@MikeBergin: I wouldn't say that it's a strategy of investing on a massive scale to win the market. After all, we're talking about 10,000-12,000 people (at each conference). What we are talking about is providing a perk to conference attendees as they have done in the past, knowing that TechEd attendees are some of the most passionate proponents of Microsoft solutions and that we are often times either IT decision makers or in a position to influence them.
As has been pointed out elsewhere in these forums, in the 5 previous TechEd conferences Microsoft has given away free TechNet Professional subscriptions (retail price of $350) to TechEd attendees, but are not doing so this year. In the several years before the TechNet subs were given out, I'm told that Microsoft negotiated significant discounts with one or more hardware vendors for a piece of hardware that could be purchased at the conference. Many (most?) of us were assuming that there would be some sort of giveaway/perk associated with this year's conference.
What would be amazing would be if TechEd were the place where Microsoft finally announces their 7"-8" Surface tablet and gave one to each attendee. But I'd be happy with a deep discount on a tablet or phone, or even just the TechNet subs (since mine is expired).