Another Glimpse of Windows 8
Microsoft also used the WPC to provide another glimpse of Windows 8, which many pundits and analysts believe will be released sometime in 2012. In place of the "traditional" Windows desktop and Start button, Windows 8 will offer a variety of color tiles designed to be equally tablet- and PC-friendly. In many ways, the system takes cues from Windows Phone, which also embraces a tile-centric architecture. Even after Ballmer left the stage, the big announcements kept coming: During the July 12 keynotes, executives revealed the upcoming release of a System Center 2012 beta, which lets IT administrators manage machines and applications across a system of public and private clouds. An App Controller feature gives those pros an aggregated understanding of all their private clouds, along with services deployed on Windows Azure.In conjunction with the conference, Microsoft is offering up SQL Server Code Name "Denali" Community Technology Preview 3 (CTP3) and SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1, both of which are available via the Microsoft SQL Server Team Blog. On the strategy side of things, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner revealed some crucial details during his own July 13 keynote. Backward compatibility with Windows 7 will be embedded into Windows 8. The company will open some 75 branded stores over the next two to three years. And the company is more intent than ever on moving its customers away from antiquated platforms, such as Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6. Windows 8 will be widely available on tablets, thanks to Microsoft's commitment to SoC (system-on-a-chip) architecture, in particular ARM-based systems from companies such as Nvidia. Turner suggested that Windows' presence on both ARM- and x86-based systems would "open up a whole array of opportunities in which to compete." One area of near-term focus for Microsoft and its partners, apparently, will be pushing this vision of Windows as an operating system capable of running on a wide variety of devices, not just on desktops and laptops. Turner also took care to push flagship products, such as Office 2010, which continue to contribute substantially to Microsoft's bottom line despite the company's embracing an "all-in" cloud strategy. That cloud strategy has yet to contribute substantially to the company's bottom line. Nonetheless, based on the products unveiled at WPC, Microsoft has lots of other revenue-drivers ready for release over the next 18 months or so. Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
Those executives whipped the curtain back from the next version of Windows Server, codenamed Windows Server 8, which will apparently boost the ability to manage private cloud infrastructure. However, the company is keeping a somewhat tight lid on details until September's Build conference, where Windows 8 will make a fresh appearance.