Each year in July Microsoft begins their new fiscal year with a 4-day conference bringing together partners from around the world called their Worldwide Partner Confernece (WPC). The tracks include the expected keynote addresses from Microsoft executives, but also sessions on business leadership, sales and marketing, and many, many technical topics. Here is a recap of the most important things I learned at WPC this year.
Tooting Our Own Horn
At WPC ENTRUST was honored with the Top VAR award for the Central Region! We were recognized as the best reseller of Microsoft software in the under $100,000 per year category. You can see pictures from the award ceremony on our Facebook page. We are really proud to have won this award and extend our thanks to all of our customers.
Windows 8 Release Date Locked Down
Windows 8 is going to “release to manufacturing” (RTM) in the first week of August. At that point they start burning CDs for the product. Windows 8 will go into General Availability (GA) in October. You will be able to purchase it off the shelf in late October and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Dell and HP will start including it on their new PCs at that time. So if someone on your Holiday shopping list wants a new PC, then you can get it with Windows 8. For our business customers, Windows 8 will be available for download and installation on existing computers in late August, we believe. Rest assured that ENTRUST Labs will be installing and testing Windows 8 just as soon as it is available to us.
BYOD: Fully supports ‘bring your own device’ allowing phone and tablet owners to seamlessly combine personal and corporate apps with full IT control where needed including private app stores.
Cool New Feature: “Windows 8 on a stick.” You will be able to download a full copy of Windows 8 on a 32GB Memory stick complete with your profile, etc. to run on any PC.Imagine taking a memory stick and plugging it into any suitably fast computer and booting from it. Run Windows 8 with all of your own applications (like Outlook) and customizations without affecting or changing the computer you are borrowing.
CHOICES: There are literally dozens of new models of laptops, tablets, “hybrids” (tablets with detachable keyboards), and “convertibles” (laptops with swiveling screens to make them tablet-like) coming in the fall and in time for the holiday shopping season. You will have many, many options for a Windows 8 laptop or tablet very soon. I saw many, many mock-ups of forthcoming devices from every major manufacturer.
Windows Server 2012 Release Date is Locked Down
Windows Server 2012 is going to RTM in the first week of August. Windows Server 2012 will go into GA in September. For our business customers, Windows Server 2012 will be available for download in late August, we believe. Rest assured that ENTRUST Labs will be installing and testing Windows 2012 just as soon as it is available to us.
. Windows Server 2012: Virtual machines run 3 times faster (in terms of I/O operations per second) than VMware’s latest announced speed. Also it’s the first true ‘cloud OS’ with shared services with the Azure cloud.
Kinect for Windows
If you or your kids have an Xbox with the Kinect motion sensor attachment, you know how cool it is for games. Kinect for Windows allows developers to integrate Kinect devices into the business network. One example is a company named UBI which uses Kinect to turn any flat surface (desk, wall, floor) into a multi-touch control surface. (Who needs touch screens?!)
Smart Whiteboards for Every Conference Room
Microsoft announced that they have purchased a company called Perceptive Pixels. They manufacture 81” Multi-touch screens (World’s largest multi-touch display – according to their website) that will eventually replace Whiteboards and video conference units. Currently they are priced at $80k each, but we expect that price to come down once Microsoft takes over. Eventually every conference room will have one of these smart devices (or maybe when combined with a Kinect for Windows device, all you will need is a blank wall).
R.I.P Small Business Server
Microsoft is discontinuing their long popular SBS product. Customers with Software Assurance will be granted licenses for the ‘full’ versions of the products formerly inside the SBS bundle – essentially a ‘free upgrade.’ But sales of SBS with Software Assurance will cease as soon as Windows Server 2012 goes into general availability in September. In my opinion, Microsoft is doing this for two reasons. One reason is to recognize that email belongs in the cloud and customers no longer need an inexpensive “bundle” which includes the Microsoft Exchange email/calendaring/tasking tool to be included. The other reason is Microsoft’s desire to push customers in the direction of their own Office 365 “cloud-hosted” solution. Customers who already own Small Business Server and who have Software Assurance coverage for it are getting a great deal, however. Microsoft will simply convert your SBS license into grants for their (more expensive) mainstream products. Microsoft will continue to offer their Windows Server “Foundation” version (for companies with fewer than 15 users) and their Windows Server Essential version (for users with 15-25 users) at lower price points than Windows Server Standard. So small businesses will still be able to purchase inexpensive versions.
Cloud-Based Phone Service from Microsoft
Microsoft’s cloud hosted suite, Office365, now boasts a ‘Lync-to-phone’ feature allowing O365 users to make and receive phone calls to any domestic number without the need for an on-premise server or phone system or even office phone lines. All you need is a good, fast internet circuit and a PC with headphones/microphone.
The service does require contracting with a 3rd party provider in addition to O365. Today only a firm named Jajah offers the service. Also dedicated IP phones (handsets for your desk if you don’t want to use your PC for making calls) for the Lync-to-phone service are not available yet but are coming soon. So, if you don’t have big phone system needs, you can get complete voice service (along with their market-leading instant messaging and “presence” tool) within the low cost Office 365 suite.
POST WPC Announcement from Microsoft: On the Monday after WPC, Microsoft announced that the next version of Microsoft Office (known as “Office 2013”) will be completely revamped to suit tablets. The new Office will reflect the fact that people tend to work from multiple devices – perhaps a desktop in the office, a laptop at home, a tablet computer while travelling, and a smartphone everywhere else. Office 2013 will add touch-based controls in addition to keyboard and mouse controls, AND the programs (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) will all be designed to store documents online through Microsoft’s Skydrive service. (You can still store files locally on your computer or office server if desired, but the “default” will be to store your documents “in the cloud.” The programs will also remember settings, including where you last left off in a document as you change locations (office desktop to home laptop to travelling tablet).
ONE MORE THING: Much as I try to enjoy whatever city is hosting the WPC, the real value comes from staying on top of ever evolving technology and being able to meet important decision makers at Microsoft and Microsoft affiliated companies and partners. ENTRUST is committed to staying on top of things and bringing you new technologies as they become affordably available. So we will be there next year, in Houston….
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