SAN DIEGO—One of the biggest challenges of the current economic and IT environment is that customers have been under enormous pressure to do more with less, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a packed house in his opening keynote here at the annual TechEd conference.
In an address entitled “Value across the lifecycle: doing more with less,” an upbeat and energetic Ballmer said a pattern of good solid increases in IT spending was on the horizon, but the pressures to do new projects would exceed investment in IT technology, and to lose sight of this would be a mistake.
“So the focus has to be on productivity and the total cost of ownership. When we have issues like we have over the past few years with security … thats a setback and we need to beat this problem so we can help improve productivity and reduce TCO,” he said.
“I think the next 10 years will bring more positive change and innovation in our industry than in the last 10 years. Ten years ago most people didnt have PCs, cell phones and werent using the Internet,” Ballmer said, asking the audience if they believed the world of IT would be dramatically different in 10 years.
Most did, but for those who didnt, Ballmer quipped that “you can meet me backstage where well have a conversation about this.”
Microsofts unique role in serving the IT market was to bring integration of products and innovation, he said, and while it was working on this with Longhorn, the next version of Windows, that has taken a backseat to the security updates coming in Windows XP SP2.
Microsoft had to be responsive to its customers and their insistence on responsiveness had increased even more over the last few years. Ballmer said one of the things he was proudest of in this area was Watson, the automatic error reporting system.
Asking the audience if they had ever got the Watson error message, to which every hand was raised, he quipped “I thought statistically some of you might have.”
Security was an important pillar of the responsiveness theme from Microsoft, where “security is job one. The problems you are having keeping your systems up is unacceptable. But there is no immediate solution. We have an installed base of more then 600 million and we can also never rely on having a perfect release,” he said.
Microsoft is working on the core quality of security and on building layers to help protect systems, and is engaging with partners to respond quickly when there is an attack, Ballmer said.
Turning his attention to spam, Ballmer said this was more annoying and problematic for many users and is another big area Microsoft is investing in. The number one question asked by the 130 global CEOs and their spouses who had visited Microsofts campus last week was, “When are you going to get rid of spam?”
Microsoft had dialed up its focus and was concentrating on three main areas in this regard: protection, filters, screens and the like; prevention, where it was working with ISVs to screen certain IP addresses and shut them down if they were found to be spammers; and technologies that made it more expensive to be in the spamming business—something that forces cost in the system by making the sender prove his identity. “The big problem with spam today is that its too cheap to send,” Ballmer said.
As it looked at application development from the business information workers perspective, Microsoft envisioned its tools and products as part of a unified development platform, Ballmer said. “Each and every one of the products we build isnt just an application but a tool that can be extended if we give the right tools,” he said.
Microsoft is also committed to open standards and interoperability and the company is not looking at a closed environment. “Our company has made a greater commitment to and investment in interoperability over the past few years than people ever give us credit for.
“I am very proud of the work we have done in collaboration with IBM and others around the WSI standards needed to get the next level of XML standards in place. We are absolutely committed to XML and the stack that goes below it. XML Web standards are essentially an architected way to do interoperability,” he said.
Ballmer then announced Web Services Enhancement version 2.0, a supported add-on to Visual Studio .Net and the Microsoft .Net Framework that allows developers to build and consume security-enhanced Web services using the latest Web services protocol specifications.
WSE is the vehicle via which Microsoft provides annual or biannual updates to its Web services support. The 2.0 release includes support for Web services specs upon which Microsoft, IBM and BEA have collaborated, as well as support for greater security.
It has been almost a year since Microsoft talked up its planned WSE 2.0 add-on for Visual Studio. Last July, company officials made available a “technology preview” of the WSE 2.0 toolkit. Company execs have said the 2.0 release will be primarily about security. It will allow developers and administrators to apply security policies on Web services that run on the Microsoft .Net Framework, according to Microsoft. Via WSE 2.0, Web services will be able to be signed and encrypted using Kerberos tickets, X.509 certificates, username/password credentials and XML-based security-tokens.
Version 1.0 supported the WS-SecurityWS-Routing and WS-Attachments Web services standards. Version 2.0 will add support for WS-Trust, WS-Policy, WS-SecureConversation and WS-Secure Policy. Version 2.0 also will feature a new message-oriented programming model, Microsoft officials have said.
Ballmer on Monday also announced the technical preview of BizTalk Server Adapter for Web Services 2.0, designed to orchestrate security-enhanced Web services and expose business process flows as secure Web services.
He also announced the beta for a set of extensions to Microsoft Office, known as the Information Bridge Framework, or IBF, so that Office can be a smart client on the front end to XML services that live elsewhere in the network or over the Web.
Redmonds new IBF tool is designed to connect Microsoft Office applications to back-end enterprise systems.
IBF is designed to connect Web services to the Office client with no “extra hops” or intermediate servers required. It builds on the XML support that Microsoft already has built into its Office System 2003 applications, such as Word, Excel and Outlook.
IBF will allow developers and information-worker users to expose “enterprise business objects” and then pull them right into their familiar Office documents. (Enterprise business objects, in this context, are entities such as “customers” and “purchase orders.”)
Microsofts plan is to deliver IBF version 1.0 in the fourth calendar quarter of this year. Visual Studio .Net 2003 users will be able to take advantage of IBF via an IBF Metadata Designer plug-in, which will be part of Version 1.1, Version 1.1 also is due before the end of 2004, according to information on Microsofts Web site.
In 2005, Microsoft plans to deliver version 2.0 of IBF, which will add support for SharePoint Portal Server Web parts and Visual Studio Tools for Office integration. By the time Longhorn ships (2006 or later), Microsoft is planning to embed version 3.0 right into the operating system.
Ballmer then turned his attention to the .Net development platform, which he said had come a long way over the past few years. That point was underscored by Forrester Research, which found that more than 50 percent of developers were now using the .Net environment.
Microsoft will also continue to support those developers on Win32, but Ballmer said .Net is 67 percent more reliable and has far greater performance than the Win32 environment. “For those of you in the audience who have not yet made the transition to the .Net Framework and platform, I encourage you to come across and enjoy the benefits that come with this,” Ballmer said.
Oracle last week announced that it will be integrating its tool set into the Visual Studio Framework, while SAP and TIBCO have also done the same.
Next year will bring the next update to the platform with Visual Studio 2005, while the next version of SQL Server, code-named Yukon and also due in 2005, will build in the .Net programming environment.
Ballmer also announced Visual Studio 2005 Team System, an expansion of the Visual Studio product line that will include a suite of extensible lifecycle tools that enable members of an IT organization to collaborate on delivering service-oriented applications designed for operations.
This will bring new capabilities for group development, modeling and deployment. In a demonstration of this, attendees were shown the new technologies and the way these would bring a design framework for building service-oriented applications, allowing “designing for operations.”
The Visual Studio Team System includes integrated static analysis tools, as well as many of the tools developed internally as part of Microsofts Trustworthy Computing initiative, Ballmer said.
In conclusion, Ballmer said Microsoft stood apart from its competitors like IBM and Linux on several main fronts. “We stand for more integrated innovation, better responsiveness and trustworthiness, partnership with the entire ecosystem and lastly, choice, more applications, more interoperability and more ability to integrate Windows into your environments. We will continue to work to earn your continued support,” Ballmer concluded.
Asked what he thought of the keynote presentation, a developer told eWEEK that it was the first one in four TechEd conferences that he had actually sat through. But that was more about Ballmers superb presentation skills and less about the content, which contained no surprises. “I am not drinking the Koolaid yet,” he said.