Whilst researching various pieces of new technology the other day someone pointed me towards the Microsoft Virtual Labs, a great tool for exploring the next generation of software before purchase.  These Virtual Labs consist of your very own virtual PC to play with for 90 minutes, all set up with a particular piece of software, and best of all they're absolutely free.  All the virtual labs provide a complete tutorial booklet to guide you through the use of the technology they demonstrate, and provide a safe environment within which to explore all the new features.

There are two virtual lab areas you can explore, the first one on TechNet covers a whole range of administration and infrastructure software such as Windows Server 2003 R2, SQL Server 2005 and Exchange Server 2003, and can be found at the following address:

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/traincert/virtuallab/default.mspx

The second virtual lab area is on MSDN, and hosts specific technologies such as ASP .NET and C# as well as broader development concepts such as security and web services. Check it out here:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/virtuallabs/default.aspx