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Future Decoded! What you are missing at Microsofts London techfest

Its the big day! The opening of Microsofts whopping Future Decoded conference at the Excel Centre in Londons Docklands. The chief executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, himself has spoken.

So what are you missing

First up, the vibe. Which is excellent. Turnout is strong. Day one of three is a sellout. As you enter theres the Back to the Future time-travelling DeLorean. Complete with hoverboard. Whoever organised that knows how to get jaded tech industry titans excited. These chaps prove you dont have to be a Taylor Swift fan to take over-excited selfies.

Stroll around the main exhibition centre and youll see a lot of bonhomie and glad-handing. With more than 1,300 Microsoft Partners attending this is very much an industry insiders affair.

And what of the speeches In fact the first performers were CC Smuggler, a Cambridge Folk ensemble. Who got the energy levels nice and high (seriously: when organising events like this an early morning blast of high energy folk or similar is pretty damn vital).

And what of the keynotes To warm up before Nadella spoke at midday the Redmond team laid on all star cast: Jeremy Paxman, Bob Geldof, former MI5 boss Stella Rimington and Martin Sorrell  (what would a conference be without Sorrell on stage ).

The highlights: Paxman tells us: Predicting the future is a mugs game . He also laid into newspapers and traditional universities. Print news he says is dying, not because of they are on paper, but because we no longer care what they tell us. Universities too arent useful because of the reams of paper books they possess. With the internet offering literature and tuition to all and sundry the USP of the forward thinking university is networking in the flesh.

Geldof delivered his set with astonishing energy. Education, he told us, would be the salvation Africa. Only when you are educated can you be free. He also announced Band Aid is back, and will be helping the fight against Ebola. Welcome news.

Rimington told us the golden rule at MI5 is saying nothing to anybody . She also had a strong line about leadership: Is leadership sitting at a desk and worrying Partly, but it is also about taking the flak and not flapping . Fans could meet Dame Stella afterwards for a chat and again a selfie, as she sits by piles of her book ‘Open Secret’ ( £11 please).

WPP founder Sorrell gave a good stab at predicting the future (what a ‘mug’ Paxo must have thought) with his ten key global trends. Think BRICS, big government, the rise of tech and the mismatch between the demand for talent and the supply. The architect Buckminster Fuller once gave a speech lasting 42 hours called Everything I know?. One day Sorrell may attempt to do the same. It will last longer than 42 hours. 

And the main man Nadella played it safe. Cloud and mobile would be Microsofts focus. Which I think we knew. Startups are the lifeblood of an economy. Ditto. Perhaps this was a case of the new CEO being the ‘anti-Ballmer’. No monkey-boy prancing (link for the mercifully ignorant). Nadella is too sane and thoughtful for histrionics. And will Wall Street scrutinising his every utterance, too canny to drop accidental bombshells. Technologys role in society is to empower people,” was his hallmark phrase. 

So what are you missing On the exhibition floor not much. The stands are pretty straightforward, showcasing Surface tablets, Microsoft Dynamics, and offerings from HP, Dell, and assorted Partners. Theres crazy golf featuring a tablet controlled ball. You can have a close look at the Lotus F1 car which is terrifyingly beautiful, even to non-petrolheads. Four mini concourses for shorter speeches.

But look. The gist is: you dont attend these for keynotes or to chat with a stand-wallah. You go to meet Partners. To duck out for an hour with people you need to get to know. And if you aint there you can’t do it.

PS: Clever new term: Millennials are ‘screenagers’. Youll be hearing that one again and again.



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