Microsoft announced the release of both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 to manufacturing on July 22.
The two platforms represent a major part of Microsoft's grand strategy, as it seeks to capitalize on technological trends such as virtualization that are rapidly changing the face of IT. They also present a substantial chance for revenue generation during a period when the company finds itself fighting a substantial economic headwind. The release-to-manufacturing announcement came one day before Microsoft's planned quarterly earnings call on July 23.
In a July 21 corporate blog entry, Microsoft also confirmed that it would release a "family pack" for Windows 7 Home Premium in certain markets, which will allow installation on up to three PCs.
"We have heard a lot of feedback from beta testers and enthusiasts over the last three years that we need a better solution for homes with multiple PCs," Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows communications manager at Microsoft, wrote in the blog entry.
For the enterprise, Windows Server 2008 R2 is designed to take advantage of Microsoft's Hyper-V technology in order to the growing trend toward virtualization. The server's 64-bit architecture takes advantage of virtualization's hungrier memory needs, and also includes features such as Live Migration, which can transparently move running guest systems between nodes inside a failover cluster without risk of dropping the network connection.
Through Windows Server 2008 R2, virtual machines support hot plug-in and hot removal of both virtual and physical storage without the need to reboot the physical host system. Processing to the physical host, including TCP/IP operations, is included in the Hyper-V abilities.
"We feel that this release specifically provides the catalyst for the customers who haven't embarked on the virtualization journey," Mike Schutz, director of product management for Microsoft's Windows Server Division, said in an interview with eWEEK. "Hyper-V does provide a low bar for entry as well as the ability to scale up to larger environments."
Microsoft is presumably hoping for quick adoption by businesses in order to provide a much-needed boost in revenue for the remainder of 2009. Earnings for the current quarter have been estimated at 36 cents a share on revenues of $14.37 billion, a 9.3 percent drop from the same quarter in 2008, when the company reported income of 47 cents a share on $15.84 billion of revenue.
In April, Microsoft posted its first-ever quarterly revenue decline, which saw its Windows-centric Client division's revenue drop by 16 percent and income by 19 percent year over year. If Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are substantial hits it could help negate the downward trend, especially if consumers and businesses are compelled to engage in a tech refresh.