Windows Phone 7 Stumbles Forward

Microsoft got the loot years ago. By establishing Windows as the dominant operating system for both consumers and the enterprise, Redmond effectively locked the vast majority of users into its technology and has never really let go.

That hasn't been the case for mobile technology, obviously. Microsoft's mobile platform might have the word "Windows" in it, but that label doesn't carry much weight when it's floating around in somebody's pocket as opposed to running a PC or server.

This week, Microsoft said that Windows Phone 7, its fairly desperate attempt to achieve relevance in the mobile market, has reached technical preview stage. That means that developers and reviewers are receiving prototypes of devices running the operating system. Thus far, reviews have been mixed. Some have been more positive than others, and most have acknowledged that Microsoft is, at least, trying to start afresh in the mobile-OS game.

Not everybody is on board with that view, though. We don't often link to InfoWorld here, but we couldn't help but notice that a reviewer there ripped into Windows Phone 7 like a cheetah tearing open the guts of a gazelle.

Still, InfoWorld is a bit of an outlier in this case. Most experts seem to think that Windows Phone 7 is OK, maybe not half bad. And that's the problem. Pretty much every observer outside of Redmond says that Microsoft is still behind Google and Apple in terms of mobile functionality. Plus, Microsoft is now in the relatively unfamiliar position of having to play as an underdog in a hypercompetitive market.

Thus far, nobody has indicated that Windows Phone 7 is anything close to the type of revolutionary, eye-grabbing, can't-resist monster that Microsoft needs it to be if the company is going to go for mobile gold. The new platform is...alright, nothing more. And that likely won't be enough to pull Microsoft very far up the mobile standings.

Windows 7 might not be a disaster, but it is an example of the type of company Microsoft really is. It's an enterprise-focused company that struggles mightily with consumer innovation. It's entering a market that moves at hyper speed with an OS that's already behind everybody else's. And it's mostly incapable of using pure technology to seriously penetrate markets it doesn't already dominate. Microsoft is a PC company in a smart-phone world, metaphorically speaking. For now, that's OK -- especially for partners. (After all, IBM still sells mainframes.)

But if Microsoft wants to be a mobile player, it's going to have to figure out how to be a few things it has never been outside of its core product areas -- innovative, cool and ahead of the competition. Windows Phone 7, while an improvement over Windows Mobile, isn't the first step in that journey. It's more like speeding up a treadmill than actually moving forward.

What's your take on the future of Microsoft's mobile business? What good reason can you think of for buying a Windows Phone 7 phone? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on July 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM15 comments


Asus Tablet Won't Run on Windows

Asus, maker of the popular Eee PC netbook (of which your editor owns), is jumping on the tablet bandwagon with an effort apparently called the Eee Pad. It'll have lots of features, we're sure -- but there's one thing it won't have: Microsoft Windows. Asus has opted for Google's Android OS instead, reportedly.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM3 comments


GFI Buys Sunbelt Software

Walter Scott is a fascinating character who owns (or, at least used to own) the biggest monster truck that we at RCPU have ever seen -- and remember that your editor is from Texas. Now, Scott and GFI also own Sunbelt Software.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 19, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft Talks up CRM 2011

What was once knows as CRM 5 will soon be CRM 2011, with a beta release set for September. The new version builds on Microsoft's commitment to integrate CRM data into Outlook and provide users with the most familiar experience possible.

With the new release, Microsoft will "serve CRM data in the same way we serve Outlook data," Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM at Microsoft, told RCPU in a recent phone chat. "In the past, CRM data was in Outlook as folders and forms. We didn't natively access things like preview pane. We're treating CRM data like any other Outlook data. We really are making this much more of a deeply embedded experience."

Business intelligence gets a boost in CRM 2011 as well, with BI capabilities integrated more tightly and frequently than ever into the offering. "We are now interspersing BI elements throughout the applications," Wilson said. "We're making BI much more pervasive."

CRM 2011 also includes native SharePoint controls, which will allow users to "access and update SharePoint repositories," Wilson said. Microsoft is also introducing with this release Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, a site partners can use to put their third-party applications in front of customers. "It's meant to help our third parties around the world put apps into the cloud," Wilson said.

Wilson noted as well that CRM Online, the Microsoft-hosted version of the software, will be a benefit of the new Microsoft Partner Network. "Eligible partners can receive up to 250 seats of CRM online at no charge," he said.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 15, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


VMware vSphere 4.1 Beefs up Capacity

VMware this week rolled out a new version of vSphere, this one aimed largely (although not entirely) at bigger enterprises and carrying a new licensing model. Specifically, VMware is now handling pricing and licensing of virtualization-management products on a per-virtual-machine basis. The company is also hacking prices in half for some offerings.

"As virtualization becomes more pervasive, the VM has become the unit of measure for the data center in terms of cost accounting," Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's vice president of product marketing, told RCPU over lunch recently. The new model, which breaks from a CPU-based licensing structure, "allows customers to be a lot more granular," Balkansky said.

Virtualization Review has many more details about vSphere 4.1 and VMware's new model.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 15, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


WPC: Ballmer Wants Partners on His Cloud

Steve Ballmer rarely minces words, and he certainly didn't this week at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. His message? Partner, you're moving to the cloud. That's all there is to it. And you'd better hurry up.

Ballmer told a WPC crowd that Microsoft is moving to the cloud and that partners will have to do the same if they want to do business with Redmond. Here's an actual quote from his speech: "If you don't want to move to the cloud, we're not your folk."

Your "folk?" What is it with Microsoft people talking like hill people? First Kin and now folk? Anyway, Ballmer was somewhat less clear on how Microsoft will resolve channel conflicts in the cloud and how the company will ultimately work with partners that aren't satisfied with Redmond's cloud-compensation terms. Check out this paragraph from the RCPmag.com story linked above:

"Ballmer said that he expected to hear from partners at the event about improving channel conflicts and increasing profit margins for partners. Microsoft would 'factor those inputs in,' Ballmer said, but ultimately, partners have to choose."

Choose? Choose what? And how are those "inputs" going to be "factored in?" We're believers in the cloud at RCPU, and we're happy to hear that Microsoft is making such a commitment (although perhaps too much of a commitment) to it. But Ballmer has almost taken a bullying tone regarding Microsoft's cloud plans.

And that's really the biggest problem we have with Ballmer's bluster on this topic. He's all threats and few details -- and some of the details that Microsoft has released about partners and the cloud over the last couple of years have not gone down too well in the channel. So, a little more guidance and specificity to go with the cloud sermons would be nice. After all, partners made Microsoft what it is today, and they'll likely decide the company's future in the cloud, too.

What's your take on Steve Ballmer's pronunciations about the cloud and the channel? Send it to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on July 15, 2010 at 11:56 AM6 comments


To Redmond with Love

It turns out, as you might have read, that one of the Russian "spies" who recently got sent home from the US was a Microsoft employee for a short time. Apparently he was there for less than a year and was in an entry-level role as a software tester. Plenty of observers have cracked jokes about what this Cold War throwback might (or might not) have found at Microsoft -- but we're going to abstain from that kind of behavior (for once). No, we want to hear from you, the reader: What do you think a Russian spy would look for in Redmond? What do you think he found? Send your best efforts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on July 15, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments


Microsoft Releases the Four Fixes of July

They're a bit late for the Fourth of July (in fact, that's probably why they're late), but Microsoft July patches did, at least, show up in time for the Bastille Day party. Three are critical and one is merely "important."

Posted by Lee Pender on July 14, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Follow WPC '10 at RCPmag.com

It's all WPC all week here at RCPU, and there's more online about the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference at our dedicated Web home for the WPC. Scott Bekker and Jeff Schwartz are running around DC like lobbyists chasing after Congressmen, digging up stories and talking to partners to get their perspective on the show. Here at RCPU, we're aggregating Scott and Jeff's work, but the WPC '10 site is definitely worth following daily. Check it out. It's just like being at the show except that there are no box lunches.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 14, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


WPC: Windows Server Beta, Azure Cloud Appliances

Happy Bastille Day to everyone! C'est le quatorze juillet, jour de la fête nationale en France. Here's one quick hint for your next trip to Paris: Don't ask where the Bastille is. There is a neighborhood called Bastille -- a really fun one, actually -- but the building itself has been gone for a couple of centuries now. You probably knew that, but we're always here to help.

Now, back in the 1780s, the fledgling US was pretty friendly with la France, so that leads us perfectly into...the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C.! OK, so maybe that wasn't perfect (Washington DC wasn't founded until 1790...), but we weren't really sure how else to jump into another round of announcements from WPC '10. Anyway, here they are:

Microsoft released at the show the beta of Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2008 R2. The beta adds dynamic memory and Remote FX for testing purposes; both are virtualization features. There's some other stuff in the beta as well, but you'll have to jump to the link to find out the rest. Hey, we've got Web sites to run here.

Also this week in D.C., Microsoft continued pursuing its cloud revolution (see, that Bastille Day meme is really working out now) by releasing its Azure platform as an appliance. That means that customers and partners will be able to run Azure on their premises. There's more, as always, in the excellent RCPmag.com story by Jeff Schwartz.

OK, so it's not revolutionary news, but it's useful. And installing the Windows Server beta will hopefully be a lot less messy than storming the Bastille -- which, again, isn't there anymore.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 14, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


The Brave Last Days of Windows XP SP2

It's all over for Windows XP Service Pack 2, at least in terms of support from Microsoft. So, if you haven't already, move (or get your customers to move) to Windows 7 -- or just implement XP SP3, which is still alive. Surprisingly, many businesses -- like half of all businesses, according to one researcher -- are still on SP2. Maybe not for long...

Posted by Lee Pender on July 14, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


WPC: Silver and Gold Have Value Again for Microsoft Partners

Over the years, a fair number of members of the Microsoft channel have put pretty significant marketing resources into selling themselves as Gold Certified. As the Partner Program morphed into the Microsoft Partner Network, though, the Gold label seemed to be doomed.

Not anymore. In a move that many partners should welcome as good news, Microsoft is bringing the bling to the MPN by labeling competencies as "gold" and "silver." So, while Gold Certified might be dying as a partner distinction, a gold competency can take its place. So, don’t do that complete rebranding yet...

Posted by Lee Pender on July 12, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments