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Microsoft previews Windows 8, Skype/Lync; bashes competition

Partner conference reveals future of Microsoft product lines

By , Network World
July 14, 2011 02:28 PM ET

Network World - Microsoft's annual partner conference last week featured previews of the Windows 8 server and desktop operating systems, talk of integration between Skype and Lync, and a barrage of insults aimed at the company's competitors.

While Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer scoffed at Apple's Mac sales numbers compared to the 400 million Windows 7 licenses sold, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner bashed Google, Cisco, IBM, Oracle and VMware.

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Office 365 is "nothing but a Google butt-kicker," while IBM's Lotus Notes is hemorrhaging customers to Microsoft, and Cisco's unified communications product, Oracle's database and VMware's virtualization are overpriced, Turner said.

But Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles didn't focus just on competitors. Microsoft talked about upgrade paths from existing products and previews of upcoming ones such as Windows 8 for the desktop, Windows Server 8, a Skype-powered Lync communications suite and the next version of SQL Server.

Once Microsoft completes its $8.5 billion purchase of Skype, the consumer-focused chatting and calling service will be heavily integrated with the business-focused Lync unified communications software, Ballmer said.

"One of the great motivations in acquiring Skype is to enable the enterprise to have all the control it wants in communication and collaboration through Active Directory and Lync, and yet be able to connect people within enterprises to consumers, businesses and trading partners around the world," Ballmer said. "Lync ... with Skype is a strategy that will allow the consumerization of IT to really proceed with full vim and vigor."

Microsoft also talked up the future of Windows. Any desktop PC capable of running Windows 7 will be upgradable to Windows 8 because Microsoft plans to keep hardware requirements level or even lower them, the company said.

Despite strong Windows 7 sales, Windows XP is still the most widely used operating system, and Microsoft has consistently told businesses it's time to move off the OS, which will no longer be supported after April 2014.

Windows 8 will be optimized for both PCs and tablets, and Microsoft pledged that Windows 8 tablets will be able to do virtually anything a PC can do, perhaps a differentiator from Apple's iPad, which uses a different operating system than Mac computers.

Microsoft previewed Windows Server 8, which will feature upgrades to the Hyper-V virtualization platform. Reliability will be improved because of a new Hyper-V replication service that makes it easier to replicate virtual machines hosting databases and other applications to remote data centers.

"Hyper-V Replica works with any server vendor, any storage vendor, any network vendor, making it the ideal platform to deliver new service offerings," virtualization program manager Jeff Woolsey said. "With Windows Server 8 we're delivering massive, massive scale in the box, and we're delivering mission-critical reliability enhancements."

Release dates for Windows Server 8 and Windows 8 haven't been revealed, but Microsoft said it will provide further previews of their capabilities in September at the company's BUILD conference in Anaheim.

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