Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Microsoft's Bold New Approach

It has been a few weeks since I have posted, sometimes life just gets in the way of my desire to participate in social media. But, today, I wanted to give my thoughts on Microsoft's new business approach with the upcoming release of several products and the strong push into cloud computing with Microsoft Azure.

Let me just say, I think this is the most exciting update to the Microsoft family of products since Windows 95. Do you remember the hype around Windows 95? Microsoft licensed the Rolling Stones "Start Me Up" song for their advertisements. On August 24, 1995, news reports showed lines around the corner of consumers eagerly waiting to get a copy of the new operating system. I wasn't among the die-hard people waiting at midnight to pick up a copy at CompUSA, but I did get a copy the very next morning. It had several new features included in the 32-bit operating system; however, I was a gamer and the most important feature for me was plug and play. Being a gamer required the use of 3rd party video and sound cards, with Windows 3.x there was the painful process of working with the BIOS settings, motherboard pin positions, and IRQ settings to get all your device to work on your desktop, it was never a pleasant experience. In Windows 95, the new plug and play feature orchestrated all this. Huzzah!

Although cosmetically future versions of Windows became more polished, the GUI presentation remained relatively the same. Windows 8 is a bold new approach. The metro-style interface was contrived from the German modernist movement of the 1920s and 1930s, the Bauhaus school. It looks at the essential nature of the object, simplicity and functionality. Sam Moreau stated it was, "Reducing down to the most beautiful form and function - that's what the Bauhaus was all about."

This has refined Windows 8 to be one of the simplest operating system versions ever for computers, the new Windows Surface, and Windows Phone 8. The atheistic overhaul brings a consumer interface in line with today's touch-centric devices. Windows Live Tiles, which displays dynamic content, is a nice touch. The mail application will display a few of your recent e-mail messages, the calendar will show upcoming events, and you can get the latest weather. But Microsoft and Steve Ballmer's embrace of design is only a small part of the equation, the more important aspect is how they are going to leverage cloud computing with their products to enable businesses to become more agile, flexible, and focus on their core business competency.

Microsoft's new approach is not going to initially resonate with enterprise class organizations, most large enterprises have recently rolled out Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, they will not see the overall business value of upgrading to the new platform. However, enterprise companies are only account for 5% of private businesses, 95% of businesses have less then 100 employees. This solution is targeted at those 95% of small and medium business that have limited resources to invest in information technology. Microsoft's approach is the democratization of business computing, it brings enterprise scale infrastructure to small and medium sized businesses and allows them to focus on more strategic aspects with Windows Azure content delivery.

This is a seismic shift in business computing, formerly an entrepreneur that was starting up a new business needed to invest significant capital in IT hardware, software, and IT personnel. Even the simplest business needed a server or two to run the organization, and IT administration to support it.

A solution like Microsoft Azure is assuring in a shift in computing power. It is becoming painless for an entrepreneur to set themselves up with infrastructure and applications to start a new business. They can code a new application in the Microsoft Azure PaaS cloud and use Azure Connect to have a secure connection to database in their datacenter to ensure privacy and security of client information, or they can expand their IT business capabilities with a Azure Virtual Network which allows them to deploy virtual machines in the Microsoft  Azure IaaS cloud.

Microsoft Office 2013 has heavy emphasis on cloud connectivity. Office users will be able to log into Office applications using their Microsoft accounts and sync files in the cloud through Microsoft's SkyDrive service. Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations will automatically update and track changes; this will enable users to access the most recent version of any file from any device.

This is where Microsoft has a unique opportunity, the new Windows 8 operating system and Office 15 enables platform integration, which provides application mobility; and Microsoft Azure provides enterprise class back-end business cloud capabilities. It really gives you a holistic approach to business computing. If they can execute their plan, it will give them a comprehensive portfolio of services that they can offer business consumers.
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