Microsoft: Partners Get 2007 Offerings and 2008 Roadmap
DENVER -- Microsoft Corp. debuted a series of updated programs, new servers, and partner opportunities at its Worldwide Partner Conference here Tuesday and Wednesday, while executives outlined the company's technology roadmap and focus on "software plus services."
During his keynote on Tuesday, Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Business Division Product Management Group, sketched several of the new partner opportunities. Built on the Microsoft Office 2007 platform, these opportunities now extend to new products and programs in areas such as unified communications, Office Business Applications (OBAs), Microsoft Dynamic business solutions, and an upcoming BI solution built on the Office Performance Server 2008. Capossela specifically underscored the benefits to be derived from Microsoft's unified communications products, which include Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007, helping partners tap into a market estimated to reach more than $45 billion by 2010, according to IDC. Capabilities in the Office 2007 platform rely heavily on voice over Internet protocol to provide unified messaging, presence management, and video conferencing.
Microsoft also provided a timeline for the official debut of its next wave of enterprise products--including the long-awaited "Longhorn" version of Windows Server. Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, revealed during his address Tuesday that February 27, 2008, will be the launch date for Windows Server 2008 (formerly code-named "Longhorn"), Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008.
Turner called the trio of products the "big dogs" of Microsoft's enterprise product portfolio. "It's the biggest single launch we will have at Microsoft in one day [in 2008]," Turner said, adding that colleague Andy Lees, a corporate vice president in Microsoft's server and tools business, told him to call it a "feeding frenzy of opportunity" for partners. "There are hundreds of billions of dollars available to you through the monetization of these products," Turner said, to an audience of thousands of partners.
Turner also reminded the crowd that Microsoft has made a concerted effort to be more transparent about its product strategy, as the company continues to work toward offering unified integration between its Office, OBAs, and Dynamic products. (Microsoft also confirmed that the Dynamic line will be a fully integrated software stack.) The "transparency" pledge included Windows Vista, 40 million copies of which Turner said Microsoft delivered in the first 100 days of release, and Microsoft Office 2007. "We talked about those products for a lot of years and they came to fruition [in 2007]," Turner said. Vista and Office are especially conducive to helping partners earn revenue, he said--with Vista alone representing what Turner called a "$300 billion partner opportunity."
According to Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer, the announcements are representative of the company's push toward the future. In his Tuesday keynote, Ballmer promised Microsoft will take the lead in online software and services through a middle-of-the-road approach called "software plus services" that differs from the industry's trend toward software-as-a-service (SaaS).
In the strongest endorsement to date by Microsoft's business side for chief software architect Ray Ozzie's idea of "software plus services," Ballmer tried to offset partner doubts about moving to online offerings, and over the maturity of offerings like Office Live. Stopping short of openly criticizing those who believed client-based computing would give way to Web 2.0 ideas like SaaS, Ballmer told Worldwide Partner delegates: "Some talk about software-as-a-service...that has certain implications that I don't think are right."
Ballmer also predicted that users will continue to flock to the client-based rich user interface, offline and online capabilities, and "personal integration." "Two hundred million desktops are sold a year to people who don't want to give up the benefit of desktop," he said. "The next generation of computing, both personal and business, will need to combine the best of the desktop, Web, devices, and enterprise solutions, and will be a superset of where we are today," Ballmer said. "It will combine client- and device-based computing power with online applications and storage, and a managed server infrastructure."
Ballmer pointed to upcoming Microsoft hosted collaboration services as something partners can resell, referencing Dynamics Live CRM as an example, and called Outlook and Exchange good examples of software built on a hosted, AJAX service. "It's about giving end users no limits. Vendors must remain flexible and be able to move between models," he said.
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