An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including an almost certain delay for Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1, the new Windows release schedule, Windows 8 expectations, a new zero-day vulnerability for XP users, Chicken Little's take on Microsoft, and the slow pace of BPOS migrations to the 2010 versions...
Whither Windows 7 SP1?
Microsoft talked up the Service Pack 1 (SP1) release for both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 this week, and I've been working under the assumption that this update would hit in October 2010 for a while now, thanks to well-placed sources at the company. But now this date?which was "GA + 1," or one year after the general availability of Windows 7 and R2?is out of date. In fact, SP1 could be shipping a lot later than originally planned and won't even make it in time for the end of 2010. That's an interesting state of affairs for a service pack, but remember that for R2, at least, there are some major new features coming, so Microsoft probably wants to get it right. On the client (Windows 7) side, however, the delays will likely help reinforce the notion that the initial shipping version of Windows 7 is good to go: There's no need to wait for SP1 before deploying. And that is pretty much the case, if the customers we've talked to at Windows IT Pro are any indication.
Windows 7 Is Boring. How About Windows 8?
Under Microsoft's new Windows release schedule, the software giant will dispense with the old R2 major/minor release cadence and simply ship new versions of Windows client and server, concurrently, every three years. So the next release?Windows vNext, or Windows 8?is due roughly three years from the release of Windows 7/R2, or in 2012. That's two long years from now. But that also suggests that we will begin seeing some Windows 8 stirrings by this time next year, if you consider how Microsoft unveiled Windows 7. That gives us some time to kill?time that will only partially be filled by interim updates like Windows Live Essentials 2011 (due this fall) and Windows 7 SP1 (due whenever). When Vista was the current OS, Microsoft couldn't move quickly enough to replace it. But with Windows 7 an absolute smash success, one has to wonder if the company isn't interested in milking this success for as long as is possible. And that's fine, and understandable, but from the perspective of a tech enthusiast/industry watcher, it's going to be a long year. But this much is obvious: Now that there are no more minor releases, Windows 8 is going to be a major update, and that's true for both the client and the server. I can't wait to see what's coming.
But Why Wait When You Can Speculate?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at some of the technology trends at Microsoft right now to figure on what could be part of Windows 8. We know, for example, that the Windows Home Server Drive Extender technology will be part of Windows Home Server "Vail," which is based on the Windows Server 2008 R2 codebase. So it stands to reason that this technology?which seamlessly connects storage from multiple drives into a single, contiguous storage space sans drive letters?will be part of various Windows 8 products as well, including (I hope) the client. And what about the hybrid cloud technologies that Microsoft is providing across its various server products? Doesn't it makes sense to let users store their user profiles in the cloud and then log on to any PC, anywhere in the world, with a Windows Live ID, and have their personalized settings, documents, and applications just appear? I think it does. We could go on like this all day, but you get the idea: There's a lot of innovation coming down the road, but I think there are clues to what much of this will be all around us. You just need to know where to look.
New Zero-Day Vulnerability Found in Windows XP. Thanks, Google
Microsoft this week confirmed that there is a new "zero-day" vulnerability in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, though there are apparently no actual attacks in the wild at this time. But the reason this vulnerability is classified as "zero-day" (i.e. known but unpatched) is that Google let slip about its existence without first warning Microsoft. "Public disclosure of the details of this vulnerability and how to exploit it, without giving us time to resolve the issue for our potentially affected customers, makes broad attacks more likely and puts customers at risk." said Director of Microsoft Security Response Center Mike Reavey. Maybe this is a new opening in the Google/Microsoft war, where Google discovers vulnerabilities in Microsoft's products but doesn't give the software giant time to fix them before letting hackers know about them. Or maybe Google just isn't as sophisticated as they should be. Maybe it's both.
Chicken Little Alert: The Street has Jumped the shark
In a bizarre editorial, The Street's Don Reisinger claims that Microsoft's market cap woes means the software giant is no longer too big to fail. He cites the iPad's two month sales of two million units, but doesn't mention that just the growth in the PC market is 15 times that size, and that PC makers sell that many units every two days. He states, incorrectly, that the iPad has slowed netbook sales. He cites the emergence of the cloud but doesn't mention that Microsoft is, in fact, moving very aggressively to that business model and, in fact, far outstrips the competition in both cloud and hybrid cloud solutions. (In fact, Microsoft makes more money from cloud-based services than Google does.) He never mentions the $40 billion in cash that Microsoft has on hand ($85 billion in total assets), and how that could sustain the company for years even in the worst of conditions. But then he writes this, perhaps the most clueless statement in the whole article. "The company has gone from outright dominance over the technology industry to dominance in only the operating-system and office-productivity markets." I'm sorry, did you say "only" OS and office productivity? Only? These two businesses alone contributed $8.6 billion in revenues in the most recent quarter (and he failed to mention the Server business, which contributed another $3.6 billion). Windows and Office still have no viable competition, despite years of now-defunct "I'm a Mac" ads and numerous OpenOffice-based competitors. In fact, these two businesses earned $5.6 billion in operating income, or a larger profit that all of Apple's products combined ($3 billion) during the same time period. And looking forward, these are exactly the two businesses, along with the server business, that would move most easily to the cloud. So I'm unclear on how Microsoft isn't positioned to at least compete, if not dominate, in this coming generation of cloud-based computing. I agree that Microsoft hasn't made much of a dent in the consumer market beyond the Xbox. But come on. This isn't End Of Times, not even close.
Microsoft Begins Migrating Hosted Exchange, SharePoint to the 2010 Versions
Microsoft has begun migrating its Business Productivity Suite (cloud-hosted) versions of Exchange and SharePoint from the 2007 to the 2010 versions, a transition that could last through the end of this calendar year. Some are complaining about the slow pace because while SharePoint 2010 just shipped, Exchange Server 2010 has been around since last November. But this is according to plan, apparently. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, "BPOS is updated quarterly with new features and capabilities. We have already started rolling out 2010 capabilities for our largest online customers, and from there, we will continue rolling out the 2010 technology to our broad customer base who can expect a preview of 2010 capabilities later this year." This suggests that some customers won't get on the 2010 versions until next year, which is indeed pretty slow, even for the even-keeled corporate market. It seems to me that those businesses that are forward-leaning enough to trust Microsoft with hosting their email and collaboration solutions would also expect to be on the latest versions of those products. Obviously.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Despite spending the week in New Orleans for TechEd 2010, I was able to record a new episode of the Windows Weekly with Leo, though a day earlier than usual. As always, it should be available by the weekend on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats.
But wait, there's more