Greetings from TechEd
- By Paul Desmond
We’re coming to you this week from sunny, steamy Orlando, site of the
Microsoft TechEd 2005 conference. More than 11,000 people are on hand, hoping
the air conditioning holds out. Whenever Microsoft can get that many customers
together, you can bet it’ll take advantage by announcing some news—even
if it’s not of the earth-shattering variety.
The New World of Work—Take 2
Steve Ballmer got things rolling in his keynote address on Monday, which was
replete with shtick in the form of interjections from Samantha Bee, correspondent
from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Ballmer
reiterated the theme of Bill Gates’ speech last month to 125 CEOs about
how we’re entering a “New World of Work.” Expect to be hearing
that phrase repeatedly from Microsoft in coming months, as the company is now
making a concerted effort to position products in greater context than in the
past to fit into this New World of Work theme. So, what is the New World of
Work? Here’s how Ballmer explains it:
”It's a world in which the information worker, the employee in each of
the companies that you serve is at the center. They're trying to improve customer
interaction, they're trying to help optimize supply chain, they're trying to
find the right information to make the right decisions on behalf of their businesses.
They're trying to get the right insights so that they see patterns that are
going to help them systematically improve business performance. They're going
to engage in various business processes from human resources and budgeting and
planning to supply chain and distribution, manufacturing, trading, you name
it. They're going to need tools to help them communicate and collaborate with
others and they're going to need tools that help them personally improve their
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I said it two weeks ago after the Gates speech and I’ll say it again:
This sounds a lot like the existing world of work to me, if not the old world.
But it’s a concept that took Microsoft a year to come up with, or at least
agree on, according to Jeana Jorgenson, senior product manager for Exchange
marketing. She says the idea is for Microsoft to stop talking about products
on a one-by-one basis and to instead talk about them in the greater context
of how they solve business problems. That’s a fine idea, but it’s
hard to believe it hasn’t been going on for a long time. Yet, Jorgenson
insists Microsoft surveys show that customers aren’t hearing such talk
from their vendors. “It was a hard decision to say Steve is not going
to talk about products in the first half of his keynote,” she says. Check
out the speech
transcript for yourself.
Windows Mobile 5.0
Ballmer did get around to talking product in the second half of his speech,
however. He announced Windows
Mobile 5.0, which takes advantage of features coming in Exchange Server
2003 Service Pack 2 to improve security and uses push technology to better synchronize
Outlook Mobile devices with Exchange.
Welcome Patching Updates
Microsoft’s CEO also announced the company is now shipping Windows Server
Update Services, its free patching tool, and is launching the Microsoft Update
site, which includes patches for Office and small-business products. As Scott
the launches are part of a larger Microsoft effort to get its patching house
in order. (Stay tuned for the July issue of Redmond magazine, when we’ll
have a “Your Turn” review on WSUS, in which readers laud its improved
reporting, performance, testing and other features.)
Ship Date Set for Yukon
In the Tuesday
keynote, Microsoft Senior Vice President Paul Flessner announced that SQL
Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006 will all
ship the week of Nov. 7. All that’s left is “fit and finish,”
said Thomas Rizzo, director, SQL Server product management, in a follow-up interview.
He noted that once Microsoft publishes benchmarks, as it did on Tuesday, “we’re
close to the end”—welcome news considering the product has been
five years in the making. Microsoft said that, according to three TPC-H benchmarks,
SQL Server 2005 (formerly known as Yukon) showed performance up to 162 percent
higher than SQL Server 2000 and 38 percent higher than Oracle’s best shot
on comparable hardware. Numbers like that, along with improvements in manageability
and integration with products including Visual Studio and Office, will make
for a compelling business case, Rizzo says.
Roundtable with Microsoft IT
Microsoft likes to keep us press types busy at TechEd (probably to keep us from
talking to attendees, come to think of it). One way it does that is by putting
together roundtable discussions, such as the one Keith Ward attended where Microsoft’s
own IT folks talked about their special
lot in life. Can you imagine a more demanding user base? How would you like
to be forced to use beta software on a routine basis? On the other hand, Microsoft’s
CIO has to sign off on any new Microsoft product before it ships to customers,
giving his IT group some fairly awesome power.
Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at email@example.com.