Microsoft to launch next product wave in February 2008

Microsoft said it will launch new versions of Windows Server, SQL Server and Visual Studio in February 2008

Microsoft said yesterday it would formally unveil the next wave of its enterprise products — including the long-awaited "Longhorn" version of Windows Server — in February 2008 at a launch event in Los Angeles.

In a keynote at the Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner revealed that Microsoft will launch Windows Server 2008 (formerly code-named Longhorn), Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 in Los Angeles on February 27, 2008. As is customary when Microsoft rolls out major products, the event will be the first in a wave of launch events across the world.

The time frame may seem a bit off for customers expecting Windows Server 2008 to be available before the end of 2007, which is the current plan. According to Microsoft, there will be no change to this schedule, though the formal product launch won't come until next year.

Turner called the trio of products the "big dogs" of Microsoft's enterprise product portfolio. "It's the biggest single launch we will have at Microsoft in one day [in 2008]," Turner said, adding that colleague Andy Lees, a corporate vice president in Microsoft's server and tools business, told him to call it a "feeding frenzy of opportunity" for partners.

"There are hundreds of billions of dollars available to you through the monetisation of these products," Turner said.

While that's all well and good, one partner attending the keynote said it's sometimes a daunting task for a partner — especially a small business — to work with Microsoft to seize the opportunity Turner mentioned.

"Figuring out how to work with this organisation [is] a constant struggle," said Linda Gillis, marketing director for Squirrel Systems, a British Columbia company that provides restaurant point-of-sale software and services.

She said her 175-person company has a particular challenge because while it is based in Canada, 80% of its sales are in the US, so it's hard to find the right person within Microsoft to work with on sales engagements. However, "we are making headway," Gillis said. One of her goals at the partner conference is to make even more gains in this area, she said.

During his keynote, Turner reminded thousands of partners in the room that Microsoft has made a concerted effort to be more transparent about its product strategy to prepare them for releases, and reminded them of the products the company delivered in 2007. Those included Windows Vista, 40 million copies of which Turner said Microsoft delivered in the first 100 days of release, and Microsoft Office 2007.

"We talked about those products for a lot of years and they came to fruition [in 2007]," Turner said. Vista and Office are especially conducive to helping partners earn revenue, the former in particular representing a "US$300-billion partner opportunity," he said.

Microsoft said about 10,000 partners are attending its annual partner conference in Denver this week. The conference runs through Thursday.

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