Microsofts big event of the week was Convergence 2012, in which it pumped its latest software and cloud-based services for businesses.
By the end of 2012, Microsoft plans to update a sizable portion of its business-solution portfolio. These updates include enabling Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2012 and Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 for Windows Azure. Microsoft is aiming its Dynamics suit at small and midsize businesses in addition to the enterprise, with the ability to tailor the platform to meet unique process models.
In its battle against Oracle, Salesforce and other cloud-based companies for businesses dollars, Microsoft is betting heavily on its ability to not only offer cloud applications, and integrate those applications with its existing product lines, but also offer those clients the ability to tailor Microsofts offerings to meet specific requirements.
Being able to bring a cloud story across the Microsoft portfolio is one of the things that were most proud of today, Kevin Turner, Microsofts chief operating officer, told the audience during his March 19 Convergence keynote, because the cloud story that we have today, across the three distinct types of clouds from the private cloud to the public cloud and the hybrid cloud, is without a doubt the deepest, broadest and most enterprise-ready cloud solutions on the planet are Microsoft solutions.
He also suggested that Microsoft would embrace and manage third-party vendors, such as Google Android and Apple iOS, as part of giving companies the ability to manage data across a variety of employee devices.
Microsoft also used this week to begin some big consumer-related pushes. Windows Phone has now launched in China, one of the largest (and fastest-growing) smartphone markets in the world. The first device on store shelves there is the HTC Eternity. Our goal is No. 1, Microsoft executive Simon Leung told media in Beijing, according to Bloomberg. Having a goal to be No. 2 is not really a goal.
Bloomberg also offered up rumors that Microsoft will release Windows 8 in October, information the news service drew from unnamed sources with knowledge of the schedule. That would be wholly unsurprising, considering how Windows XP and Windows 7 (Microsofts two most successful Windows versions) both arrived on store shelves in October of their respective release years.
To make Windows 8 operate effectively on both traditional PCs and tablets, Microsoft added a start screen composed of colorful, touch-friendly tiles linked to applications. From there, another click or finger tap will send the user to a regular desktop, which has undergone added tweaks from Windows 7.
IDC predicted this week that Windows 8 has a shot at reviving somewhat moribund PC shipments, which topped out at 1.8 percent for 2011. Windows 8 and Ultrabooks are a definitive step in the right direction to recapturing the relevance of the PC, Jay Chou, an analyst with IDC, wrote in a March 20 research note, but its promise of meshing a tablet experience with a PC body will likely entail a period of trial and error, thus the market will likely see modest growth in the near term.
Modest growth or not, IDC predicts PC sales to rise 5 percent for 2012.
In the meantime, Microsoft has some more immediate concerns. This week, the company asked customers to deploy a patch for a critical bulletin from last weeks Patch Tuesday, after the public appearance of proof-of-concept code that targets the vulnerability.
That critical bulletin, MS12-020 (Windows) addresses an issue in Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). While Microsoft insisted in a March 13 posting on the Microsoft Security Response Center blog that we know of no active exploitation in the wild, it also advised customers to examine and prepare to apply this bulletin as soon as possible.
Moreover, information about the vulnerability may have been leaked.
The details of the proof-of-concept code appear to match the vulnerability information shared with Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) Partners, Ynsun Wee, director of Trustworthy Computing, wrote in a March 16 corporate blog posting, three days after Patch Tuesday. Microsoft is actively investigating the disclosure of these details and will take the necessary actions to protect customers and ensure that confidential information we share is protected.