Microsoft Helps Businesses Achieve More with Better Connected Computing
Everybody wants to be in the sweet spot: the best seat in their favorite sports team’s stadium, the parking spot near the front entrance at work, their name on the mailbox in front of the prime piece of real estate in their neighborhood.
Microsoft sees itself in just such a spot with the emerging world of online services, and it expects this sweet spot to produce significant rewards for virtually all of its customers – from students and home-computer users to information workers and enterprises. The company is completing development of a new wave of services that synthesize elements of Microsoft Office programs and the division’s broad selection of other familiar client software, along with enterprise servers and new online services.
Microsoft Business Division President Jeff Raikes talked with PressPass about how these new services will help Microsoft customers overcome the challenge of information overload and take advantage of today’s increasingly connected world of work.
PressPass: What is Microsoft announcing today?
Raikes: We are laying out a roadmap for new Microsoft Business Division services and investments designed to increase computing options and break down barriers for everyone from individuals to large corporations. The new offerings and programs that we are announcing today represent the next phase of the division’s strategy for online services. Most importantly, they demonstrate our dedication to and progress in the area of online services.
First, Microsoft plans to deliver a wide variety of new solutions over the coming months under two key families of service offerings: “Live” and “Online.” We believe these choices will provide businesses with the flexibility to choose the software and capabilities that best suit their business needs, whether hosted by Microsoft, on-premise with the customer, or hosted by a Microsoft partner.
As part of this announcement, we are launching Microsoft Office Live Workspace, a Web-based feature of Microsoft Office that enables people to access their documents online anywhere and easily share their work with others. Testing continues on another of our new services offerings, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and I’m thrilled to say that the reception this new offering has received during an early access program has been great.
We are also excited to announce that today Microsoft opened Exchange Labs, a new research and development program for testing next-generation messaging and unified communications capabilities in high-scale environments. Initially, the Exchange Labs program will include select universities and school districts. These participating institutions involve high-scale environments where students, faculty, staff and alumni have unique requirements that blend digital work with digital life. As a generation that uses technology to communicate differently than those before them, this group of users will provide feedback that drives new capabilities to advance the operational efficiency, operational flexibility, anywhere access and protection of Exchange.
We also are introducing an update to BizTalk Services for easy, cross-organizational integration. It’s an early-access offering of a next-generation business integration capability, optimized for cross-organizational integration and high scalability.
PressPass: How do these new offerings reflect Microsoft’s broader vision for services?
Raikes: These new services and investments take advantage of a combination of smart client software, programs such as Word and PowerPoint on a PC; the software that runs computer servers; and software offered via the Web as a service. As a company, we believe this combination will become increasingly essential as digital technology continues to grow, and as people rely on more and more digital devices at home and work.
We believe that the future of technology at work will be a combination of local software on client PCs or on-premise servers, along with services available in the “cloud.” Our approach is to give customers the choice, flexibility and power of both software plus services. Think of it as a continuum, ranging from pure software to pure services approaches. Most customers will be somewhere in the middle. Different customers will make different decisions and even customers with similar situations will make different decisions for what they want on-premise and what they want as a service from the cloud.
Vendors of point solutions can argue for one approach or the other. But either-or approaches don’t address all of the technology challenges and opportunities in today’s workplaces. In addition to providing customers more choice, software plus services balance the massive power of the Web to connect people, devices and information with the interactivity and performance of software on a machine with a powerful processor.
PressPass: Why is it necessary to balance the power of the Web with the interactivity and performance of software on a machine with a powerful connection?
Raikes: Technology breakthroughs continue to transform the workplace and the rest of our world. We’re talking more powerful processers, the increasing speed and prevalence of broadband networks and expanded storage on devices and in huge data centers – what’s referred to as “the cloud.”
The opportunities provided by these breakthroughs are enormous, but so are some of the challenges. We’re all familiar with information overload. Technology is producing more and more information and data every day – much of it vital to our daily lives and businesses – but only if we can manage and gain insight from it, sort the necessary from the unnecessary. Information workers often struggle to securely access the corporate IT systems that contain this data and get work done on unfamiliar programs when they are working outside the office. Also, corporate IT departments struggle to maintain systems, control costs and balance easy access to information with security, privacy, transparency and compliance.
Technology needs to help us find the information we need wherever it exists and securely connect to that information wherever we are working. Software plus services will help individuals and organizations do this – and more.
PressPass: How will these new online services and investment areas help overcome these challenges?
Raikes: By combining elements of different types of software, this new generation of solutions can break through the boundaries between the isolated islands of information within many organizations, while also enabling people to connect easily and securely with partners and customers beyond the corporate firewall. These solutions also help people to better integrate and manage their home and work lives, and will provide the tools needed to deal with information overload.
PressPass: How will the benefits of these services extend beyond information workers to the rest of the business and the IT industry?
Raikes: For business decision makers, our solutions will streamline access to critical information and make it easier to gain the insights needed to drive strategic advantage. IT professionals will be able to reduce costs, improve control and focus more time on delivering new capabilities and spend less time on system maintenance. Developers will have new options for creating interactive solutions with broad reach and enhanced richness.
For organizations with IT departments, these new services will deliver levels of flexibility and choice that they’ve never had before. These services also will help businesses differentiate themselves from competitors and increase the return on their technology investments. For businesses that don’t have IT staff, our approach promises to make it easier to take advantage of the connected communication and other technology. It will open the door to innovative new experiences that will redefine the way people create and share information and access content.
PressPass: When will the Microsoft Business Division begin delivering on its strategy and roadmap?
Raikes: We are already. There are already more than 450,000 subscribers using Office Live Small Businesses. This service, which we formerly called Office Live, brings enterprise-strength productivity and efficiency capabilities to small businesses without the IT management overhead. Our strategy and roadmap are also underway with new Exchange Server, Office Communications Server and SharePoint Server hosted services, which larger organizations are enthusiastically embracing.
More broadly, people are benefiting from a new generation of online services accessed through a rich client – though they may not realize it. Windows Update, for example, enables millions of people around the globe to keep their computer up to date automatically. With Office Online, users can access document templates, clip art and Help content.
PressPass: Tell us more about the “Online” service offerings.
Raikes: For the past two years, Microsoft Managed Solutions (MMS) has been piloting a program targeted to a select group of customers. Today, MMS officially falls under “Online” services and is available for customers with 5,000 seats or more. Online service offerings from Microsoft are for organizations with more advanced IT needs where power and flexibility are critical. These services will give businesses the ability to control access to data, manage users, apply business and compliance policy, and meet high availability standards while providing performance, scalability, security, management features and service-level capabilities to support mission-critical applications and systems.
Online services are a great example of how we will deliver compelling solutions across the continuum and provide choice and flexibility. Online services include Exchange Online, Office SharePoint Online and Office Communications Online. Our announcement today illustrates how software such as Exchange Server, Office Communications Server and SharePoint Server will be available for customers to run on-premise or hosted in the cloud by Microsoft or hosted by value-add partners. Our customer chooses the delivery model, same great technology and can then choose to move back and forth over time to continue to leverage skills, investments and data. It’s a winning solution for our customers. Either way, they receive the same great technology.
PressPass: What should we expect from Office Live Workspace?
Raikes: Office Live Workspace will provide anywhere-access to Office documents, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. In other words, these documents will go wherever people go when they’re away from their usual desktop. People will be able to work on documents from any Microsoft Office-equipped computer with an Internet connection – or review and comment on documents on devices that only offer Web access.
People also will be able to collaborate on documents and share information with friends, colleagues or classmates simply by sending an e-mail and inviting them to a password-protected online workspace. This will help people avoid the pain of trying to find the latest version of a document, or having to pull together multiple versions of documents. They can also easily post files to their dedicated password-protected online workspace directly from the Office application in which they’re working.
PressPass: Tell us more about the new developer offerings.
Raikes: Sure. We’ve been working on platform technologies for developers to support services like Silverlight, ASP.NET and IIS, along with specific developer offerings such as www.BizTalk.net. The update to BizTalk Services that we are announcing today enables companies to connect their business systems more simply than in the past, using identity and network federation technologies. This update makes it possible to create new types of connected applications simply. In the past, this has been impractical or impossible. We will announce plans for pricing and commercial licensing by the end of the year.
PressPass: How will the Microsoft Business Division strategy and roadmap affect its partners?
Raikes: Microsoft remains wholly committed to our partners. We rely on them to deliver great customer experiences that build on their expertise and unique offerings. These new services actually increase the opportunity for partners to add value and participate in the growing market for software plus services.
Press Pass: Microsoft announced plans 14 months ago to offer an on-demand version of Dynamics CRM. How are things going today?
Raikes: Our CRM business is doing very well. In fact, during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2007, we sold more than 85,000 seats of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Today, more than 11,000 customers -- including 475,000 users -- enjoy the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics CRM with either on-premise or partner-hosted deployments. These customers range from the Phoenix Suns basketball team to Cypress Care, a healthcare company that, incidentally, switched from Salesforce.com.
Next, we’ll offer a new CRM software-as-a-service offering, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live, powered by the upcoming new release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The new release – code-named “Titan” – offers a single, multi-tenant code base for on-premise and on-demand deployments. Customers will be able to tailor and adapt their deployment to their needs at any point in time. We think this level of choice – along with the very competitive pricing announced in July – will give us a big advantage in the marketplace over our competitors.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live is already in the hands of more than 100 customer and partner organizations as part of the early access program that I mentioned earlier. This program launched earlier this month. Many more will be added between now and the end of the year. The on-demand service will initially be offered in North America. We will announce plans for international expansion of the service will at a later date.
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