Microsofts annual Most Valuable Professional Global Summit kicks off today as some 1,500 such professionals from 72 different countries and representing 90 Microsoft technologies stream onto the companys Redmond campus for three days of networking with each other and with Microsofts product development teams.
Microsoft Corp. currently has a total of about 3,000 MVPs, with half of them attending this weeks summit, a 30 percent rise from the number that attended last years summit, Lori Moore, Microsofts corporate vice president of Customer Service and Support, told eWEEK in an interview on Wednesday.
This years summit also includes MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) for products like Microsoft Dynamics and MSN, technologies which were not previously included in the MVP program, as well as MVPs from countries included in the program for the first time, such as Romania, Jamaica, Pakistan and Thailand.
For Microsoft, the benefit of the summit is simple: to provide its employees from more than 90 product groups with the opportunity to connect with these recognized experts in the community, Moore said.
For their part, the MVPs get to meet and mingle with their peers as well as to interact directly with staff from Microsofts product development teams.
Being recognized as an MVP brings a number of benefits, including a complimentary subscription to MSDN and TechNet, having a point person at Microsoft help them navigate the company, as well as access to private news groups where they can interact with one another and Microsofts product teams, Sean ODriscoll, the senior director of the Microsoft MVP program, told eWEEK.
The summit officially kicks off with attendee registration and an expo Wednesday, followed by dinners for MVPs from different regions.
That will be followed Thursday by a series of executive keynotes from CEO Steve Ballmer, as well as from Jim Allchin and Kevin Johnson, the co-presidents of the Microsoft Platform Products and Services Division.
Ballmer is expected to use his keynote to talk about the wave of innovation over next 18 months, products that will be shipped and the MVPs voice and role in that process.
“Johnson will talk about Microsofts evolution to a customer-centric company, while Allchin, who has a great relationship with these MVPs, will talk about where we are in the journey from Longhorn to Windows Vista, when those bits will be shipped and his new role moving forward and what the evolution is and connecting them with Kevin [Johnson],” Moore said.
While the broad format of this years summit remains much the same as in previous years, the MVPs will be getting a “broader and richer engagement with the product teams than ever before, as this is what they have told us in their feedback that they want,” Moore said.
This will take place over two days via the 350 technical sessions that will be hosted across the campus.
This will give the MVPs direct access to the relevant product development teams and allow bidirectional feedback.
“For every MVP attending, there is at least one Microsoft employee registered to participate,” she said.
Asked if Microsoft was handing out any beta, or pre-beta software, especially that for Office 12, Moore said she was unaware of any such plan.
But ODriscoll said there would be “a lot of opportunity for the Office MVPs to directly interact with the Office 12 bits in the sessions and dialogue about the direction the product is taking as well as to give any feedback and suggestions they might have.”
ODriscoll was also quick to point out that the MVP Summit was not a “one-time opportunity for communications and feedback between MVPs and associated product teams,” and added that over the past 12 months there had been more than 500 exclusive events between MVPs and their associated product teams wherein they were able to have in depth communication.
“We also take MVP product feedback and load it directly into whats called Product Studio, the internal tool developers use across Microsoft to trace the issues and bugs they are working on. Obviously we cant fix everything they suggest, but we do commit to following up on their suggestions,” he said.