13 of Microsoft's most important product releases for 2009

One surprise release stunned the industry

Microsoft filled 2009 with product releases that include clients, servers, management tools, browsers, search engines, Web apps, mobile operating systems, media players and more. Plus one surprise release that stunned the industry: a submission to the Linux kernel. Check out these product highlights and add your own in our comments section.

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Zune HD:

Zune HD: Will Microsoft ever find the stick it takes to beat Apple's iPod platform over the head? Maybe or maybe not, but the latest stick is the Zune HD , a touch-screen device that replaces the Zune media player.

Windows Mobile 6.5:

Windows Mobile 6.5: This is noteworthy not for what it delivered but instead for what it didn't deliver . This release whimpered to the market "we're not done yet" and "just wait for Windows Mobile 7.0." At the PDC in November, Microsoft pushed off talk about Windows Mobile 7 into spring 2010. So now the wait is on to see if Microsoft can finally make a dent in the mobile market, which is key to its three screens and a cloud strategy.

Office Web Apps:

Office Web Apps : OK, we know it is just a beta for now, but the feedback that Microsoft gets on these online productivity tools is likely to have an influence on how it positions Office 2010 for corporate users. This could be the first major intersection where end-users decide the value of Microsoft's software-plus-services strategy.

Microsoft Security Essentials:

Microsoft Security Essentials: The malware scanning engine answers Microsoft's need to supply virus protection for consumers after the demise of Live OneCare. Essentials shares technology with Microsoft's Forefront Client Security desktop, an enterprise tool that can be centrally managed. Essentials provides only detection and removal of malware and lacks central management capabilities. Competitors lined up to take shots at Essentials, but consumers couldn't argue with the price: free.

Silverlight 3:

Silverlight 3: Microsoft's browser plug-in and answer to the Flash platform for multimedia on the Web got an overhaul in July. Version 3 brought offline capabilities along with improvements in audio, video, 3D graphics and data-binding. Silverlight 4, introduced at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in November, will be the first version that unhitches the plug-in from the browser.

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack R2 2009

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack R2 2009: If you're going to deliver a new client OS you better have tools to manage it. Microsoft pushed up the release date on MDOP so users would have the tools available with Windows 7 .

Exchange 2010:

Exchange 2010: A 64-bit only server, Exchange 2010 includes new storage and deployment options, enhanced in-box management capabilities, built-in e-mail archiving, new database clustering, additional hardware options, and a revamped Outlook Web Access client. Also, the server is touted as a hybrid -- equally at home as a hosted platform as it is in a corporate messaging infrastructure. The hosted version is not expected to ship until May or June 2010.

Internet Explorer 8

Internet Explorer 8 : The browser shipped with new privacy and security features, such as private browsing and Protected Mode. It also includes support for Cascading Style Sheets 2.1, and an auto rendering feature. All of it is ammunition against competitors Firefox, Safari and Chrome. IE 9 development started in late November and standards compliance, such as HTML5, is now the big theme.

Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2:

Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2: If you're going to give users virtualization features like Live Migration, you better give them a way to manage it. VMM 2008 R2 supports not only Live Migration but also Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) and TCP Chimney Offload (Server '08 R2 features that improve network performance for virtual machines), and hot addition and removal of virtual hard disks (VHD).

Windows Server 2008 R2:

Windows Server 2008 R2 : Every client OS needs a server companion. While this was what Microsoft calls an interim release, the addition of the Live Migration feature to Hyper-V virtualization gave Microsoft capabilities it was sorely lacking against competitors. In addition, R2 supported features from Windows 7 such as BranchCache and DirectAccess.

Linux Device Driver for Virtualization:

Linux Device Driver for Virtualization: In an historic move, Microsoft in July submitted driver source code for inclusion in the Linux kernel under a GPLv2 license it had once openly criticized. The drivers, once added to the Linux kernel, provided hooks for any distribution of Linux to run on Windows Server 2008 and its Hyper-V hypervisor technology. Microsoft also promised ongoing maintenance of the code.

Bing:

Bing: Microsoft couldn't seem to gain any market share and it couldn't close an acquisition of Yahoo, so the new tool to battle Google became Bing . Set free on the Web in June, Bing has risen to 9.9% market share, according to comScore. Google still commands a share of 65.4%, but at least Microsoft has something to fight with now.

windows 7

Windows 7: Perhaps the most important release of the decade, much less this year, is Windows 7 . After the Vista strikeout, Microsoft needed to hit it out of the park. Early returns are favorable and evidence of corporate acceptance should begin to creep in during 2010.

Did we miss any critical product debuts? Let us know which Microsoft releases are most important to you.

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