Microsoft’s annual TechEd conference comes at a curious time for the software giant this year, as it transforms from a maker of traditional software into one more focused on delivering cloud-based services. Today, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are both well-regarded and best-sellers. But their replacements, due this year, will help position Microsoft for the future.

TechEd 2012 is unfolding this week at the palatial Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Microsoft reports that over 10,000 IT pros from around the world are attending the sold out show to beef up their knowledge of Microsoft products and services and to prepare for the future.

In his TechEd day one keynote on Monday, Microsoft Server and Tools Business President Satya Nadella discussed his vision for the future of computing.

“The operating system looks after the hardware, and it provides a platform for applications,” he said. “The modern datacenter and modern apps put more pressure than ever on infrastructure to become truly cloud-optimized, and that’s where Microsoft builds on our legacy with the OS to help our customers. Microsoft is your partner in the transformation of IT because only Microsoft offers the modern, yet familiar, platform that enables you to connect with the cloud on your terms.”

To this end, Microsoft is pushing a three-pronged approach that it says will help businesses of all types eventually move as much of their on-premise infrastructure to the cloud as is possible. For slower-moving companies, Microsoft will of course continue to offer traditional on-premise solutions such as Windows Server and System Center, though current and coming versions of these products also provide a second, hybrid, solution in which customers and mix and match on-premise and cloud solutions. A third, purely cloud, or nearly purely cloud, approach is just now becoming a reality, too, thanks to Microsoft’s pervasive move into these markets with solutions like Windows Azure, which has evolved from a “platform as a service” (PaaS) provider to what I can an all-encompassing “anything as a service” (AaaS, or *aaS).

While Microsoft had formerly announced most of these updates in the preceding weeks, the company used its day one keynote to highlight recent advances such as the Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate (RC), which features massive scalability and capability improvements over its predecessor, new Windows Azure features such as preview support for Virtual Machine and Virtual Network, support for Windows and Linux images, and additional support for Java and Python, and impressive new changes to Visual Studio 2012.

New to the show, however, was the release of the final shipping version of Windows Intune 3, Microsoft’s cloud-based PC and device management service. At just $11 per PC per month, Intune provides upgrade rights to current and future Windows Enterprise client software. So Intune customers will be getting Windows 8 Enterprise for each of their covered PCs when that software ships later this year.

Speaking of Windows 8, TechEd day two promises a lot of information about that little software project. Stay tuned!