Channel Watch

A Grudging Admission that This Is a Major Launch Wave

Almost every aspect of the Microsoft stack -- from OS to tools to apps -- is up for renewal in the coming year.

Every few years I hear Microsoft executives collectively say that we're coming up to a huge launch wave. I'm fairly cynical about these pronouncements.

It seems that Microsoft luminaries have described each successive launch wave as the biggest one yet since about 2000. Maybe I shouldn't be cynical, though. If you look at the way Microsoft's revenues have vaulted upward every quarter (with the exception of the third quarter of FY 2009), each launch is bigger than the last from a revenue standpoint, no matter the qualitative change in the products.

But I also have to admit that the Microsoft Tech-Ed 2009 conference in May brought home for me how much of the Microsoft stack really is up for renewal right now. Redmond is in the process of readying substantial overhauls of nearly every one of its billion-dollar products.

The most watched is Windows 7, which entered release candidate (RC) stage last month. Then there's Windows Server 2008 R2, which hit the RC stage at Tech-Ed and is also supposed to be available to customers in the fall. Microsoft is pushing Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 as a combo, with the pair unlocking new functionality like DirectAccess, for connecting to internal networks, and BranchCache, for reducing traffic over WAN links.

Those "better together" elements may provide partners with a foundation for drumming up some infrastructure upgrade business. Meanwhile, Microsoft may be sweetening the Software Assurance (SA) pot for customers. In a Tech-Ed keynote, Bill Veghte, senior vice president for the Windows business, said that he planned to use the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, an SA benefit, for mid-cycle operating system feature upgrades.

Work is proceeding apace on Office 2010, arguably Microsoft's second-most-important franchise after Windows. It emerged that the company plans to launch an invitation-only technical preview program for Office 2010 in July. A technical preview is slated for the same time frame for SharePoint Server 2010. Ahead of those, Exchange 2010 entered the public beta stage in mid-April and is supposed to ship later this year.

Even SQL Server 2008, which seems barely out the door, is undergoing an "R2" tune-up. A technology preview for the R2 version of the database is on tap for the second half of the year.

It doesn't look like Microsoft engineers have been paralyzed by this recession. They're turning out a lot of new products. If your field teams have some downtime, it might make sense to get them out in front of these technologies. Microsoft Learning is starting to make training materials available for Windows 7 and some of the other new products.

What is your company doing to prepare for these new releases? E-mail me at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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