both events.

The messaging from both events is bound to be more of the same. Microsoft is unlikely to unveil a ton of new developer stuff in June because it has its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) coming just months later, in October. And since there hasn't been a PDC in three years, I'd expect that it's planning to load up to show its best stuff there. Rational will focus on how to help enterprises deliver business value through software and how to eek more productivity out of developers via tooling and collaboration. RSDC will likely be a Jazz fest--Jazz is Rational's flagship developer collaboration platform.

And no doubt both events will have some sort of focus on modeling. Modeling is one of Gates' pet developer projects and is at the heart of Microsoft's broad Oslo strategy. Meanwhile, Rational was basically raised on modeling, and Booch is perhaps the father of that focus as one of the authors of the Unified Modeling Language (UML). Ironically, it is rumored that Gates once rallied hard to hire Booch--when Rational was still independent--to lead Microsoft's own modeling initiative and ostensibly to work alongside current Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie, who Microsoft also was eyeing at the time.

As a reporter who loves the developer world, I really wish I could cover both events end-to-end, but I'm going to have to settle for shuttling between the two and getting the best of both worlds.