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Mary Jo Foley Grilled on 'Future of IT' at Canadian Border

Veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley was recently questioned by Canadian border guards about "the future of IT."

Foley, who was the guest on a panel talk at Microsoft Tech-Days Canada in Vancouver, related how she was chatted up by Canadian security guards about the matter before entering the country. The border guards told her that they were still using Windows 95!

It's not clear if the guards got any insights from Foley, but she did answer some questions about Microsoft at the Tech-Days event. Foley related that she's not had any technical training but has been covering Microsoft for about 20-plus years. She was interviewed by Ruth Morton and Jonathan Rozenblit of Microsoft.

Foley noted that Microsoft's Office 365 cloud computing suite will mostly help push out cloud use to companies that have never considered tapping such services. Microsoft has signaled its seriousness on its cloud front of late by moving executive Scott Guthrie to his current position as corporate vice president in Microsoft's Server and Tools Business division overseeing .NET and Windows Azure. She cited Guthrie's strong support within the company and said that people are expecting big things from Microsoft's cloud efforts in the next 12 months, although she didn't elaborate.

Foley revealed herself to be a big Windows Phone fan, although she still uses an Apple iPad. Microsoft officials have asked her what it would take to give up her iPad, she related. While Foley likes Windows Phone, she said that Microsoft faces stiff marketing challenges to get things rolling. Even when she shopped specifically for a Windows Phone in New York City, a salesman tried to get her to buy an Apple iPhone instead, she related.

She was asked about Microsoft's six-story Windows Phone promo that was plopped down in New York City recently. "It was odd," she said.

Although Windows Phone currently is just an also-ran in the general smartphone mobile OS race, being way behind Android and iOS use, Microsoft may be able to kick-start Windows Phone via its System Center management solutions. Foley noted that System Center 2012 solutions can manage devices that are not Windows based. She also noted that she's seen a lot of interest in Windows Intune, Microsoft's service for managing PCs. She described Windows Intune as "a cloud complement to System Center" and part of a trend in which Microsoft has been cloud-enabling most of its premises-installed software products.

When asked about Microsoft's most interesting technology, Foley related that much is unknown about Windows 8. She's particularly honing in on how Microsoft will implement Windows 8 on ARM-based tablet devices. She disagrees with the Microsoft assessment that tablets should be just another form of a PC.

Foley said that she gets lots of questions from readers about when Microsoft will put Windows 8 on the Windows Phone. Ironically, CEO Steve Ballmer seemed to hint about just such a prospect in an apparently misunderstood comment during today's Microsoft shareholder meeting.

When asked about what are the top things for Microsoft to change or do, she noted external comments that Microsoft cannot wait until 2012 to deliver a viable tablet OS and that Microsoft should break itself up into smaller companies. That latter point is something Microsoft rejects at every shareholder meeting, she noted. It was rejected at today's shareholder meeting too, she added.

On Microsoft's ostensible openness and interoperability efforts, Foley commented that Microsoft is showing some progress. For a while, it used to be "one step forward and two steps back," but that's apparently changing. She added that Microsoft's recent partnership with Hortonworks on open source Hadoop technology was an example. However, she noted that Microsoft's many lawsuits over Android and intellectual property claims have tended to undo much of the goodwill.

Foley writes the All About Microsoft column (or "All A-Boot Microsoft" in Canadian) and is a regular contributor to Redmond magazine.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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