The Microsoft stand had demonstration available on Exchange 2010, BPOS (S), Dynamics, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and ForeFront their security and perimeter protection product.
Microsoft gave a keynote on Windows 7 (with a short preview of Office 2010), given by James Akrigg – head of technology for Partners, Microsoft UK. This was very well attended, with all seats taken in the auditorium. This was a very timely presentation for Microsoft on the verge of the public Windows 7 launch.
He asked at the beginning how many were already using or trailing Windows 7 and a good percentage of hands of raised to show that Windows 7 was in use already for that sort of purpose.
In the context of the talk James outlined the continuing emphasis by Microsoft on R&D, they have an annual budget of around $9.5 billion (larger than NASA’s R&D budget), with around $7 billion being assigned to their communication and productivity product area (office suite etc.). This clearly highlighted the race to innovate is key component of ‘arms race’ amongst software vendors!
He outlined the main component or service areas that Microsoft was tackling in bringing Windows 7, Office 2010 and Windows Server 2008 R2 to market :- “improved virtualisation”, “software + services” [choice for customers – in platform and delivery], “business information & data”[more visible and available data], “unified communications” and “desktop & server” [closer linkage between services and management between client & server]. [emphasis mine]
The main part of the presentation focussed on demonstrating Windows 7 – so there was both the gimmicky (playing to the audience parts) – as well as items delivering real business value in this section.
A look at the desktop and user experience of Windows 7:
- Drag to the side and snap into position for Windows being worked – useful for work across two or more windows
- The Windows wiggle, joggle the window in focus and the others disappear (minimize), joggle again the others re-appear again in their positions – useful for un-cluttering the desktop.
- Mouse-over actions
- In the corner to make windows transparent and show desktop
- Over minimised desktop icons or internet explorer tabs to preview and select if required
- Problem step recorder – combining audio and step by step screen shots to show the issue or provide training help.
A look at the ‘Desktop & Server” side efficiencies which focus on reducing delivery and management costs:
There was demonstration of ‘Direct Access’ service (Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2), which provided IPSEC (IPv6) tunnelling without the need for separate VPN clients. Enabling much more simple yet secure remote access into corporate environments, as well as allowing better management of corporate end-points even while not directly connected to the corporate network.
He talked about the ‘Branch Cache’ feature (Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2), where duplication of data transfers across the WAN are reduced by invoking a peer-to-peer transfer of files between clients – upon the request of that asset from the server (the requesting client is re-directed to another client peer to obtain that data).
He demonstrated the use of encryption on USB key -“Bitlocker-go” and how that policies could enforce that all USB storage keys are read-only, and data can’t be copy on to them, a great feature to help the heads of security rest and relax. Another enterprise-wide policy that would help the environment and provide ‘energy’ savings was the use of group policies to set the power management settings for all devices.
For those concerned about application compatibility between previous versions of Windows “the previous version of Windows” – was the comment used to address that product beginning with a ‘V’ – his words not mine He demonstrated the ‘XP Mode’ of Virtual PC – where applications are launched in windows from a virtualised XP instance hidden and running in the background. This is particular useful for example where a web application still bound to IE6 is required, and therefore can be used without hampering the transition to Windows 7. He also mentioned the application compatibility toolkit available to help in application assessment for Windows 7.
Other server or management enhancement briefly mentioned were improvements to virtualisation in the Hyper-V, bringing in a similar feature to ‘v-motion’, the fact that System Center 2010 will consolidate the management of both Vmware and Hyper-V infrastructures into a single admin tool. App-V and App-locker also got a brief mention.
The last demonstration was the use of OCS communicator to do VOIP calls as well as instant messaging, which was ambitious for a live-demo – the remote voice didn’t come through on the auditorium speakers – But not really what I’d attribute to being a feature of Office 2010 - OCS clients have been able to do peer VOIP for a long time.
There wasn’t much in demonstrating relating to “software + services” for cloud and on the productivity side of things, presence embedded on OWA 2010 and “ignore conversation” conversations feature – again a little bit of mixed bag in terms of what was really new.
In wrapped up he again mentioned the portfolio of offering from Windows Azure, BPOS, Windows Live to Windows client and server on-premise solutions, which give the user a good choice the type & delivery of services that they need.
In-conclusion Microsoft & Windows 7:
There can be no doubt that Microsoft have really taken on the feedback about “that previous version of Windows” and produced a very compelling desktop operating system combined with some very attractive server side integration features. They’ve made significant advances in feature and functionality across their product set, and augmented their portfolio of offering (BPOS & Azure etc.) to remain competitive and relevant in a time of tremendous change in the mechanisms of how IT services are provided and consumed.
Their position at the ‘heart of the enterprise’ remains intact and secure, having survived the fall out from “previous version of Windows” and the longevity of Windows XP. This has been in part to great brand inertia and loyalty Microsoft have established around their Windows and Office products, something their competitors find very difficult to overcome. However, what I feel will really demonstrate Microsoft’s prowess as an Enterprise software and services provider, is getting their customers to remain ‘sticky’ to Microsoft’ but not ‘sticky’ to a particular Microsoft product. I don’t think it will be Microsoft’s business plan to see Windows 7 remaining as their most deployed client operating system for the next 7 years!
Competitors of Microsoft will see their opportunities to get customers to switch to their products at the points of transition, as in the past transition paths from one version to the next has not be an easy and straight forward process. I expect Microsoft will improve in this area and take advantage of virtualisation & hypervisor technologies to help alleviate any teething issues that occur. Other competitors will continue to focus on gaining significantly in a specialist market (not necessarily enterprise), Microsoft will need to stay focussed and on the ball to ensure they relevant and valued in all their markets.