My TechEd 2012 Thoughts
After being a speaker on the Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Community Roadshow and an attendee of Microsoft TechEd in Amsterdam, I want to share with you what my thoughts are on Microsoft’s current strategy. I get the impression that the more people are complaining and bitching about the Windows 8 user interface, the more relaxed Microsoft gets about that. It’s the old media principle “any news is good news” that applies here. If people are debating the different aspects of Windows 8 – including the announcement of the Surface tablet – in such a passionate manner, it must be relevant. Mission accomplished! But even more importantly, the public debate about Win8 allows Microsoft to secretly work on other stuff that may be even more relevant. So what are those things “hiding” behind Windows 8.
Well, the enlightenment struck me after I’ve learned that Mark Russinovich has joined the Azure team and after seeing Mark Minasi presenting an entire TechEd session on cloud stuff. I truly believe now that Microsoft’s future lies in Windows Server 2012 combined with Azure and System Center. You may say that Microsoft is not really hiding this, but I get the impression that the media buzz around Windows 8 allows them to steadily build their global cloud operating system behind the scenes. To be clear, I don’t think that this new cloud OS is anything near to be finished yet, Microsoft has still a long way to go. But like they have introduced their 10-year plan around their ambition of making System Center the dominant systems management product some 8 years ago, they seem to be doing the same with the cloud now. And they need enough time to fulfill, so creating a buzz around Windows 8 buys them some of this time and keeps the business going until the next wave really starts rolling.
I’m convinced that Microsoft’s ultimate goal is to establish Azure plus connected Windows Server instances as the dominating distributed OS of the future, allowing them to run both “legacy” Windows apps and new mobile apps in the cloud, on premise and in users’ homes. Just look at the new feature list of Windows Server 2012 – a new Server Manager allowing you to configure multiple machines in a collection, Hyper-V improvements, network improvements and a very competitive desktop/app remoting protocol called RemoteFX just to name a few. In the future, a client may come with reduced Windows desktop capabilities, but it will still be able to run local apps while acting as a launch pad for remote apps at the same time. Such a client will have an offline mode, provide enough cache and leverage a powerful graphics/multimedia subsystem. The Windows client we all know may even disappear completely in a couple of years – it could well be replaced by a range of devices designed in the same spirit as Metro on ARM, Xbox and iPad on steroids. So the real future discussion is not around Windows 7 or Windows 8 featurettes and form factors, it’s rather around Azure and all its backend components hosting a wide spectrum of apps for an even wider spectrum of users and devices.
Oh, by the way, did you know that you can use Windows 7 with a touch screen? If you hate Metro and you still want to use a touch screen with your desktop PC or on a secondary monitor attached to your laptop, just go for Windows 7, it’ll do the job. Windows 8 was designed for consumers using tablets and mobile phones. My guess is that Microsoft wants all enterprises to migrate to Windows 7 over the next 18 months and at the same time get back a good share of the consumer market with Windows 8. Finally Microsoft has one OS for enterprise PCs and another for mobile devices. But these fat client OSes are a species that may soon be extinct. So building the cloud OS for the upcoming post-PC era is a matter of survival for Microsoft. The good news for most of us is that all this will not be happening over night!