There are four core pillars behind the business market needed today, which are the foundation for Microsofts People Ready Business, Ballmer said. The first pillar is helping simplify how people work together, with unified communications a dominant theme in that regard, and which encompasses VOIP (voice over IP)technology that will ship next yeare-mail, IM and video, he said.Finding information and improving business insight is the second core pillar, which includes finding information, searching documents, e-mail and people; integrating systems through XML and Web services; analyzing information through visualizations; and reporting and empowering decisions through business intelligence, portals and search, Ballmer said. Diane Prescott, a technical product manager for Microsoft, demonstrated how data can be accessed through Outlook. Outlook Voice Access allows users to dial in and manipulate their e-mail and calendar, and it can also dynamically detect when a foreign language has been used, she said. Outlook Web Access has also been changed and now allows users to wipe clean a device they may have lost or that has been stolen to protect company data, she said. Ballmer said the third pillar for Microsoft is helping people protect and manage their content, including retention and rights management; drive encryption and backup; and electronic forms. The fourth pillar is about reducing IT costs and improving security. "Vista is the first product developed under the SDL (Security Development Lifecycle), making it more secure. Deployment also has to be simplified, and a single image helps in this regard. Security risks also have to be mitigated, support costs reduced and identity and access controlled. I was astounded by a number I saw recently that 93 million records containing personal data have been breached or compromised in some way since early 2005," Ballmer said. Business partners, from system integrators to ISVs to hardware and chip partners, are also excited about the ecosystem of opportunity for them opened up by Vista and Office 2007, he said, noting there are 500,000 such Microsoft partners globally. "We are delivering the People Ready Business through Vista and Office 2007 and the 30 related products associated with them. This does indicate the dawning of a new day for customers who want to take advantage of all this," he said. In a question-and-answer session following his address, Ballmer said this will be the most widely marketed set of products in Microsofts history, and much of that blitz will start with the consumer release of the products on Jan. 30. The total spending for will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. He also said that the core development of Vista had taken about 2.5 years, given the early stages where the engineers were "working on a lot of related things and lost some cycle time, then the team was doing the Windows XP SP2 security update." Read more here about how to assess the Vista-readiness of your PC. Asked what else Microsoft could put into the next version of Windows, Ballmer said there are a "lot of things we never got to with Vista that we will work on going forward. There are improvements to be made in networking infrastructure, we need to take advantage of the shift to multicore processors, and there is a lot more to do for IT administrators to make systems simpler and cheaper to deploy," he said. In related news, Dell announced Nov. 30 that beginning Dec. 1, a customer with a Microsoft volume-licensing agreement can send Dell its Windows Vista image and have Dell factory-install it through its standard imaging service. Dell also unveiled several tools to help customers assess, upgrade and deploy desktops and notebooks in their networked environments. The Windows Vista ROI tool gives customers quantifiable information to help them plan and budget around their Windows Vista migration, helping them track their TCO for up to three years. Another, the Exchange Advisor Tool, offers a blueprint to optimize and simplify customer e-mail environments, including system sizing, availability, data security, backup and recovery, and archiving. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
Staying in sync with information is another core need, Ballmer said, encompassing Wikis, blogs and RSS, with collaboration and workflow very important in allowing people to connect and share easily. Working remotely with mobile PCs is another big area.