Executive Summary:
Microsoft is planning close to a dozen major product releases between the last half of 2009 and the end of 2010. Find out what the software giant has in store for IT pros.

I'm writing this column just a few days after TechEd 2009. By all accounts it was a modest show, with bleak economic conditions and the H1N1 "swine flu" keeping turnout somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 attendees.

Despite the light foot traffic and lack of Microsoft dignitaries—Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was giving the keynote at TechEd India the same week—the announcements at TechEd made it clear that Microsoft is gearing up for a significant product launch period. Like the calm before the storm, TechEd 2009 could be seen as Microsoft taking a deep breath before plowing ahead with close to a dozen major product releases between the last half of 2009 and the end of 2010. Here's a limited sample of Microsoft's upcoming product portfolio, along with links to Windows IT Pro articles about these products.

Windows 7 (ETA: Dec 2009)—By nearly all accounts, Windows 7 is shaping up to be a significant improvement over Windows Vista. Granted, one could argue that Windows 7 has more in common with Vista than Microsoft would care to admit, but the OS offers important UI and performance enhancements. Although many IT administrators decided to pass on Vista, I have a feeling Windows 7 adoption will be robust. (Windows 7 FAQ, winsupersite.com/win7/faq.asp)

Exchange 2010 (ETA: H2 2009)—Microsoft Exchange 2007 is powerful, but it can be overly complex to manage. Microsoft hopes to address some of that complexity in Exchange 2010, as well as mix in some new features to tackle security and e-discovery. The 2010 version of Outlook Web Access also looks impressive, with a feature set that nearly matches the traditional Outlook client. ("A First Look at Exchange 2010," windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/100934)

Windows Server 2008 R2 (ETA: H2 2009)—Some Microsoft execs I've spoken to have attempted to minimize the importance of VMware's vMotion technology, but IT pros using VMware tell me that it's a critical feature. (VMware vMotion lets you move and copy virtual machines without turning them off.) Server 2008 R2 will ship with a comparable feature dubbed Live Migration, which could help Microsoft gain some ground against VMware in the still-booming virtualization market. ("Inside Windows Server 2008 R2," windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/101706)

Office 2010 (ETA: H1 2010)—The Office family of products has been a cash cow for Microsoft over the years, but this product suite now finds itself in an increasingly competitive fight on the low end of the market with SaaS Office work-alikes such as Google Docs, Zoho Office, and ThinkFree Office. Can Microsoft's leading application suite fend off these competitors while keeping larger enterprise admins happy? ("Office 2010 Details Emerge," windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/102140)

SharePoint Server 2010 (ETA: H1 2010)—I wrote about the exploding SharePoint market last month, and SharePoint Server 2010 looks to continue Microsoft's SharePoint hot streak. Some early system requirements: SharePoint Server 2010 will be 64-bit only, and it will require a 64-bit version of SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2005 and the 64-bit version of Server 2008 or Server 2008 R2. ("SharePoint 2010 Features, System Requirements Emerge," windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/102113)

SQL Server 2008 R2 (ETA: H1 2010)—The latest version of SQL Server 2008 will offer a host of upgrades and feature improvements, including support for up to 256 logical processors; a new "Self-Service BI" feature that integrates BI reporting through SharePoint, Excel, and SQL Server; and the inclusion of Master Data Services, a new feature that streamlines and improves the management of data across multiple data sources. SQL Server has steadily been making inroads into enterprises that historically would have been the provinces of IBM and Oracle, and SQL Server 2008 R2 should help continue that trend. ("More SQL Server 2008 R2 News," sqlmag.com/article/articleid/102112)

Windows Mobile 7 (ETA: H1 2010)—Microsoft was caught flat-footed by Apple's iPhone and RIM's latest Blackberry devices, and the company is also trailing in the development and launch of its answer to Apple's popular iPhone App Store. The recently launched Windows Mobile 6.5 offers some needed improvements to Microsoft's mobile UI, but Microsoft definitely has a big hill to climb in this category. Microsoft hasn't confirmed yet if Windows Mobile 7 will be an actual product name; regardless, whatever succeeds WinMo 6.5 has a lot of catch-up work to do. ("Windows Mobile Update in Late 2009," windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/101258)

Microsoft's upcoming product launch schedule is undoubtedly impressive, but it also raises some questions. Given the depressed economy and shriveled IT budgets, few IT departments are likely to have the financial resources to deploy all of these product upgrades. What do you think? Are some of these upgrades more attractive than others? And will Windows 7 convince you to leave XP behind?



Talk Back: Tell Us What You Think

We're always eager to hear reader feedback on everything we do here at Windows IT Pro, so I encourage you to let us know what's on your mind. Drop me an email at jjames@windowsitpro.com, follow me on Twitter, or give me a call directly at 970-203-2775. We also invite you to participate in an online survey about Microsoft's upcoming products.