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Speaking to Exchange

Speech technology has certainly been a long time coming. When I was covering IBM in the early 1990s, I recall visiting its facility in La Gaude, France, and being thoroughly embarrassed when they made me talk into a microphone in order to make a camel go hip-hopping across the desert, all in an attempt to demonstrate some fledgling voice recognition technology. (On the other hand, I also recall a great lunch in the company cafeteria that day. It was topped off by a visit to the adjacent espresso room, where you drop a token into a machine, select your own special concoction, then stand around little tables drinking it. The French do not take their coffee lightly.) Yesterday, Microsoft announced it will integrate its own speech technology into a future release of Exchange Server in an effort to deliver speech-enabled unified messaging. That sounds like an opportunity for partners, as customers will no doubt need help in implementing the technology.

Roadmaps and Roundtables
Microsoft had its A-list executives on hand for its annual meeting with financial analysts last week, at which it described its product roadmap in the broadest of terms. For partners, the session may well have raised more questions than it answered, such as, “What is this enterprise version of Vista all about?” Steve Ballmer also talked about Microsoft offering more services, such as hosted versions of CRM, Outlook and other Office applications—a topic that typically raises partner hackles.

Microsoft posted a number of Webcasts and transcripts from the event on its Web site. Of particular interest to me was a discussion with Bill Gates and CTO Ray Ozzie, moderated by Ed Lazowska, who holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. Ozzie expounds on his experience with Microsoft thus far and how his Groove technology fits into the overall scheme of things at Microsoft. (Stay tuned for next month’s issue of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, by the way, in which we’ll have a story on the opportunity the Groove technology presents for partners.)

PDC Speaker Lineup Set
You’ll have another chance to catch Bill Gates, along with Jim Allchin, at the Professional Developers Conference coming up Sept. 13 in Los Angeles, according to the keynote speaker lineup Microsoft announced this week.

Betas, Betas and More Betas
Microsoft shipped the beta version of Windows Vista last Wednesday, a full week ahead of its promised Aug. 3 deadline, and released beta versions of Longhorn server to testers in a private beta program. At the same time, the company released beta 1 of IE7, the first new version of IE since before Google mattered.

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Genuine Patch Needed
In a development that proves the program is warranted, hackers have found a way to skirt Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage, which is intended to ensure users have a legitimate copy of Windows before they download software updates. Genuine Advantage is a good thing for partners that sell legitimate versions of Windows, as it will help weed out those that don’t—assuming Microsoft can plug holes like this one.

Microsoft Announces MBS Partner Awards
News of Microsoft partner awards continued to trickle out last week, the latest being the list of 22 recipients of Microsoft Business Solution partner awards. Headlining the list is Columbus IT Partner A/S, winner of the Global Partner of the Year.

And check out our story on previously announced award winners.

In the September issue of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, we’re planning a story on the benefits of landing a Microsoft partner award and what it takes to win. Subscribe online to make sure you don’t miss it or any of our other coverage.

Tip of the Week
In the two months since it was announced, the SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) for Oracle has been downloaded about 2,500 times and reaction from early adopters of the free tool is “very positive,” according to Madhu Reddy, a senior product manager in the SQL Server Marketing team. SSMA reduces the manual labor involved in a database migration roughly 60 to 80 percent by substantially automating many of the steps involved. They include assessing the scope of the project, which is a key one for partners because it helps you ensure you don’t underbid the job. The tool also helps you migrate the schema, data, business logic and stored procedures, making the project less complex and error-prone. Microsoft has trained more than 30 partners on how to use the tool and posted a partial list. For more information, including customer testimonials, go here.

Posted by Paul Desmond on August 03, 2005 at 11:53 AM