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Microsoft Offers Evaluation Kit for 2010 Products

Microsoft is helping organizations get a jumpstart on its new software products with a kit designed to streamline the software evaluation process.

The offering, called Proof of Concept Jumpstart Kit (version 1.0), is a package of virtualized products and tools that allows organizations to test new Microsoft technologies such as Windows 7, Office 2010 and application virtualization. The kit was announced in a blog last week, but it's apparently been around at least since April 7, as described in a forum devoted to the topic.

"This is a whole new concept from Microsoft that is aimed at organizations that may be reluctant to upgrading to the new offerings," said Michael Cherry, vice president of research at the Directions on Microsoft consultancy, in a telephone interview. "What's new about this is that it is enabled by virtualization."

In the past, Microsoft provided demo software of new products, along with evaluation and reviewer guides, to organizations considering deployments. The new virtualized model shortens the process considerably and protects against configuration errors by the user, according to Cherry.

"By using virtualized machines they [Microsoft] can ensure the machines are configured correctly," Cherry said. "It's a much more controlled environment."

Billed as a "self-contained, self-service kit," the new evaluation program helps users familiarize themselves with deployment tools and the benefits of such products as Windows Server 2008 Enterprise edition, SQL Server 2005 and 2008 Express editions along with Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8 and Office 2010 Pro Plus, according to the blog.

The kit also bundles up several planning tools to assess the IT environment, including Microsoft Assessment and Planning Tool Kit, Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit, Microsoft Office Migration and Planning Manager, and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.

"I think this will streamline the evaluation process for companies that are on the fence about upgrading to the new Microsoft technologies," Cherry said. "It will let people see for themselves what the new products can do for their organization and what they will need to deploy those new products."

Cherry noted that the Jumpstart Kit will not eliminate the need for some organizations to use consultants in large deployments, but it will simplify the overall process. He also noted that the package is large -- 16 files plus guides -- and takes time and bandwidth to download.

"Let's face it, Apple has always made deployments of their products easier for users, because they provide an all-in-one solution. There are not a lot of questions asked," said Cherry. "When a customer has to answer a lot of questions, it lengthens the sales cycle. Microsoft now has a one-size-fits-all toolkit for proof-of-concept deployment with minimal requirements, and instructions that are clear and well written. It certainly is worth looking into, and may be very valuable to an organization…especially those where there is some resistance to the upgrade."

Proof of Concept Jumpstart Kit version 1.0 is available at the Microsoft Download Center portal here. Microsoft also provides a Web page resource for the kit.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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