Takeaways from Windows Embedded Japan trip

Hey all, I made it back from my trip to Tokyo for Embedded DevCon Japan 2004 and some customer visits. I fully intended to write blog entries after each day of the trip but underestimated the exhaustion I was going to feel - between the jet lag, a little bit of culture shock (this was my first trip to a country where I didn't understand the lanugage or at least be able to sort of read the text), and the fatigue from the conference and volume of customer visits themselves I wasn't able to come up with the energy before I went to bed each night to post something.

The talks at DevCon went better than I was expecting. I knew the technologies, but the talks were inherited from content presented earlier this summer so that made me a little nervous. I created an updated demo to show how to use the SDI file format to boot from RAM (because the original presenter was out of the office in training the week before my trip), and that really helped me learn how things work as well as where some of our documentation and examples are a little lacking (I'm hoping to do some kind of write up of an end-to-end example for a future white paper or something like that). The night before the conference I met with 2 interpreters for about an hour to go over the content, and it was then that I realized that nearly all of the attendees for my talks would be using headsets to listen to the Japanese translations of what I would be saying rather than focusing on my words. That helped to relax me a little bit also. Then I got to the conference center the next day and found out that my 2 talks would be nearly full - I'm estimating there were somewhere between 100-150 people at each of them (as opposed to about 20 people at each of my talks at DevCon USA in San Diego). So I started out a little shaky but once I settled in things went well. My first talk about EWF lasted 50 of the 60 minutes, and I talked with the interpreters afterwards about ideas for slowing things down and taking better pauses. For the 2nd talk about SDI and RAM boot, I focused on taking breaks after every sentence or so, and I started realizing that I could hear the interpreters speaking in those pauses - so this helped me pace things better, and I used about 59 of the 60 minutes.

The next 2 days, myself and the other 4 team members that came with me from Redmond, along with a few members of our Japanese subsidiary team visited 5 different companies that are using XP Embedded or evaluating it for future use. The team is meeting back in Redmond on Monday to discuss takeaways, and I'm not sure how much of the specific content I am able talk about due to non-disclosure and things like that so I'm going to give a high-level summary of the biggest issues I heard that were common across all of the customers we met, along with the highlight of the trip for me.

Three big common themes I heard (in no particular order) are the following:

  1. Security - customers want to know how they can ensure security for their devices against existing and future attacks. Some of the customers were not aware of the white paper that we released late in the spring with strategies for configuring Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) for XP Embedded SP1 - it can be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnxpesp1/html/icf_advACI.asp
  2. Servicing - customers want to know what options they have for applying patches and updates to devices already deployed in the field. For nearly all of them, rebuilding and redeploying an entirely new image is not an option they are willing to endure
  3. Fast boot time - all of the customers we met want to boot the machine into a shell as fast as possible and wanted to talk about how to speed things up even more than they are now. This is something I want to talk about as a separate blog item in the near future - it is not something I have a lot of experience with and I want to do some more research so I can accurately talk about the current strategies and any additional options that may be useful for customers

Aside from the above, the highlight from the customer visits for me me personally was hearing one of the customers tell us that they were having a problem with Enhanced Write Filter (EWF) and needed an urgent resolution in the next couple of weeks for a project they were working on, but they attended my talk about EWF at DevCon and were able to solve their problem. Unfortunately, due to the meeting running long and the customers speaking only Japanese, I wasn't able to dig in deeper to figure out what the problem was and what in the talk helped them solve it, but nonetheless it was very rewarding to hear that something I said made a difference to their work, however small it might have been.

That's about all I've got for now, I'm still a little jet lagged so it is time for a nap for me. If anyone out there has any comments about their experiences, especially with the 3 areas of concern listed above, please drop me a comment on the blog or send me an email. As always, thanks for reading!