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100 facts about Microsoft’s most important product release

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Can "programs and services, " promises of enhanced security, customizable mini-apps and a powerful graphics engine make the company’s vast user base switch to Windows Vista?
It’s been five long years since the release of Windows XP — a lifetime for the software industry. In that time, Microsoft has invested nearly $9 billion in Windows Vista which replaces XP, and the Office 2007 suite of office applications.
And so the wait is over.
During a planned presentation to a select few in New York City this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will unveil Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007, updates to the market-leading e-mail platform. Personal computer and server software accounts for 82 percent of Microsoft’s total annual revenue, underscoring how important the launch of the three new products is to Gates, Ballmer and the company.
Delays in launching key products, attacks from sleepless competitors, forcing another wave of updates on users – Microsoft has been through this more than once and has always managed to maintain growth in software license sales.
Will this company be able to get together and perform a miracle once again? Ballmer certainly believes it can. In an interview last week, he called the new Vista, Office and Exchange "a giant step forward. To the skeptics, Ballmer responds, "Anyone who says otherwise is away from our consumers."
Microsoft isn’t predicting explosive revenue growth in fiscal 2007; it’s likely to be in the range of 13% to 15%, to about $50 billion (for comparison, 2006 growth was 11%). Even such numbers would be akin to a feat for the largest software company, especially at a time when its 30-year-old business model is being squeezed by competitors providing online services ( software-as-a-service ) and making money from contextual advertising in search results (search-adriven). Why overpay for personal computer software when other, more interesting applications are available online?
Vista and Office 2007 may be ready, but Windows Live , Office Live and Office Online , Microsoft’s online service projects are far from it. Office 2007 brings together 13 applications and none of them reside on Office Online or Office Live resources. Ballmer responds evasively on this point: "We have what we have online. If you keep asking, maybe tomorrow there will be something new.
Microsoft needs to manage to demonstrate that desktop applications and online services can not just coexist, but evolve together to create a better working environment. Microsoft increasingly uses the term "software and service" to describe this coevolution. Ballmer predicts a "new generation of personalized ways of working that combine the best of the web with the rich capabilities of client computers" (see " Steve Ballmer’s Own Top 10 List ").
But for Microsoft, this is a matter for the future. "We’re trying our best, " Ballmer says. As users begin to move to online services, he argues that Microsoft is moving at the same pace as them, not behind.
Windows Vista with customizable mini-applications ( Gadgets ), with a powerful graphics engine, improved search tools, new security and mobile capabilities, and more, represents a tangible step forward. Importantly, the new format for storing the operating system’s installation files ( WIM ) makes it much easier for enterprise users to deploy and upgrade Windows Vista and makes it easier to distribute critical updates.
InterKnowlogy using .NET tools, third-party components, and Windows Presentation Foundation [formerly Avalon] recently completed development of an application for the research Scripps Institute. The new app allows scientists to view three-dimensional images of cancer cells and comment on them. "Together with Vista, it’s awesome, " says Peter Kuhn, a professor at the institute. "It’s unbelievable."
The scope of Microsoft’s upcoming app release with hundreds of new features is too big to try all the new products at once. We’ve selected 100 facts all IT professionals should know.
"System" Microsoft’s Office consists of 13 applications that are available in eight combinations, along with nine Office servers. The names are familiar to all. Here are some of them : Access, Communicator, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Project and Word. Office SharePoint Server (formerly SharePoint Portal Server) is the heart of the Microsoft software environment. Excel spreadsheets, for example, can now be managed centrally, but you have to use SharePoint’s Excel Services to do so.

7% companies plan to install Windows Vista immediately after release
39% Companies will install Windows Vista within the first year
34% Cite that the improved search system and organization’s capabilities are of great interest to them
17% Companies will need to update their computers to run Windows Vista
32% Wish that cheaper alternatives to Microsoft products were available
73% mention PC-server type integration as an important feature of Microsoft products
5% They say they are very interested in Vista Gadgets and Sidebar
According to an October 2006 InformationWeek Research survey

Exchange Server 2007 represents the first major upgrade to Microsoft’s e-mail system in more than three years. The key innovation is unified messaging, where faxes, voice mail and e-mail are all placed in a universal mailbox.
Mike Leeper, Manager Columbia Sportswear on Windows systems, thinks unified messaging is good for the company, especially in terms of forwarding voice mail outside the company. Employees who have to travel overseas like this capability because they don’t have to call the states voice mail system to get messages. "The end-user experience is better, " Leeper says. Also with Exchange Server 2007, it’s easier to implement uniform e-mail rules and set up correspondence storage.
However, Columbia Sportswear has no immediate plans to migrate to Windows Vista or Office 2007. Leeper explains : "We’ve had limited resources to try out previews, update the server side, and address multiple issues on client computers.
Path to update
How will users upgrade? When? According to an InformationWeek Research survey of 672 IT professionals conducted in October, 10% will install Windows Vista on existing computers, 25% will put Vista on new computers and 69% will do both. 39% plan to upgrade to Windows Vista within a year of its release.
As with previous versions of Windows, a massive corporate transition will take several years. That said, Ballmer expects companies to adopt Windows Vista "a little faster" than Windows XP, if only to protect themselves with improved security.
Competitor Ken Bisconti, vice president of product marketing at IBM Lotus, disagrees. "I’d like to see any company that is going to upgrade Windows independently of the standard hardware upgrade process. For most companies, such an upgrade is a 2008 event."
"Microsoft is still using a business model from the pre-Internet era that relies on the inevitable upgrade of a paid operating system and paid applications." Bisconti’s words summarize the skepticism that haunts Microsoft every time the company puts its users before a new software upgrade cycle: "Am I really that short of extra document editing features? Business and technology innovation is not dependent on a particular operating system or version of Office."
Nevertheless, Microsoft’s vast user base is the envy of many companies. Will Balmer be able to pull another rabbit out of the hat? Those who have seen this trick before will be watching his every move.

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