Foley on Microsoft

After Windows 8, What's Next in the Pipeline from Microsoft?

Mary Jo Foley on what to expect from Microsoft once the Windows 8 dust clears.

The Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 launch parties are now behind us, though the marketing and promotion -- the ads, giveaways and gimmicks -- will linger through the holidays for two of Redmond's biggest make-or-break products. But as the dust clears, what's next from Microsoft?

Let's put aside products predicted to arrive in two or three more years, such as Windows 9. There are a number of more immediate consumer- and business-centric products, services and devices coming in the next 12 months from the 'Softies. And I'm not talking just about toys such as the Xbox dashboard update and Halo 4.

Office Next/Office 2013 -- the client apps, the servers and the cloud services -- were released to manufacturing in October, a month earlier than many expected. General availability won't be until early 2013, but volume licensees and MSDN and TechNet subscribers will get the final bits sooner.

Also due by year's end is the fall update to Microsoft Dynamics CRM -- the one that will support iOS, Android and Windows Phone. In addition, Dynamics GP 2013, which could be the first of the four Microsoft ERP products hosted on Windows Azure, is slated for release before 2012 closes.

To kick off the new year, the Intel-based version of the Microsoft Surface PC/tablet is expected to start shipping. But that's not all that's due in early 2013.

Microsoft is slated to release System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 and the fourth version of the Microsoft Windows Intune PC management and security service -- both of which are key to the management of Windows RT-based devices -- in early 2013. Also due in that time frame is Windows Azure services for Windows Server 2012. Initially targeted at hosting companies, but later at large enterprises, the product will enable persistent VM support for Linux and Windows Server on servers hosted by third parties, and not just by those using Windows Azure hosted by Microsoft.

Beyond the first quarter of next year, incomplete roadmaps are filled with more potholes. But according to tipsters, the first update to Windows 8, known by its codename "Blue," could arrive by mid-2013. So far, there aren't many details as to what Blue will include, but it's likely some kind of combined service pack or feature pack -- similar to Visual Studio 2012 Update 1, also on deck to arrive by next month.

Why is it so hard to get any information on Microsoft products beyond the carefully controlled Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 bits with which we've been graced? A little inside baseball will shed some light on that question.

For the past year-plus, Microsoft top brass have been striving to create an image of a unified "One Microsoft." I'll emphasize "image," because in reality Microsoft is still a bunch of mini-companies operating -- to a somewhat lesser degree than in years past -- independently and at sometimes odds with one another. The desired public perception is that One Microsoft is one-pointedly focused on Windows 8.

Questions about System Center, Forefront, Exchange Server and other Microsoft flagship business products have gone unanswered so as not to detract from the "it's all about Windows 8" message. Never mind that most of the products in the Microsoft billion-dollar-business club are business/enterprise ones, or that business product sales are still what fuel the company. Redmond's goal in 2012 was to have all eyes trained on its consumer wares.

This explains the silence around SharePoint Server, Lync Server, System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, Hadoop for Windows Server and other Microsoft goodies that are believed to be just around the corner.

The dearth of information isn't just the result of Redmond's increased desire to be more Apple-like in its ability to keep secrets. It's also about the desire to make users believe Microsoft is a consumer device and services company like Apple, more than a business stalwart like IBM, Oracle or SAP.

Which Microsoft business-centric products and services do you want more information about? Send me a note and I'll try my best to move some Microsoft mountains -- or at least push aside some boulders.

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She's the author of "Microsoft 2.0" (John Wiley & Sons, 2008), which examines what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.


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