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Years ago, while at Microsoft, we talked, blogged, preached about Software plus Services (S+S). In fact, Microsoft has been talking about the cloud in the context of S+S for years. Microsoft vision has always been that the cloud can make software better in a complimentary architectural way. As apposed to Google’s vision of cloud which is all about the web and the browser. In fact, Apple’s vision of cloud is in total alignment with Microsoft’s with iCloud! Its S+S – but although Microsoft is right on with the S+S strategy, they have struggled to really demonstrate this strategy and its valuable implications. I totally agree with Pascal’s post on SAI – Apple’s iCloud is annoying to Google, and humiliating for Microsoft. Microsoft had it right for years and they are still struggling with implementation. Whether its phone + cloud, software + cloud, or just cloud.
Cloud is different for consumer experiences versus the enterprise. A platform company that has the right strategy, needs to implement that strategy differently for the consumer market, versus the enterprise market!
OK…I guess my head is not totally out of the clouds!
FINALLY! Is what I have to say. Its about time..well, actually, we have to wait before we can get our hands on this beauty (look for it in the fall 2010). We finally announced Windows Phone 7 Series at the Mobile World Conference last week. And some good impressions were made – here are a few quotes/links:
Gizmodo, Feb. 15, 2010: Windows Phone 7 Interface: Microsoft Has Out-Appled Apple
“I’m sorry, Cupertino, but Microsoft has nailed it. Windows Phone 7 feels like an iPhone from the future.”
Wired, Feb. 15, 2010: Hands-On With Windows Phone 7 Series
“What surprised me most was that I was expecting yet another iPhone clone. And while the Windows 7 Phone isn’t the huge game changer that the iPhone was upon its debut, it is different enough to embarrass pretty much everyone else except Apple.”
PCWorld, Feb. 15, 2010: Windows Phone 7 Series: First Impressions
“Microsoft has finally caught up with the competition by delivering a clean, socially-connected interface and implementing features like multitouch and the beautiful Zune media player. Paired with excellent hardware partners like HTC and Samsung, I think Windows 7 phones have some great potential-if the software behaves.”
Some of the new features you will experience with Windows Phone 7 Series include:
Windows Phone 7 Series home screen comes to life with “Live Tiles”. The simple yet interactive, multi-touch user interface provides users easy access to the latest information from the device, be it phone calls, contacts and friends, calendar appointments, photos, songs and videos, or XBOX Live feeds.
Windows Phone 7 Series introduce six “hubs,” — people, pictures, games, music and video, an application marketplace, and one that integrates with Microsoft Office mobile applications and email.
Windows Phone 7 Series support Microsoft Office mobile applications including email.
Microsoft will unveil more detail on development capabilities of Windows Phone 7 Series at MIX10 in March.Windows Phone 7 Series will provide developers with a new mobile platform to support innovative and interactive Software plus Service based solutions. For more information visit the MIX10 web site.
With regard to applications for this new mobile platform, Mix10 can’t come fast enough. Windows Mobile, and now Windows Phone has some catching up to do. Here is a slide from Distimo’s presentation here on Mobile Application Stores:
Find out more here:
Here is a video highlighting some of the exciting features:
I have written about cloud computing and specifically Azure Services Platform several times in the past. As we approach the market release of Azure Services Platform (Microsoft’s Windows cloud platform as a service) I thought it might be a good time to step back and write about the business value of cloud computing.
Why Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is the new computing platform shift. The cloud is really just a metaphor for the Internet and is an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it runs on. It is a style of computing in which users (and developers) access technology-enabled services from the Internet without the knowledge of, or control over the technology infrastructure that supports these services. Its built on technology, but it really comes down to a new operational model (more about that below).
Enterprises are interested in Cloud computing because it comes with several potential benefits. The Pay-As-You-Use consumption model can now be applied to IT – to both the hardware (IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service) and, perhaps even more interestingly, to the business applications themselves(SaaS – Software as a Service & PaaS – Platform as a Service). Cloud computing transfers the traditional capital expenditure (CapEx) model common in data centers today to an operational expenditure (OpEx) model. Cloud Services like Azure Services Platform and Microsoft Online Services allow CIOs and CFOs to control costs more effectively through these cloud computing service offerings.
Additionally, for business software ISVs (Independent Software Vendor), Cloud computing is a potential new distribution channel for their applications. Building business software for the cloud allows them to hook into new business models, like subscription, transaction or even ad-based revenue models. It is clear that the concept of cloud computing is gaining traction and provides unique benefits. The flexibility of an access-anywhere, highly scalable, pay-as-you-go computing model has benefits for both vendors and clients.
With the Azure Services Platform, businesses are enabled to develop and deploy critical and non-critical applications with a higher performance/price ratio by running them on Microsoft’s platform data centers on a pay–as-you-go basis. Whether you are building new applications, augmenting / cloud enabling existing systems, or connecting with trading partners, you can take advantage of the Azure Services Platform to do it quickly, inexpensively, and across the Web and a range of connected devices. For ISVs, they can take advantage of the Azure Services Platform to deliver software as a service without having to maintain data centers or build new capabilities on existing investments in on-premises applications, while leveraging the same Microsoft development tools and technologies they are familiar with.
CFOs will care about Cloud Computing and Azure Services Platform.
Enterprises have grown increasingly comfortable with Pay-As-You-Use methods of consuming business and computer services. Decisions to go this route are often made (or greatly influenced) by the CFO, not the CIO, and are largely based on cost control and the ability to translate CapEx into OpEx that look better on a balance sheet.
The ability to pay for services based on usage, and for the provision of those services to be very scalable (‘elastic’) so as to increase and decrease with that usage, ensures minimal waste and redundancy. Also, the ability to scale in support of new product and service offerings or geographic expansion provides “cash-flow-friendly” ways to increase resource availability. This ability to commission additional capacity without significant capital outlay is particularly attractive to CFOs and especially in difficult economic conditions where upfront funding is harder to obtain.
The ability to apply Cloud economics to core enterprise applications provides new ways for CFOs and CIOs to optimize and boost the cost efficiency of IT service delivery.
Cloud Computing is an Operational Model
What makes cloud computing cloud computing is the fact that the physical resources used are operated to deliver abstracted IT resources “on-demand,” at scale, and usually in a multi-tenant environment. It is how you use the technologies involved that matters most. For the most part, cloud computing uses the same operating systems, management software, middleware, databases, server platforms, network cabling, storage arrays, and so on, that we have become familiar with in enterprise IT. Sure, Azure Services Platform, Google App Engine, Amazon EC2, and others, have different technologies and IP implemented, but in the end, its not significantly different than what enterprise IT is familiar with. Its the scale and elasticity, and the pay–as-you-go model that makes the difference. The combination of on-demand, at scale, in a multi-tenant infrastructure is the reason why cloud computing is disruptive today, rather than just another technology fad!
Azure Services Platform
Microsoft’s Azure Services Platform is an internet-scale cloud services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers, which provides an operating system and a set of developer services that can be used individually or together. Azure’s flexible and interoperable platform can be used to build new applications to run from the cloud or enhance existing applications with cloud-based capabilities. Azure offers a range of flexibility, control, and is an affordable solution for running Web-scale applications. The services reduce tedious and expensive infrastructure management and planning and are built with security and reliability in mind, along with the option of a pay-as-you-go model.
You can learn more here.
The SlideShare Ribbon Add-in for PowerPoint enables the sharing and social features of SlideShare and makes them accessible without leaving PowerPoint.
Creating a seamless experience from PowerPoint to SlideShare presentation sharing services, brings the best of rich client software and the reach of one of the web’s most popular social sites for presentation slides. This is a great demonstration of Microsoft’s vision for Software plus Services! It gives users the flexibility to develop and share presentations from the desktop and in the cloud.
You can learn more about the SlideShare Ribbon and download it here. To install it, you’ll need to have PowerPoint 2007, Windows XP Service Pack 2 or later, and .NET Framework 3.5 SP1. Additionally, see some slides and a link to a video demo below.
Also, read what others are writing:
TechCrunch: “Slideshare sends Powerpoint to the Cloud”
Here is a demo:
Yesterday, Microsoft announced the release (previously in beta) of Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.
You can learn more, buy or try the new services at Microsoft Online Services site. As part of the Microsoft Online Services product family, Exchange Online and SharePoint Online are available separately or as a suite together with Office Live Meeting for conferencing, Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services and Microsoft Office Communications Online for instant messaging and presence.
There has been a tremendous amount of interest and adoption of Microsoft Online Services. In just the past year, Microsoft has sold more than a half million seats for Microsoft Online Services. To help businesses plan, deploy and operate the services, Microsoft is releasing new Microsoft Solution Accelerators for Microsoft Online Services. These include new automated tools and guidance, such as the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, the Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide and the Microsoft Operations Framework Companion Guide. More information about Microsoft Solution Accelerators for Microsoft Online Services can be found here.
This is another exciting announcement as part of our Software + Services strategy, where Microsoft Online Services will continue to make available “finished services” on our Windows Azure Services Platform.
Back in December 2007, I wrote a post on Cloud Services that was prompted after I read an article in Business Week on another companies ambitions and “wisdom” in the clouds. Today, we are seeing more being written about Cloud computing and cloud platforms, and there is strong validation that the future of computing will include significant innovation and value in web/cloud platforms.
A leading industry analyst firm has listed Cloud Computing as one of the “Top 10 Disruptive Technologies for 2008 – 20012. The firm calls Cloud Computing “A style of computing in which massively scalable IT-enabled capabilities are provided as a service across the Internet to multiple external customers.”
Merrill Lynch recently issued a research note: “The Cloud Wars: $100+ billion at stake” (07 May 2008). It states that by 2011 the volume of cloud computing market opportunity could amount to $160bn, including $95bn in business and productivity applications (email, office, CRM, etc.) and $65bn in online advertising.
Forrester Research Report (March 7, 2008) – “Is Cloud Computing Ready for the Enterprise” concludes that “Cloud Computing is looking like a classic disruptive technology.” It highlights the huge popularity with emerging business, and how enterprises are starting to experiment with solutions that are service enabled in the cloud.
David Chappell recently wrote (see his blog to download) a short paper that does a pretty good job introducing us to Cloud Platforms. I agree with some of the conclusions Chappell makes; “The attractions of cloud-based computing, including scalability and lower costs, are very real. If you work in application development, whether for a software vendor or an end user, expect the cloud to play an increasing role in your future. The next generation of application platforms is here.” Mary-Jo Foley believes David’s paper provides us with some clues about what the we are planning to unveil at this October’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC).
Sciformatix is a privately-held startup focusing on solutions in the area of scientific laboratory information systems. The company recently launched with a breakthrough on-demand, SaaS-based Laboratory Information Management System aimed at small to medium laboratories based on .Net.
I worked with Tom Kent, CEO and Pascual Starink, CTO (founders) this last year and I have been very impressed and excited about the innovation they have delivered in their launch of SciLIMS SSM (Laboratory Information Management Systems, Storage & Sample Management). Built on .Net with the new Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server, SciLIMS is a true SaaS architecture solution.
You can learn more from a Microsoft case study about the SciLIMS solution and their use of Visual Studio 2008 here. The company is also launching a pilot program. If you are interested in participating in the pilot, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at 1-877-724-7656.
Today, Microsoft announced a new program and suite of hosted online services. The new service offerings include hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Communication Server and Dynamics CRM – all hosted by Microsoft as part of the new online services platform, and a key component of our Software plus Services initiative.
The “Deskless Worker Suite” plan starts at $3 per user per month, and includes web-based access to an Exchange mailbox through Outlook Web Access Lite along with read-only SharePoint access. At the full service plan, which starts at $15 per month, it includes full featured hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Communication Server, live meeting and more. The capabilities of the standard service plan at $15 per user per month are similar to those of the standard editions of each of these applications.
Learn more about Microsoft Online Services here.
We all learned earlier this week that we, Microsoft, walked away from the Yahoo deal. A little over a week ago, I got a kick out of a post at a financial blog (Minyanville) that proposed the following strategy:
“The Michael Corleone play for Ballmer is to offer Yahoo nothing, then treat them like that Nevada governor who wouldn’t sell the Corleones a gaming license. In two years MSFT will be able to throw an arm around a shivering Yahoo and say, “I know your stock is at $10. Out of respect I am giving you a $12 bid.”
Well, the real story is much bigger than buying Yahoo (in my opinion). I read a great opt-ed piece yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Andy Kessler that really speaks to this big battle – The War for the Web.
It is really about the Cloud, Platform, the Edge, and Speed – and I think we are really positioned well with or without Yahoo.
Kessler points out:
“Programs run anywhere these days – on your desktop computer, on servers in data centers, on your iPod, cellphone, GPS, video game console, digital camera and on and on. It’s not just about beating Google at search, it’s about tying all these devices together in a new end-to-end computing framework.”
The proverbial cloud is all about ubiquity for the user’s computing experience. Its about seamless transition (think Live Mesh) regardless of platform, device or application.
Ray Ozzie’s Software + Services Strategy makes good reading at this point. You can find the PDF here! I will leave it at that.
One of the very exciting and cool things I failed to mention in my OBA and ODC News post was the release and announcement regarding the OBA Composition Reference Toolkit. This toolkit empowers developers, and more specifically, advanced information workers to compose and build Office Business Applications.
The OBA Composer, which is part of the downloadable toolkit, is a very cool WYSIYG designer tool built in WPF. It consumes and uses the services of the OBA Composition Server to enable a rich client and prescriptive user experience for composing and deploying OBAs. Here is a screen shot.
The OBA Composition Reference Toolkit brings to surface the underlying composition capabilities of the 2007 Microsoft Office system. It integrates seamlessly with the Microsoft Office 2007 System to enable a prescriptive application composition experience for Information Workers to build and deploy Office Business Applications (OBAs) using semantically related OBA Components like Workflows, SharePoint document libraries and lists, SharePoint Pages, Web Parts, VSTO Office Client Add-ins, BI Reports, BI Dashboards etc. The toolkit comprises an OBA Composition Server and an OBA Composer. The OBA Composition Server implements metadata and provisioning services to enable cataloging OBA components, defining semantic relationships between components, defining the bindings between components and LOB systems, and to support deploying OBAs composed by users.