Microsoft’s three-day WPC blaze recapped

WPC 2009’s main keynotes are behind us, and the dust is settling. Microsoft made the headlines three days in a row and created quite a buzz. So is the Redmond giant experiencing a new renaissance?

What was announced?

The amount of stuff Microsoft has pushed out during the three first days has been impressive. It might continue today, but that’s less likely. Here are my personal highlights:

  • Office 2010. Without a doubt, the most important launch. See my previous blog post. The web applications in particular were a strong move against Google Apps. Of course, actual success remains to be seen, for both of them.
  • Azure commercial model, including pricing. A key step in delivering the cloud promise. Real cloud TCO is impossible to compare at this point, but the buzz looks promising for Microsoft. Again, see my comparison from Tuesday.
  • BingTweets: A fusion of a search engine and a Twitter search client, in realtime. Nothing complex really, but simple things often work. Also, Google didn’t do this first.
  • The classic physics lectures by professor Feynman were published by Bill Gates and Microsoft Research as Project Tuva.
  • Changes in licensing model and the partner program (see day 1 keynote): Not very important for most people in the world, but they do underline Microsoft’s need to change. Fundamental structures such as these are slow to evolve, and these changes do show some responsiveness.

Microsoft also showed off its research – particularly well discussed was Microsoft Surface and the evolution of user interfaces. And of course, Project Natal got its share as well. In general, Microsoft keynotes seemed to get a mostly excited reception.

Commercial aggression like never before

Another key point: Microsoft showed far more aggression and enthusiasm for developing and growing its business that has been visible in ages. In the Bill Gates era, competition was rarely mentioned by name. This time, it was downright nasty.

In the Day 3 keynote, COO Kevin Turner blasted various competitors by name, outlining weaknesses and Microsoft’s strategy for each of them. Also, the language was more straightforward and aggressive than we’ve come to expect. For example:

And so on. Google, Cisco, Oracle, Linux, OpenOffice and so on also got their share. Turner also showed a bit of self-critique, stating that the launch of Windows 7 is going to be rosy after what they did with Vista. I guess that counts as an admission of sorts.

The fact that Windows 7 pre-sales in EU just happened to spike heavily at the same time was… well, good luck? At least it made Microsoft look really good in press for a while.

Uh… So what?

A fair question. When you gather together a group of your most fanatic followers (Microsoft Partners) and talk to them about growing their business, it’s remarkably easy to create an excited atmosphere. Getting the tech press to publish Microsoft stories isn’t that hard either, even if the stories and products had flaws that will then be uncovered during the following months.

But looking at the content, there’s no denial Microsoft is trying, and trying with more public focus than ever. They are also throwing another $9.5 billion at R&D this year, and that’s damn serious by any measure. Both Ballmer and Turner also reiterated Microsoft’s tenacity and commitment even on difficult fronts such as Bing vs. Google. Well, Microsoft’s ability to innovate may have been questioned, but their coffers are deep enough to give them plenty of time. And they did come first with BingTweets, whatever that may indicate.

Microsoft’s road to success isn’t certainly an easy one, and all the past problems are probably still there. But at least they succeeded in energizing their partner ecosystem, and that’s not a small thing. According to some calculations, 15 million people are working in the Microsoft ecosystem. Getting such a mass moving will necessarily mean more interesting things, more development, more possibilities. Not bad for a conference held under grave economical conditions and in July.

July 16, 2009 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: General

One Response

  1. Heikniemi Hardcoded » Coming next week: WPC 2010 in Washington D.C. - July 7, 2010

    […] short recap of the last year is available in my blog post from July 2009. The main themes were Azure pricing and Office 2010. But what are we really looking forward to for […]

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