The 2013 Microsoft Product Roadmap
Redmond Channel Partner magazine updates its comprehensive and authoritative annual roadmap of upcoming products from Microsoft over the coming year. Although 2012 was one of the biggest release years in a long time, Microsoft still has a lot of significant updates for the year ahead, including the rumored Windows "Blue," the "Apollo Plus" update for Windows Phone 8 and the complete Office 2013 suite.
- By Gladys Rama
- December 05, 2013
RECENTLY UPDATED: Lync (12/5), Windows 8.1 (12/2), Windows Phone 8.1 (12/2), Exchange 2013 (12/2)
Microsoft has a tough act to follow. The year 2012 was truly a banner one
for Redmond, with some of the biggest product releases in the company's history being launched in quick succession. The Windows OS had its most significant revamp in Windows 8, taking the OS firmly into the tablet arena for the first time. The Microsoft smartphone platform got fresh legs with the launch of Windows Phone 8, which now shares the same guts as the new desktop OS. At the same time, next-generation Dynamics products and SQL Server 2012 hit their general availability milestones during the year, and the releases of Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 set the stage for Redmond's new "cloud OS" era.
By comparison, 2013 promises to be a lower-profile year in terms of Microsoft product releases, but that doesn't mean it's negligible. For one thing, the long-awaited Office 2013 suite -- and the accompanying online components -- are hitting general availability in the first quarter. For another, glimpses of the next major Windows update after the release of Windows 8 are likely to appear throughout the year.
In broader strokes, 2013 is expected to mark the beginning of a fundamental shift for Microsoft from being primarily a software company to being a "devices and services company," as CEO Steve Ballmer described it. Ballmer's assessment is also reflected in a recent report from consultancy Directions on Microsoft, which identifies tablets and cloud computing as leading priorities for the company in 2013.
Here's what you can expect to see from Microsoft in the next few months. Click on the links in the table below to jump directly to a product:
Microsoft launched its newest OS in late 2012 in two distinct flavors (Windows 8 for x86/x64 devices and Windows RT for ARM-based devices) and with two distinct UIs (the more-familiar Desktop mode and the new tile-based UI). While the Desktop mode supports traditional keyboard-and-mouse computing, Windows 8 was primarily designed for touch-based systems.
With Microsoft staking its mobile-device fortunes on Windows 8, Directions on Microsoft predicts the company will speed up its release cycle for the OS to better compete with the two tablet stalwarts -- Apple iOS and Google Android. To that end, the firm speculated that R2 versions for both Windows 8 and Windows RT will appear sometime in 2013.
"A faster release pace, with fewer features in each release and a strong emphasis on the new tablet application platform and user interface, could help Microsoft quickly work out the kinks in its tablet platform and close the initial lead of its competitors," the firm said in its report.
Longtime Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley offers a more specific time frame: A major Windows 8 update may appear this summer or fall in the form of "Windows Blue," she reported recently. Originally rumored to be a free or low-cost interim release, Blue will in fact be a "wave" of closely timed updates to multiple products, Foley reported in early February, citing "one very accurate tipster."
The Blue update will span Windows, Windows Phone, Windows Server, and Windows Services like Hotmail and SkyDrive, according to Foley's report. To speed up the update process, Microsoft may opt to push Blue to users via the Windows Store rather than release it to manufacturers, she wrote. [Back to product list]
All versions of the next-generation Microsoft productivity suite, previously code-named "Office 15," are scheduled to become available to consumers in March (Web site Neowin.net pegs the date at March 31 based on a secondhand conversation with a Microsoft support employee). However, Microsoft volume license customers and TechNet and MSDN subscribers have been able to access some Office 2013 versions of the suite since late last year, while Windows RT devices have been shipping with free preview versions of Office Home & Student 2013 RT since launch. Additionally, two editions -- Office Professional 2013 and Office Home & Business 2013 -- were released at the end of January to small businesses.
Native Office 2013 apps for Android and iOS have also been rumored for a March release, according to Web site TheVerge.com, citing a Microsoft product manager's statement to a Czech Web site last October. However, Microsoft has called that Czech report "inaccurate."
Office 2013 is more cloud-enabled than previous versions -- users will have access to the Microsoft cloud-based SkyDrive storage service, for example -- and also features a touch-centric Ribbon UI. [Back to product list]
Released for Open Volume Licensing 2/27
On the Office 365 end, the suite will become available to the Open Volume Licensing program on March 1, according to a blog post earlier this year from Microsoft Sales Excellence Program Manager Eric Ligman. The Office 365 Open licensing program -- which would let Microsoft partners directly bill their customers for use of the suite as well as bundle it with other services -- was first announced at last summer's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto.
Consumer versions of Office 365 -- Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 University -- hit general availability at the end of January. Also available at that time were traditional perpetual-license suites, including Office Home & Student 2013, Office Home & Business 2013 and Office Professional 2013. Versions for businesses -- Office 365 Enterprise, Office 365 Small Business and Office 365 Midsize Business -- were expected at press time to become available for purchase on the Web on Feb. 27.
Besides a new tile-based UI, Microsoft updated Office 365 with a new subscription-based pricing plan for consumers, a shift from the traditional perpetual-licensing model. "Instead of buying a copy of Office once every four years or so for a single PC or Mac, small businesses and consumers will be able to buy it once a year for five PCs or Macs," explained RCP's Kurt Mackie. "Incentives under the subscription model include the ability to run Office on up to five PCs or Macs -- or any combination of the two, according to a Microsoft spokesperson; increased Microsoft SkyDrive online storage; and the assurance of having the most up-to-date Office software."
A senior Microsoft PR manager within the Office Division said the company plans to update Office 365 more frequently than it has in the past. "We'll be releasing [Office 365] updates at a much more regular basis," the PR manager said. "Much more frequently -- multiple times per year." [Back to product list]
SharePoint 2010 SP2
Microsoft rolled out the first service pack for SharePoint 2010 back in June 2011, adding browser support and support for the then-code-named SQL Server "Denali" (now SQL Server 2012). Since then, there has been near-radio silence on the next SharePoint service pack, but in January Microsoft reportedly invited select testers to test-drive the SharePoint 2010 SP2 beta, according to WinBeta.org.
Directions on Microsoft expects the SharePoint 2010 SP2 to arrive sometime in the second quarter, according to its report. It will be a "catch-up" release, designed to enable SharePoint 2010 to run on Windows Server 2012. [Back to product list]
Like Office 2013, SharePoint 2013 has been available to Microsoft volume licensees and TechNet and MSDN subscribers since late 2012, with general availability expected in March. Microsoft has touted the new version's social networking hooks -- via technology the company acquired from last year's $1.2 billion Yammer purchase -- as a major selling point.
"With the new SharePoint release, customers can connect Yammer via Yammer Web parts and Yammer's new Enterprise Graph feature. Launched [in September 2012], Yammer Enterprise Graph connects data, people and conversations across business applications," explained RCP Executive Editor Jeffrey Schwartz, reporting from the keynote presentation during last fall's SharePoint Conference.
In addition to the social networking features, the new SharePoint will provide storage and synchronization via SkyDrive Pro, which will replace the old SharePoint Workspaces feature. [Back to product list]
Exchange Server 2010 SP3
Microsoft plans to release the third service pack for Exchange Server 2010 sometime during the first half of 2013, more than a year after issuing Exchange Server 2010 SP2. As with SharePoint 2010 SP2, Directions on Microsoft calls this update for Exchange Server 2010 a catch-up release. Microsoft has indicated that Exchange Server 2010 SP3 will enable the product to run on Windows Server 2012, as well as enable migration to and coexistence with Exchange Server 2013.
The third service pack is already being tested by select participants, according to Microsoft MVP J. Peter Bruzzese last September. Additionally, Bruzzese indicated that Exchange Server 2010 SP3 will be the last update for Exchange Server 2010. [Back to product list]
Exchange Server 2013
Like Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013, Exchange Server 2013 has been available to Microsoft volume licensees and TechNet and MSDN subscribers since late 2012, with general availability expected in March.
Microsoft has outlined a few of the new features in the forthcoming version. Exchange Server 2013 will feature improved usability, including centralized role-based access control, out-of-the-box malware protection, and compliance and e-discovery capabilities. [Back to product list]
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THIS PAGE: Windows Phone 8 | Lync 2013 | Windows Embedded 8 | BizTalk 2013
Dynamics CRM 2013 | Dynamics ERP | Visual Studio 2012 | Discontinued Products
Windows Phone 8.1
Anticipated release: 2014
The next incremental update to the flagship Microsoft smartphone OS is rumored to be called "Apollo Plus" (a throwback to the pre-release code name for Windows Phone 8, "Apollo"), according to a report from TheVerge.com last November citing unnamed sources. At the time, TheVerge.com said Microsoft planned to preview the update during the Mobile World Congress event, which took place in Barcelona, Spain, at end of February. Keep in mind, though, if the aforementioned Windows-wide Blue rumors are correct, the final version of the update may not be released until summer or fall.
New features to expect with the update include Virtual Private Network (VPN) support, improvements to audio and a fix to ensure always-on Wi-Fi, according to TheVerge.com.
An earlier incremental update called "Portico" was pushed out to Windows Phone 8 users starting late last year, the first for the mobile OS. That update included improvements to messaging and browsing, according to Microsoft. [Back to top] [Back to product list]
Lync Server 2013
Microsoft issued the release-to-manufacturing version of Lync 2013 in October 2012. Company spokespersons have indicated that the Lync 2013 product will be available sometime in the first half of 2013. The new Lync 2013 client has a tile-based UI and will work on an iPhone, iPad or Android device, along with Windows devices. Lync 2013 will get federation with Skype, the voice-over-IP telephony service that Microsoft acquired in May 2011.
The new Lync server also will have more social networking integration, and, by using identity technology, will support Facebook or LinkedIn. For instance, it will be more user friendly with Microsoft Office. There will be quick-link icons in the Lync client for quickly starting an IM session or phone call.
Just how Microsoft's Yammer acquisition will fit with Lync social networking capabilities hasn't been publicly clarified as yet by the company. [Back to top] [Back to product list]
Windows Embedded 8
The next versions of the Microsoft OS for specialized mobile devices -- including, for example, point-of-sale (POS) systems for retailers -- are all expected to become generally available in the first half of 2013, Microsoft said in January. This follows the company's announcement in November that Windows Embedded 8 Standard and Windows Embedded 8 Pro would both become available in March (the former was released as a preview version in the fall of 2012).
Another product, Windows Embedded 8 Industry (a replacement for the older Windows Embedded POSReady), was made available in January as a release preview.
Meanwhile, Windows Embedded Compact 2013, based on the Windows CE kernel, will reach general availability in the second quarter, according to the November Microsoft roadmap. [Back to top] [Back to product list]
BizTalk Server 2013
The final release of BizTalk Server 2013, the next version of the Microsoft integration and connectivity server, will arrive in the first quarter, Microsoft announced in January. The beta was issued in November, amid expectations that the final version would appear in late April. According to the product's release notes, BizTalk Server 2013 will be available both on-premises as a server or as a cloud-based product via Windows Azure. The on-premises version will include connectors to link BizTalk Server applications to the cloud.
As RCP's Mackie wrote at the time of the beta release: "The beta adds support for Windows Server 2012, SQL Server 2012 and Visual Studio 2012, as well as 'new IBM systems,' according to the Microsoft blog post announcement. Microsoft is promising transaction integration with solutions from Oracle, SAP and Microsoft (Dynamics and SharePoint)." [Back to top] [Back to product list]
Dynamics CRM 2013
The most recent service update to the Microsoft customer relationship management (CRM) suite began rolling out to users in December, part of a series of Dynamics releases to come at the end of the year. Around that same time, Microsoft also revealed that it's working on a Windows 8 Dynamics CRM app, with a target release date in the middle of the year. The app would "deliver a unique experience for managing sales processes by providing customers with seamless and intuitive access to key information," Microsoft said in November.
Microsoft also said it would deliver on its promise to provide mobile support for Dynamics CRM in a forthcoming update. A spokesperson for the company said in December that Microsoft would reveal more about its Dynamics CRM mobile plans during the Convergence conference taking place in March in New Orleans. [Back to top] [Back to product list]
Released for Windows Azure-hosted versions 6/18
Microsoft refreshed several of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) products in the last quarter of 2012 -- namely, Dynamics NAV 2013, Dynamics AX 2012 R2 and Dynamics GP 2013. However, notably absent from each release was a corresponding Windows Azure-hosted version. Microsoft had announced back in early 2011 that it planned to deliver its Dynamics products as Windows Azure-hosted services, starting with Dynamics ERP.
In a December interview with Foley, Errol Schoenfish, director of product management at Microsoft, said that Windows Azure-hosted versions of Dynamics NAV and Dynamics GP will arrive in mid-2013. [Back to top] [Back to product list]
Visual Studio 2012 Update 2
The second community technology preview (CTP) of Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 was released at the end of January, just two months after the final release of Update 1. The updates, which are taking the place of service packs for Visual Studio, mark major feature additions and improvements. Update 1 in large part was designed to support development for the new Windows 8 OS. So far, Update 2 looks to be focused on application lifecycle management (ALM) improvements.
Microsoft so far hasn't given any indication as to when the final Update 2 will be released. However, Foley noted that, like other products in the Microsoft portfolio this year, Visual Studio 2012 will see a more accelerated product release cycle. [Back to top] [Back to product list]
End of the Road
Microsoft is discontinuing these products in 2013.
Windows Live Messenger: March 15, 2013 is the last day for the long-running Microsoft IM service. Microsoft announced in November that it will transition the millions of Messenger users -- except for those in mainland China -- to Skype, which it acquired in 2011 for $8.5 billion.
Expression Suite: Microsoft Expression Design 4 and Expression Web 4 developer tools are the last versions of their lines, Microsoft said in December. The tools are available only as free downloads. [Back to top] [Back to product list]
<< Previous page
2012 Roadmap Archive >>
2012 Product Roadmap Archive
The following products were featured in our 2012 Microsoft Product Roadmap. Click on a product name to jump to that section:
• Windows 8
• Windows Server 2012
• System Center 2012
• SQL Server 2012
• Internet Explorer 10
• Office 2013
• Exchange 2013
• Visual Studio 2012
• Kinect for Windows
• Windows Phone "Tango" and 8
• Dynamics ERP Online
• Office 365
• Windows Azure
• SharePoint 2013
"Windows 8," the code name for Microsoft's next-generation desktop OS that's currently available as a "developer preview," had a banner year in 2011, even though it isn't expected to be released to hardware manufacturers until the third quarter of 2012, at the earliest.
Throughout the fall of 2011, Microsoft stoked the public's appetite for the new OS through its "Building Windows 8" blog series, where members of the Windows 8 development team described the OS in dribs and drabs. Early that year, at the January Computer Electronics Show, Microsoft had revealed that Windows 8 would support ARM hardware, as well as x86 system-on-chip designs. At last summer's Computex and D9 shows, Microsoft treated attendees to Windows 8 demos, but the developer preview version released during the Microsoft BUILD conference in September was many people's first close-up look at the OS (see our January feature, "The Hardware Behind Windows 8"). During BUILD, Microsoft touted Windows 8 as a "reimagining" of traditional Windows OSes.
The Windows 8 touch-centric, tile-based UI is, indeed, a drastic departure from the file-based interfaces of past Windows desktop OSes, reflecting the company's focus on developing a single OS for both tablets and PCs. Many of Microsoft's partners have expressed excitement over the radical new look of Windows 8, and the new UI's similarity to the Microsoft Windows Phone smartphone platform could give the company the advantage of a unified ecosystem with appeal to both consumers and enterprise users.
However, the success of Windows 8 in the tablet market isn't close to being a lock. For instance, while Gartner Inc. projects gangbuster growth for the overall tablet market through 2015, it expects Windows tablets to comprise less than 11 percent of the worldwide tablet market that year -- making it a distant third to the more deeply entrenched Apple iPad and Google Android tablets. Furthermore, a study by Forrester Research Inc. suggests that Microsoft's late entry into the tablet market has cost it the interest of consumers already. IDC piled on with a report late last year that projected, "Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor."
Some of the questions surrounding Windows 8 might be answered in late February, when Microsoft said it plans to release Windows 8 as a beta. The timing of the beta release coincides with the launch of the Windows App Store, a marketplace for developers to sell Metro-style Windows 8 apps. Microsoft says participation in the app store will cost individual developers $49 per year and companies $99 per year. Microsoft will take a 30 percent cut from apps that generate less than $25,000 in revenue, and 20 percent for apps that generate more than $25,000. [Back to 2012 product list.]
Windows Server 2012
Microsoft first showed off one feature of its next-generation server, code-named "Windows Server 8," during the 2011 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Los Angeles last July. However, the server's first public discussion happened in the sidelines, not at the WPC keynote. A screenshot was presented during a Day 2 WPC session titled, "Realizing Your Opportunity in the Cloud."
Microsoft provided more details about Windows Server 8 cloud hooks during the BUILD conference a few months later, where it released a developer preview version for MSDN subscribers. Satya Nadella, president of the Microsoft Server & Tools Business, called it "the most cloud-optimized OS" in Microsoft's stable since Windows Azure. As Jeffrey Snover, lead architect for Windows Server, later elaborated in a TechNet blog post: "In the past, Windows Server was a great OS for a server and its devices. Windows Server 8 is a great OS for lots of servers and all the devices connecting them whether they are physical or virtual, on-premise or off-premise." [Emphases Snover's. --Ed.]
Windows Server 8 supports direct-attached storage (even "just-a-bunch-of-disks" [JBOD] collections) as well as external storage networks. The standards-based Storage Management Initiative (SMI-S) and the new Microsoft Storage Management API (SMAPI) protocols are both supported in Windows Server 8. Microsoft is putting a heavy emphasis on running the Server Core version of Windows Server 8, with management via Windows PowerShell because it better supports automating tasks. However, Windows Server 8 will also toggle back to a trimmed-down traditional GUI.
The forthcoming server will also include improvements to the live migration feature, which was first introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2. Live migration lets users move virtual machines (VMs) from one computer to another with limited service interruption. Likewise, improvements to the Server Message Block 2.2 (SMB 2.2) protocol were designed to better ensure availability.
Microsoft hasn't given any details about the Windows Server 8 release timeline, but it shares a common code base with Windows 8. Consequently, it's possible that the release schedule for the two OSes might be close or perhaps a few months apart. [Back to 2012 product list.]
System Center 2012
Last March, Microsoft unveiled the next iteration of its System Center product family. At the time, Microsoft said that final versions of most of the System Center 2012 products should be available by the end of 2011. However, as of this writing, the products are still in various test versions. According to Foley, in a conference last September, Nadella publicly pushed back the expected release date for System Center 2012 to the "early part of calendar 2012."
The following System Center 2012 components are available as release candidates (RCs):
- Configuration Manager
- Endpoint Protection (previously called "Forefront Endpoint Protection 2012")
- Virtual Machine Manager
- Operations Manager
The following System Center 2012 products are currently in the beta stage
- App Controller
- Service Manager
- Data Protection Manager
Microsoft detailed several improvements to some of the System Center products, which are aimed at helping organizations manage the various hardware and software running in their datacenters. For starters, Data Protection Manager features better integration with SharePoint, support for de-duplication, and centralized backup and protection capabilities.
For Operations Manager, the product now integrates with AVIcode technology, acquired by Microsoft in 2010, which monitors the performance of .NET applications. The new version also features an improved dashboard and pooled management servers. Additionally, Microsoft reduced the product's reliance on higher-end hardware, helping decrease total cost of ownership.
Orchestrator is an enterprise runbook automation solution based on technology that Microsoft acquired with its 2009 purchase of Opalis Software. The new solution now includes a runbook designer to help with automating IT procedures, such as coordinating outside services.
Virtual Machine Manager got its fair share of enhancements, as well. In addition to working with Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere 4.1, the product now supports Citrix XenServer. Virtual Machine Manager also features what Microsoft calls "dynamic optimization," which lets users assign workloads to VMs on an as-needed basis. [Back to 2012 product list.]
SQL Server 2012
The next-generation Microsoft relational database management system officially dropped the "Denali" code name late last year. SQL Server 2012, as it's now known, is currently available as an RC. It's expected to become generally available during the first half of 2012 in three versions: Enterprise, Business Intelligence and Standard.
Microsoft has lately touted a feature in SQL Server 2012 called "Always On," which is the Microsoft branding for disaster recovery and high-availability (HA) features in SQL Server. Always On "allows customers to experience multiple, readable secondaries for distributed scale of reporting and backup workloads and support for FileTable and FILESTREAM, which brings first-class HA to complex data types," according to Microsoft. Another new feature is the ability to create so-called "availability groups," or groups of databases to which users can assign failovers to move.
Other new features include enhancements to the browser-based business intelligence graphing feature called Power View and improved private-cloud multitenancy management capabilities.
Also late last year, Microsoft outlined the SQL Server 2012 licensing plan, which, in typical Microsoft fashion, is somewhat convoluted. As RCP's Kurt Mackie wrote, "The new SQL Server 2012 licensing model is based on an organization's computing power, number of users and use of virtualization. Beyond that, the devil lurks in the details."
The biggest licensing change is the switch from counting processors to counting cores, with four cores per processor being the minimum licensing basis. Organizations running SQL Server 2012 with virtualization can either license VMs based on core licenses, or they can do so based on server plus CALs. Only organizations running the Enterprise edition with Software Assurance are eligible for the maximum possible virtualization (that is, a limitless number of VMs). [Back to 2012 product list.]
Internet Explorer 10
The next version of the Microsoft Web browser is currently on its fourth platform preview version (the third platform preview was included in the Windows 8 developer preview released at BUILD). Following Microsoft's tendency to tie its browser releases with desktop OS releases, the final version of Internet Explorer 10 is expected to ship with Windows 8, sometime between the third quarter of 2012 and early 2013.
Internet Explorer 10 is designed to run on both Windows 8 and its predecessor, Windows 7. However, it appears that Windows Vista will not support it, which could be due to Windows Vista being scheduled to lose "mainstream support" this coming April.
Building on the HTML5 capabilities in Internet Explorer 9, which was released as a final version in early 2011, the latest platform preview for Internet Explorer 10 includes support for text captions in HTML5-encoded video streams, a feature Microsoft calls "track captioning." This latest version also features improved rendering speeds.
Internet Explorer 10 will be touch-enabled on Windows 8. When running on the Windows 8 classic "desktop" interface, Internet Explorer 10 will support Silverlight 5, the latest and possibly last version of the Microsoft framework for developing rich Internet applications. However, Microsoft said that Internet Explorer 10 on the new Metro interface in Windows 8 will not support browser plug-ins, including Silverlight. [Back to 2012 product list.]
Anticipated release date: Q1 2013
Microsoft has been talking about the next iteration of its flagship office productivity suite, code-named "Office 15," since late 2009. In late 2010, Gurdeep Singh Pall, then-corporate vice president of the Microsoft Office Lync and Speech Group and currently the corporate vice president of the Information Platform and Experience Group, told RCP in a Q&A:
"The next major wave for us is the Office 15 wave, which will have the next version of Exchange, the next version of SharePoint, the next version of Office apps and the next version of Lync. The expectation now is, what are the scenarios that can cut across all these different workloads and provide even deeper value for the customers. So that is a big piece of 15."
Microsoft hasn't dropped any explicit hints about when a final version of Office 15 will be released, but the Web site WinRumors.com, citing "sources familiar with the company's plans," reported in November that Microsoft was planning to release an Office 15 beta in late January.
Furthermore, there are several suggestions that the next version of Office will be optimized for the Windows 8 Metro interface. In March and April of last year, leaked images allegedly of Office 15 showed a Metro-styled Outlook interface. More directly, in September, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told financial analysts at the BUILD conference that "you ought to expect that we're rethinking and working hard on what it would mean to do Office Metro style" in response to a question about Office on Windows 8.
Besides the new look and feel, Office 15 will reportedly include at least one other major change: a new application, code-named "Moorea." Based on yet more allegedly leaked Office 15 images last April, Mary Jo Foley, the longtime Microsoft watcher and columnist for RCP sister magazine, Redmond, wrote, "Moorea looks and feels a lot like the Office Labs 'Canvas for OneNote' app that Microsoft was testing a while back. Canvas for OneNote allows users to navigate, edit and display their OneNote notebooks in new ways." [Back to 2012 product list.]
Microsoft has revealed few concrete details about the product code-named "Exchange 15." With regard to timing, Singh Pall asserted that the next version of Exchange will coincide with the Office 15 release.
Kevin Allison, general manager of Exchange Customer Experience at Microsoft, suggested that Exchange 15 will follow the Exchange 2010 focus of giving users more control and freeing up administrators to perform more critical tasks.
"I think you'll see the same thing relative to 15," Allison told Windows IT Pro 's B.K. Winstead during an interview at the Microsoft Exchange Connections conference last November. Allison also said that having to develop both the on-premises Exchange server product and the hosted Exchange Online service that's part of Office 365 presents a "challenge" to the usual Microsoft product release cycle. It could result in major product versions being released faster.
Although Microsoft hasn't disclosed a timeline, Winstead speculated that a public beta of Exchange 15 could become available mid-2012, with a final release coming close to the year's end. [Back to 2012 product list.]
Visual Studio 2012
According to a blog by Jason Zander, Visual Studio corporate vice president, "this release adds support for Windows 8 and HTML5, enabling you to target platforms across devices, services and the cloud."
The Visual Studio 11 developer preview is set to expire on June 30, 2012. Microsoft has not revealed when future test versions or a final version will be made available. [Back to 2012 product list.]
Kinect for Windows
Kinect, the Xbox gaming console add-on for motion-tracking and voice control, reached a landmark in March last year when it became the fastest-selling consumer electronics product in history, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
In November, on the heels of releasing the second beta of the Kinect software development kit (SDK), Microsoft announced that it will launch the Kinect for Windows commercial program for developers during the early part of 2012. Microsoft also later confirmed that it's working on Windows-specific Kinect hardware. During his Consumer Electronics Show keynote on Jan. 9, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that the availability date for Kinect for Windows would be Feb. 1.
The Windows-specific hardware is designed to accurately motion-track objects as close as 50 centimeters away. Additionally, a new "Near Mode" feature will open the door to applications designed for close-up scenarios.
"Currently, we have more than 200 companies taking part in our pilot program," wrote Kinect for Windows General Manager Craig Eisler in an MSDN blog post. "Putting the power of Kinect + Windows into the hands of business leaders and technical visionaries will give them the tools they need to develop novel solutions for everything from training employees to visualizing data, from configuring a car to managing an assembly line." [Back to 2012 product list.]
Windows Phone 'Tango' and 8
Windows Phone 8: Released
Last year was a rough one for the Microsoft Windows Phone platform, which went from an already-low market share to an even lower one. The "Mango" update, released in October, was generally an improvement, but Microsoft still closed 2011 languishing at or near the bottom of the smartphone market standings.
This past December, an allegedly leaked Windows Phone roadmap that was posted on the site WMPoweruser.com suggests that there are two Windows Phone updates coming down the pipeline this year. The first, code-named "Tango," appears to be scheduled for Q2 2012 and is targeted at lower-cost devices. The second update, code-named "Apollo" and scheduled for Q4, appears to be more substantial and is aimed at higher end devices.
Microsoft has remained mum about both updates. At any rate, there have been rumblings of an update named Tango since last summer and of a late-2012 Apollo update since December 2010. [Back to 2012 product list.]
Dynamics ERP Online
Dynamics NAV 2013: Released
Dynamics AX 2012 R2: Released
Anticipated Dynamics GP 2013: Released
Microsoft kicked off last year's Convergence conference in April with an announcement that, to many, seemed a long time coming: The company's entire Dynamics portfolio will eventually become available as cloud-based services running on Windows Azure. The ERP products will follow the example of Dynamics CRM Online, which in the 2011 edition shipped slightly ahead of its twin on-premises version.
The first of the ERP products to launch with a cloud version will be Dynamics NAV, code-named "NAV 7." Microsoft said last year that Windows Azure-based NAV will be released in September or October 2012 and that it will "ship with a Web browser capability -- users (whether they're running NAV on-premises or in the cloud) will be able to access the product with nothing more than Internet Explorer 9 on their desktop."
Microsoft also announced that the forthcoming version 7 of Dynamics AX will follow in the footsteps of CRM Online in that the cloud-based version will be released before the on-premises version. Microsoft hasn't given a timeline for this release, but some estimates put it at 2014. [Back to 2012 product list.]
Anticipated update schedule: "Almost weekly"
Office 365, the Microsoft cloud-based productivity suite, launched only last summer, succeeding the earlier Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite offerings. Meanwhile, the company has been rolling out Office 365 updates almost continuously since September. In a January post on the Office 365 blog, Loryan Strant, an Office 365 Most Valuable Professional, noted that "we're now seeing updates and new features being implemented almost on a weekly basis." Microsoft hasn't given any indications about when the next major update will be, although Strant did, adding, "There's also a few other improvements in the works and beta programs which I'm prohibited from disclosing."
The first major update rollout to Office 365 was released just this past November. Notable changes included the addition of Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in SharePoint Online, support for Windows Phone 7.5 in SharePoint Online, support for Lync for Mac and the Mac OS X Lion, and the ability for administrators to reset their passwords by e-mail or SMS text message.
Last month, Microsoft announced that it's expanding the capabilities of the Office 365 entry-level "Kiosk" edition, which Jesper Osgaard, senior partner technology advisor at Microsoft, said in a blog post is aimed at "'deskless' workers, shift workers or retail store employees who use shared PCs." Exchange Online for Kiosk edition now has 1GB of storage instead of 500MB and is enabled with Exchange ActiveSync for smartphones. Additionally, Microsoft is now allowing "Exchange Online Archiving (EOA) ... to be offered as an add-on to any Exchange Online plan, including Kiosk and Exchange Plan 1," Osgaard wrote. [Back to 2012 product list.]
Rumored CTP release: Spring 2012
Microsoft has been a little guarded concerning its Windows Azure cloud computing platform plans for this year. Nevertheless, according to Foley, "The emphasis going into 2012 seems to be on convincing users that they don't have to create Azure cloud apps from scratch (which has been Microsoft's message up to this point). Instead, Microsoft is making it so users can more easily bring existing apps to the cloud and/or bridge their on-premises apps with Azure apps."
A few updates to Windows Azure were described by Microsoft in late in 2011. Microsoft said it had cut data transfer costs, boosted open source interoperability and added a SQL Azure federation feature.
Possibly, Microsoft might roll out a CTP of Windows Azure in spring 2012 that will allow Windows Azure customers to run Linux, but that's based on an as-yet-unconfirmed report. Such a move would potentially pit Windows Azure more directly against other major cloud providers, such as Rackspace and Amazon Web Services, which already let customers run Linux servers. [Back to 2012 product list.]
Anticipated Release Date: Q1 2013
The current iteration of Microsoft's collaboration platform, SharePoint 2010, is nearly two years old as of this writing. While Microsoft boasts 65 million licenses sold for SharePoint 2010, the product has been criticized for its complexity and user interface, among other things (see "What's Wrong with SharePoint?").
Microsoft is set to address some of these criticisms with the new version of SharePoint, code-named "SharePoint 15," which -- like Microsoft's other "15" products, "Office 15" and "Exchange 15" -- is expected to be released by year's end. Currently, SharePoint 15 is available as a technical preview to select users, with a public beta slated for this summer.
Though Microsoft has been tight-lipped about what changes to expect with SharePoint 15, reports indicate that the new version will include support for multitenant installations and a brand-new SharePoint Apps Marketplace. Additionally, Foley has said that Microsoft is developing an education-specific app for SharePoint 15 called "Office for Education 15."
"Because it is based on SharePoint, the app has a heavy collaboration focus," Foley wrote in a March blog post. "It is designed to allow users to share documents, build Web sites for specific classes and groups and create repositories of associated resources. Documents in these repositories can be rights-protected and can be searched for and checked out within the app." [Back to 2012 product list.]
Kurt Mackie contributed to this report.
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2011 Product Roadmap Archive
The following products were featured in our 2011 Microsoft Product Roadmap. Click on a product name to jump to that section:
Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2011
The 64-bit software, formerly known by its code name, Windows SBS "7," was initially made available as a "public preview" back in July. Now the code is being imaged by Microsoft's server hardware partners, which will include Acer Inc., Dell Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Co. and others, according to a Microsoft blog post in December. When released, Windows SBS 2011 Standard will offer management, backup and restore capabilities, network and client security, plus remote access to e-mail, calendar and contacts data for organizations with up to 75 users.
Microsoft also announced in December that the Windows SBS 2011 Premium Add-on software was released to manufacturing (RTM). The Premium Add-on is a supplement available for both Windows SBS 2011 Standard and Windows SBS 2011 Essentials (formerly code-named "Aurora"). It adds "support for SQL Server-based LOB [line-of-business] applications and access to Window Server 2008 R2 technologies," according to a Microsoft description, as well as remote desktop services and virtualization through Hyper-V.
The December RTM announcement did not specify when these two server products would be available on hardware. However, Microsoft earlier suggested that Windows SBS 2011 Standard would be available in February 2011 through systems builders and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
The retail price for the SBS 2011 Standard product is expected to be $1,096 plus Client Access License (CAL) costs of about $72. The retail price for the Premium Add-on product is expect to be $1,604 plus CAL costs of about $92.
Windows SBS used to be part of a two-part offering with Windows Essential Business Server (EBS). However, in April, Microsoft killed off EBS, which was designed to support midsize organizations of 75 to 300 users. On June 30, Microsoft ended the availability and development of the EBS product. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Windows Home Server
Microsoft back in August released a "preview build" of Windows Home Server (WHS) code-named "Vail" to test participants. Since then, HP disclosed it would not release a server based on WHS. HP was regarded as a leading WHS partner, and its withdrawal from the roster appeared to be a major blow to the product's prospects.
The "preview build" of WHS Vail provides backup and storage capabilities for home and small business users, but it omits many other useful server features, such as out-of-the-box printer support and terminal server support for remote access.
In November, Microsoft announced that it was removing the "drive extender" feature from WHS, which lets users easily pool multiple hard drives into a single volume without having to resort to RAID approach, which isn't supported in WHS Vail. The removal of support for drive extender by Microsoft caused an uproar among WHS users.
"Microsoft continues to work on delivering 'Vail' to our customers," Microsoft said in a blog post. "We are working very closely with our partners such as Acer, Tranquil and many systems builders to bring the best solution to market."
Microsoft did explain its decision to remove drive extender. A blog post hints that Microsoft's OEM partners may offer some sort of "storage management and protection solutions" offerings, presumably instead of drive extender. The blog states that "target product availability is still H1 2011, and we expect to deliver a new beta without drive extender for Windows Home Server Code Name 'Vail' early in the New Year." [Return to 2011 product list.]
Windows Intune is a cloud-based version of the desktop-management capabilities customers could previously get by deploying Microsoft System Center technologies. Rather than hosting a System Center server on-premises and managing desktops from the server, administrators using Windows Intune load a client onto the desktops.
Administrators can access via a browser the management software and tools in the cloud and manage and secure those desktops through the cloud. In addition to the product features, the monthly subscription will include upgrade rights to Windows 7 Enterprise for every covered desktop and an option to buy the otherwise hard-to-get Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).
When the first limited beta of Windows Intune arrived in April of last year, Microsoft described it almost exclusively as a midmarket IT-focused offering, with a slightly lower-end core audience than the System Center suite of products reaches. Core capabilities of Windows Intune include the ability to centrally manage the deployment of updates and service packs to PCs, manage protection of PCs through the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine, receive alerts that help administrators proactively monitor PCs, provide remote assistance, track hardware and software inventory, and set security policies.
For users familiar with other Microsoft product families, Windows Intune combines a Web-based management console with the desktop malware protection and reporting of the Microsoft Forefront Protection Suite and the update management and hardware/software/licensing inventory capabilities of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 or System Center Essentials.
Among the 1,000 participants in the first beta were some managed services providers (MSPs) who provided feedback about what the tool needed if it was going to make the jump from being focused on the needs of midmarket IT departments to functioning as an MSP management tool. The result is the Multi-Account Console, which allows an MSP to see all their customers from one screen. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Dynamics CRM 11
As we reported last fall, Microsoft is doubling down its effort to get channel partners to sell more of its Dynamics CRM software. CRM 2011 packs several key new features and promises improved margins for those selling the online version. It remains to be seen whether this will be the release that lets Microsoft beat Salesforce.com Inc. at its own game.
Dynamics CRM 2011, code-named "CRM-5," looks to erase many common competitive objections. It will have support for improved data visualizations, real-time dashboards and cloud development. Perhaps its most important new feature is an online marketplace that will let partners and customers find, download and implement custom and packaged extensions for Dynamics CRM.
"Partners will be able to build, package and upload their solutions, [and] customers can discover, download and deploy these solutions both on-premises and in the cloud," Brad Wilson, general manager, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, said during an interview at last summer's Worldwide Partner Conference.
Microsoft is making a strong push for partners and customers to give Dynamics CRM Online a try. To incent partners to push customers to Dynamics CRM Online, the company is offering a 40 percent margin for the first year for each seat it sells.
In fact, in an atypical move, Microsoft is releasing the online version first and is set to release the premises-based software later this quarter. The goal is for the two versions to work hand-in-hand, allowing those in the field to take advantage of the Web-based features and those in offices to use the premises-based version.
Because it supports the Microsoft .NET Framework 4 and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Dynamics CRM 2011 will be appealing to those who want to integrate it with existing .NET Framework-based apps and the rest of the Microsoft software portfolio. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Dynamics SL 2011
Microsoft Dynamics SL 2011 will be marketed toward midsize organizations. It's designed to support project accounting, order management and inventory-control functions.
The product will feature a customizable, role-tailored user experience that shows what's important to each specific user. Role-specific dashboards also can be created. Information can be searched using "50 predesigned search options," which Microsoft describes as its "quick query" capability.
The search-history capability in the product works much like the function seen in a Web browser. Users can click to see past screens they've visited and then jump to them. Print-screen images can be made and shared with others. Data can be exported to Excel for analysis using that program. Microsoft added a multiple login capability that allows users to work with different entities and then compare the data between them. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012
For this new release of the Microsoft enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, Microsoft is promising it will have an improved architecture and better support for developers and partners through improved integration with other Microsoft software, as well as a model-driven, layered architecture that offers better controls and less coding.
In addition to making things simpler for developers via modeling, Microsoft has a tighter integration between Dynamics AX 2012 and other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010. This integration reduces the need to use middleware with Dynamics AX 2012, according to Microsoft.
"Dynamics AX  has a model-driven-layer architecture that will accelerate the application development process for our partners, enabling them to write more quickly, to do less coding and to deliver the solution more quickly," said Crispin Read, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics ERP, in an interview. "[Developers] are modifying models versus writing code -- that's a big new capability, a very significant capability," he said.
Read noted that ISVs will be able to use this modeling capability to better extend their products to additional markets. He claimed that the new model-driven, layered architecture approach was "unusual" in the ERP software industry. Traditional ERP software products tended to drift more toward "spaghetti code" when it came to product upgrades and expansions, he claimed.
Earlier versions of Dynamics AX have been based on a layered architecture, but they haven't included this modeling capability. The modeling is based on a SQL Server-based model store, Read explained. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 R2
This incremental product release will have three main feature improvements. Microsoft claims that these improvements have already saved Dynamics GP 2010 customers money by improving business processes and reducing the need for customizations.
Microsoft plans to improve the UI for accessing "role-specific information" in Dynamics GP 2010 R2. The workflow approval process will be enhanced as well. Finally, there will be improved informational flow to "fact boxes" and "action shortcuts," which provide information about people during instant messaging chat sessions.
The latter improvement appears to be associated with Lync, the Microsoft UC product. According to a Microsoft blog post, users of Dynamics GP 2010 R2 will be able to create "sales orders, purchase orders or sales invoices directly from Microsoft Lync." [Return to 2011 product list.]
Windows MultiPoint Server 2011
Geared for classrooms, labs and libraries, Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 will be available through Microsoft volume licensing channels in March and will be offered by various OEMs in the second quarter of this year.
A number of features were baked into the release candidate, including support for thin clients over LANs, management of multiple "pods" through a single console, split-screen capability at terminals and a domain-join feature for Active Directory integration. The Premium edition of the product will enable domain joins; Microsoft also will offer a Standard edition without that capability.
Windows MultiPoint 2011 creates a shared computing environment in which one PC connects with up to 20 dumb terminals, each consisting of a screen, keyboard and mouse. The Standard edition supports 10 stations, while the Premium edition supports 20 stations, according to Microsoft. The system can be set up quickly using a video port, USB 2.0 hub or new multifunction USB devices.
The system has an automatic-discovery capability that's capable of linking up with other MultiPoint servers. Microsoft partners will have user-experience customization opportunities to build on top of the product. Existing Windows 7 Group Policies will work with Windows MultiPoint Server. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials
The new network attached storage software, previously code-named "Breckenridge," provides centralized file storage and backup capabilities on an appliance for small businesses. Joel Garcia, Microsoft senior product manager for Windows Servers, gave some more details, including its official name, in a blog posted from Tech-Ed Berlin back in November.
"Windows Storage Server Essentials is specifically developed to address the storage needs for small businesses up to 25 users without the need for specialized IT skills," wrote Garcia. "Configuring Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials is easy: remove from box, connect to network, power up and access the device from a browser to configure it."
The Storage Server Essentials is designed to handle server and PC backups, as well as centralized storage for data sharing, including remote Web access. The company is also positioning Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials as complementary to Windows Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Small Business Server 2011. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Internet Explorer 9
Microsoft launched the Internet Explorer 9 beta in September. Internet Explorer 9 is the company's next-generation Web browser, based on HTML5 and other World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developing standards.
The launch of the Internet Explorer 9 beta comes as Microsoft vies to retain its supremacy in the browser market over upstarts such as the Google Chrome browser, as well as the longtime open source contender Firefox from Mozilla.
One of the key operational features of this new browser is hardware-accelerated HTML5, which helps Internet Explorer 9 unlock "90 percent of a PC's computing power," Microsoft claims. Company officials contrasted that figure with the standard "10 percent" of computing power tapped by earlier iterations of Internet Explorer and other rival browsers on average.
The HTML5 spec is still developing as part of a standards-making process, but it promises native video and graphics processing in the browser. It will allow Web developers to create experiences that previously required plug-in extensions, such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. In that vein, ahead of the Internet Explorer 9 launch, questions were raised as to whether Internet Explorer 9 and HTML5 make Silverlight redundant.
"What happens is that the game gets raised for plug-ins such as Silverlight and Flash," said Brian Hall, general manager of Windows Live and Internet Explorer, speaking at the September launch event. "We've been working closely with our Silverlight team on how this gets integrated and what this all means and they're excited about the possibilities, but it's definitely a new game with higher stakes."
Those higher stakes may include a lightning-fast video capability, global positioning system services via the browser, and dragging and dropping items into a browser session from a desktop on a Windows 7 OS. There also may be built-in-browser applications that work offline.
"We feel like the Web sites themselves are the show and the browser is the theater," Hall said. "And that's the approach we're going to take going forward competitively. And with our own in-house development, we will continue to keep pushing the envelope." [Return to 2011 product list.]
There was considerable confusion late last year about whether or not Microsoft was still committed to Silverlight, the company's rich Internet application (RIA) development and runtime environment. But despite Microsoft's unwavering commitment to HTML5, Silverlight is very much alive and well, and a beta of the fifth release will appear in the coming months.
Microsoft revealed plans for Silverlight 5 in December and indicated a second half delivery date. Don't be surprised if the first beta is released at the annual MIX conference in April. "Silverlight 5 adds significant new features and capabilities, and enables developers to create premium media experiences and deliver rich applications across browsers, desktops and devices," said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, in a blog post.
Silverlight, of course, has emerged as the preferred development environment for Windows Phone 7. In his blog post, Guthrie pointed to a number of new features including support for GPU-accelerated video decode, which he said significantly reduces CPU load for HD video, meaning low-powered netbooks will be able to play back 1080p HD content.
A feature called Trickplay will allow variable speed playback of media content on client devices with automatic audio pitch correction, he noted, and Silverlight 5 will offer improved power awareness. It will also offer improved text rendering and printing, among numerous other features. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Visual Studio LightSwitch
Visual Studio LightSwitch is a Visual Studio-based, wizard-driven .NET application development environment targeted at business users. Microsoft announced LightSwitch at VSLive! in August and released the beta later that month.
LightSwitch aims to close the gap between full-feature .NET application development and the ad hoc applications and solutions built with Excel, Access and SharePoint. With its wizard-driven interface, LightSwitch provides a code-free app building experience designed to appeal to business power users.
One of the characteristics of LightSwitch is its focus on business utility. LightSwitch presents business-savvy native data types like e-mail, phone numbers and money, providing automated validation and in-field formatting of these types.
LightSwitch allows developers to defer deployment decisions, so that an application can be targeted for Windows, Windows Server, Windows Azure or a browser platform at the end of the process, rather than having to be shaped from the start for a specific platform. [Return to 2011 product list.]
Scott Bekker, Michael Desmond, Jabulani Leffall and Chris Paoli contributed to the 2011 Microsoft Product Roadmap.
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