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Ozzie Offers Vision for Software Plus Services at TechEd

Kicking off its TechEd 2006 conference in Boston, Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie said the IT industry is verging on yet another era of technology disruption, this time centering around Web-based services.

“We are about to witness another era of technology disruption for all our customers that will bring about some fundamental changes in the way we design and deliver products and services,” Ozzie told several thousand corporate and third-party developers, and IT professionals.

Ozzie, who joined Microsoft about a year ago when the company acquired Groove Networks, is Microsoft’s most prominent internal champion of building a “software plus services” platform, which provides an infrastructure for software that is delivered as a service or that is enhanced by services.

In his keynote, Ozzie for the first time articulated what role Microsoft would play in helping IT professionals transition smoothly through this new disruption. He said the company would implement a combination of client, server and services technologies that would have its Live offerings including Windows and Office Live technologies play a strategic role.

But even as Ozzie talked about the ability of a software plus services platform that would disrupt the industry, he attempted to reassure the largely IT audience that Microsoft’s approach would protect their existing investments.

“At times of disruption like this, there are always extremists,” Ozzie said. As an example, Ozzie pointed to the industry critics who said the rise of the PC would mean the death of the mainframe.

“Microsoft is taking a very pragmatic approach, a seamless, blended client-server-service approach,” Ozzie said, adding that Microsoft will strive to make it easy for customers to move from servers to services or vice versa. “Under the name, Live, we’ll provide a blend of desktop software, server software and service offerings.”

This kind of blended approach is not a stretch coming from Ozzie, whose Groove peer-to-peer collaboration application was designed to allow people to work on their files whether connected to a LAN, remote with Internet access or offline.

As a way to show how the company’s current products are evolving to incorporate services, Ozzie highlighted Microsoft Dynamics AX version 4.0, a resource planning solution, that will be formally launched at the show this week.

“Using the Web service functionality within Dynamics, users can create business mashups to bring together Web-based services into custom solutions to focus solving a business problem across disparate systems where there are a lot of information silos,” Ozzie said.

Ozzie turned to the massive investments being made by Microsoft, Google and Yahoo in infrastructure, and urged TechEd’s IT audience to begin thinking about ways to leverage those investments.

“How might IT organizations ultimately take advantage of these data center investments? Might they be used to augment your infrastructure to take advantage of our scale?” he asked. He also asked the audience to consider how the infrastructure investments could help IT departments decrease the complexity and increase the agility of their own organizations.

Hoping to move its People Ready Business initiative forward, the company made a number of long-term promises to corporate and third-party developers that will more align the company’s efforts to meet users' needs. Those customer promises include to manage complexity and achieve agility. Protect information and control access, advance their businesses with IT solutions, and amplify the impact of people.

“IT professionals are increasingly focused on reducing costs and gaining business advantage through strategic use of IT,” said Bob Muglia, senior ice president of Microsoft’s server and tools business. “These customer promises are a simple way to spell out what we are committed to on behalf of IT pro and developers and the organizations they serve,” he said.

Muglia added that these selected investment areas along with the company’s business partners will ultimately empower IT pros and developers to deliver “measurable” value to their organizations.

Muglia said the infrastructure for the People Ready Business initiative is designed to empower IT professionals so they can better deliver a new breed of IT solutions that can meet the fast changing needs of most users today. The result for users, he said, is that IT is in a better position to drive overall business success for their companies.

Offering evidence, Muglia pointed to a recent research study by Keystone Research LLC that stated a well-optimized IT organization directly affects business performance. According to the study companies in the top 25 per cent of IT capability was able to grow revenue 6.8 percent faster per year than their peers in the bottom 25 percent between the years 2002 and 2005.

During his keynote Muglia announced Microsoft Forefront, a new brand for the next wave of security and secure access products. The Forefront brand reportedly reflects the company’s ongoing commitment to offering a set of security products across client, server and edge platforms.

Microsoft also launched Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2006, an integrated edge security gateway that helps better protect IT environments from Internet-based threats. It also provides users with faster and security-enhanced remote access.

In another announcement, Microsoft made its Community Technology Preview (CTP) of SQL Server Everywhere available, an offering for storage on clients of all types, as well as the CTP version of Visual Studio Team Edition.

Microsoft said it would deliver Exchange Server 2007 Beta 2 to users and business partners worldwide by the end of July. The company said a number of new mobile features and functions would be in the new beta version including support for search on a device, improved meeting request handling, support for HTML e-mail, and message flagging.

Lastly, the company said a public beta version of its System Center Operations Manager 2007 is now available. The product is the first System Center product to take advantage of the capabilities of the System Definition Model, which helps deliver service-oriented management for business class services including Exchange, SharePoint and Active Directory.

To prepare developers for TechEd, Microsoft launched a beta of a Web site Friday that works in concert with its Windows Live platform.

Company officials believe that with the site, Windows Live Dev, Microsoft can more distinctly differentiate its development strategy from a number of online competitors, most notably Google, which more traditionally pursues the consumer market.

One recent development that may be giving Microsoft added incentive is the introduction earlier this month by Google of its hosted application, Google Spreadsheets.

In concert with the launch of Windows Live Dev, Microsoft sent out to beta testers a version of its software development kit for creating gadgets -- mini-applications that can work both with company’s upcoming Vista desktop operating system and the Web.

The new Windows Live Dev Web site gives developers access to a range of different resources as well as ideas for using Microsoft services. The site is meant to serve as a supplement to the existing Microsoft Developer Network site the company debuted in March.

Microsoft will also publish its new Windows Server System Common Engineering Criteria (CER) for infrastructure software produced in 2007 at the show. The company began publishing the CER, which is described as a common set of guidelines and requirements that each infrastructure server must meet, in 2003. The idea is that, beginning with infrastructure server product releases in 2005, the company became more focused on delivering a common set of services across all Windows Server System products.

Among the engineering criteria updates and additions for 2007 infrastructure products are an improved feedback platform for users, IPv6 support, Web services adoption, improved diagnostics, optimized identity and access management for Active Directory, and support for the Security Configuration Wizard, as well as native 64-bit support and standardized content model for both printed documentation and online information.

In addition, Microsoft will give out evaluation copies of its newly released high-performance computing (HPC) platform. While the product has been released to manufacturing, it will not be generally available to customers until August. CCS 2006 is Microsoft’s first foray first foray into the HPC marketplace.

-- Scott Bekker and Stuart Johnston contributed to this report.

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