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Microsoft is “reinventing itself for the modern era”

This week more than 16,000 people have made their way to Toronto, Canada for Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). Held every year, the event gives Microsoft partners an opportunity to hear from Microsoft executives, attend sessions on the myriad Microsoft offerings, meet with Microsoft staff and other partners, and get an overall view of what the next 12 months looks like across the Microsoft ecosystem.

The verdict? Microsoft sees the next 12 months as one of the most important years in its history. “This will be the biggest product and services launch year in our company’s history, creating massive opportunities,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer expounded in his keynote. “With Windows — Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure — and Office 365, there’s never been a better time to be a Microsoft partner. The opportunities for us to do amazing things for our joint customers have never been greater.”


WPC kicks off

WPC kicks off


As expected, the core of WPC was the upcoming release of Windows 8, where Microsoft highlighted its key features, Metro user interface and the myriad devices coming from Microsoft’s hardware partners. Surface – Microsoft’s own Windows 8/RT device – was barely mentioned, and no devices were on display, disappointing some attendees, although the devices that were there – from the likes of Samsung, HP, Asus and Lenovo – showed that there will be plenty of innovative hardware options available. With Windows 8 being released to manufacturing in early August, and generally available on devices and in the shops in October, it’s not going to be long before we all get a chance to use it.

Beyond the main points of the announcements, which will have been covered elsewhere, I found several points of interest:  

  • With the Metro user interface (UI) being embraced across all Microsoft’s products – from Windows 8 (and the many types of devices it will run on), through Windows Phone 8 and Xbox – Microsoft will be the only operating system provider delivering a common way of using all its products. The UI scales nicely on these different devices, and Metro also adds new dimensions to apps that embrace it, with information able to be “pushed” to the Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 home screen.
  • Microsoft seems to be looking more to the future than the past with Windows 8. While it will support legacy applications (on the Intel version of the OS), the company is firmly looking forward and making some bigger leaps than is usual – reminiscent of the leap forward that Windows 95 provided, which was a regular parallel drawn by the Microsoft executives during the event.
  • Usually a new release of Microsoft Office is timed to coincide with the release of the operating system, but no details of whether this will happen or not were given at the conference – rather, we were told announcements would be made “later this summer” – the next 2-3 months, in other words.

During the next 12 months, most of Microsoft’s products will get an update. In addition to Windows, Office, SharePoint, Dynamics AX 2012, Dynamics NAV 2013, Dynamics CRM and Windows Server will also get updates, to differing degrees. Details of all the announcements can be found at Microsoft’s News Center.

Microsoft is now using WPC as a vehicle to make many announcements, and its acquisition of Perceptive Pixel, makers of touchscreen hardware and software, was a highlight. Whether Microsoft bought them for their talent, their hardware or their software expertise – or all of the above – is still unclear, however it’s becoming increasingly clear that Microsoft is becoming more aggressive about its role in the marketplace and won’t let its competitors “win.” As soon we everyone saw the PP screen in action we all wanted one – until we heard its US$80,000 price tag.


Microsoft Perceptive Pixel

Microsoft Pixel


Acquisitions such as Perceptive Pixel (PP), and the recent purchase of Yammer, help to evolve the company and create new cross-platform and cross-product opportunities. Remember, the PP acquisition was driven by the Microsoft Office team, implying that this is being driven by a need to improve collaboration and communication, as opposed to being a pure-play hardware opportunity (although it will likely be that too). (It should also be remembered that Jeff Han, the CEO of PP, is a thought leader in the multi-touch arena – witness his 2006 – pre-iPad – presentation at TED.

As in previous years, cloud was also a big theme at WPC. This time, though, one gets the feeling that both Microsoft and the wider market are ready to embrace the opportunity; the time is right. As Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s COO put it: “If you had any doubts about Microsoft and our commitment to the cloud, please let me put them to bed today because our vision and aspiration as an organization is we aspire to have a continuous cloud service for every person, every device, and every business. That's what we're about at Microsoft. And we want to connect up with software and services to every person on the planet.”

With Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online, through to the public, private and hybrid cloud opportunities afforded by Windows Server, Windows Azure and System Center, not to mention consumer offerings such as Skype and Yammer, the foundations are there for Microsoft customers to evaluate and embrace the cloud. With 100% growth in revenue in this area over the past 12 months, “the cloud” is gathering momentum for Microsoft.

The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is essential for every Microsoft partner who wants to remain abreast of what Microsoft has in the pipeline for the next 12 months – and beyond. With dozens of sessions every day, over four days, there is ample opportunity to learn about the range of Microsoft solutions and – for us as a Microsoft partner – listen, learn and understand how we can apply these learnings to help our customers get the most out of their Microsoft investments – now and in the future. To quote Ballmer once more, the next 12 months will be “a year of unparalleled opportunity.”

Posted by: Tim Howell, Marketing Manager | 12 July 2012

Tags: Windows Azure, Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft, Surface, Steve Ballmer, Steve Ballmer keynote, Windows 8, Perceptive Pixel

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