Microsoft this week offered previews of the Windows Phone 7 "Mango" update, Internet Explorer 10, and Silverlight 5. It also pushed through a massive Patch Tuesday.
Microsoft's week involved two conferences, featuring executives who detailed plans for the cloud and products such as Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, speaking April 11 at the Convergence conference in Atlanta, reiterated his company's focus on the cloud. "Make no mistake, when it comes to the cloud, Microsoft's all in," he told the audience. "Every one of our products will be engineered to deliver the full benefits of the cloud."
The company's latest cloud efforts include releasing the next versions of its ERP (enterprise-resource planning) applications on the Windows Azure platform. At the conference, Microsoft also provided a glimpse of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, an ERP application whose beta is due this month. The platform includes Unified Natural Models, a library of business processes for real-world situations, and enhanced business-intelligence capabilities for discovering fresh insights in data.
Microsoft claims that its ERP applications due to migrate to the cloud will share the same functionality as the on-premises solutions already in its stable. Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace will serve as a hub for services and cloud-based add-ons designed to help businesses meet their workflow needs.
Ballmer also suggested that Windows would start finding its way onto devices other than the traditional PC.
"There are more than 1 billion Windows PCs in the hands of customers around the world today, and in January, we announced that the next version of Windows will support system-on-a-chip architectures from Intel, AMD and ARM," he told the audience. "So, whatever device you use now or in the future, Windows will be there."
ARM-based systems from companies such as Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments currently power a wide range of popular mobile devices, including tablets. In theory, SoC support would allow some version of Windows to appear on those devices, although Microsoft remains tight-lipped about details of any next-generation operating system.
Throughout early April, bloggers Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott, in a series of postings on Rivera's Within Windows
blog, have dissected what they call an early build of "Windows 8," which includes some features-such as a lock screen with an icon for power management-seemingly designed for portable devices.
Meanwhile, Microsoft used this week's MIX11 conference in Las Vegas to position its Windows Phone 7 platform as a viable one for both consumers and developers, despite lagging relatively far behind Google, Research In Motion and Apple in market share.
As part of that, Microsoft prepped developers during the conference for the May release of the updated Windows Phone Developer Tools, which will theoretically allow for the creation of more integrated and high-performance applications. Platform features include application multitasking for background processing, audio and file transfer, and fast application processing, as well as the ability to leverage augmented reality experiences.
Microsoft also detailed the next Windows Phone 7 software update, code-named "Mango," which will allow smartphones to download new applications and content in the background, and stream music via one application while working in another. It will also feature a faster Internet Explorer 9. Angry Birds will appear on the platform in May (because what else do you do with a smartphone?), and Skype and the Spotify music application will appear in the autumn timeframe.
One Microsoft executive also used the conference to offer something of an apology for the issues surrounding the smartphone platform's February and March updates.
"We felt it would be better to be a little bit patient, make sure that when we get updates out that they would happen reliably, and, unfortunately, that caused a delay in getting things out," Joe Belfiore, director of Windows Phone program management, told the audience during his keynote, according to a Reuters posting
. That being said, he also seemed positive about updates such as Mango being delivered on time.
In addition to Windows Phone 7, MIX11 gave developers a glimpse of the beta for Kinect for Windows SDK
and a Silverlight 5 beta. Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president of Internet Explorer, offered a breakdown of the upcoming Internet Explorer 10, which builds on IE 9's native HTML5 support and performance optimization. "Internet Explorer 10 will push the boundaries of what developers can do on the Web even further," he said
Outside the big conferences, it was somewhat business as usual. Microsoft's Patch Tuesday update was notably massive, with 17 security bulletins designed to address 64 vulnerabilities, with nine rated "critical" and eight "important." Fifteen of the bulletins addressed vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to execute code. It was not only the biggest Patch Tuesday of 2011, but the largest to date from the company-surpassing the October 2010 update, which patched 49 bugs.
One of the bulletins covers the object-management memory-corruption issue from Internet Explorer 8 that was exploited in March's CanSecWest Pwn2Own hacking competition. Microsoft also addressed vulnerabilities within the Windows kernel that could be used to circumvent user access control and other processes.
"Sixty-four vulnerabilities is a very large amount, so organizations should be prepared," said Dave Marcus, McAfee Labs director of security research and communication.