Although most of the news out of the Microsoft camp this week is coming from its consumer-oriented groups at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, there's plenty of other news to keep IT pros busy as well. Here are some of the stories I'm currently following.
Intel Ships Quad-Core Microprocessors
This is kind of a tough one because Intel's current generation quad-core microprocessor design is a bit of hack that allowed the company to claim it was first to market. But four-processor cores are still four-processor cores, and customers will see big performance advantages on modern OSs (read Windows Vista), especially those that are running applications that are specially written for multi-core processors. (Read... well, actually, there aren't any. Yet.) The Intel Core 2 Quad should prove its worth with media professionals, especially those working in video. Although businesses and consumers are just now switching to dual-core systems, systems with even more processor cores will start filtering down from the high end throughout 2007.
Windows Live OneCare 1.5
Microsoft released Windows Live OneCare 1.5 to manufacturing. This is the latest version of Microsoft's subscription-based managed PC health service, which is inexpensive, effective, and can be installed on up to three PCs. Why is this interesting to you? If you're managing small businesses, OneCare is a fantastic and inexpensive solution that you really need to investigate, what I call an "admin in a box" (though of course, it's really an online service). The new version adds Vista support and integrates Windows Defender and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 antiphishing functionality directly into the product. It's highly recommended and appears to have less of a performance impact than competing solutions. Also note that there's a reason Symantec and McAfee are prepping similar suites for release this year.
Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 Release Candidate
Last year, Microsoft suddenly made its Virtual PC desktop virtualization product available for free, and the next version, Virtual PC 2007, is almost complete. Now available as a release candidate (RC), Virtual PC 2007 offers dramatic performance improvements when run on systems based on Intel and AMD's hardware virtualization platforms. It also includes native support for Vista (but drops support for Windows 95). Finally, Microsoft will ship both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the product, though the 64-bit version can't be used to run 64-bit guest OSs. If you've standardized on Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format, check this one out. Virtual PC 2007 is a major improvement over its predecessor.
Windows Server "Longhorn" December CTP
I recently mentioned that Microsoft will soon make its Beta 3 version of Longhorn Server available to the public, and it looks like that should happen sometime next month. In the meantime, testers have gotten hold of a December 2006 Community Technical Preview (CTP) build of Longhorn Server, and Microsoft has begun talking to the press about this intriguing product again. The December CTP offers a compelling preview to Beta 3, and I'll be examining it more closely in a future UPDATE.
Windows Mobile, Part 3
Finally, I'm remiss for not thanking the many readers who pointed me to Motorola Q and Windows Mobile Web communities, many of which offer home screen replacements and instructions for changing the Q home screen yourself. Although my initial reaction was that these sites would be valuable to me personally but perhaps not as useful as an enterprise topic, it suddenly dawned on me that that isn't necessarily the case. Consider, for example, a business that would like to customize its smart phones so that the most necessary business-related communications are always up front and center. I'll be investigating this possibility in the weeks ahead. And again, thanks so much for the pointers. They were very much appreciated. Also, note that Motorola has just shipped a new "Pro" model of the Q that comes with a black case and Microsoft Office document compatibility features.