New Windows Server, Visual Studio, SQL Server to Launch in February

On February 27, 2008, Microsoft will jointly release Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008, kicking off what it calls a "launch wave" with hundreds of events worldwide. Microsoft will pitch the products as a platform for next-generation Web service applications.

Windows Server 2008 is still expected to be released to manufacturing before the end of the year, with November as the rumored timeframe. Microsoft took a similar tack with Windows Vista, making it available to businesses in November before its public launch in late January.

The Redmond company made the announcement at its annual Worldwide Partner Conference, which begins today in Denver. The overarching theme of the conference will be "software plus services" - essentially recognizing the importance of Web-based and connected services, but accessing them through traditional desktop software.

To aid in its software plus services push, Microsoft will be heavily promoting Office 2007 as a platform for development. Although many customers see Office primarily as a productivity suite, Microsoft is hoping to change that image with what it calls Office Business Applications, or OBAs.

Companies can build OBAs to streamline complex business tasks and improve organization, especially with a mobile workforce. The advantage, says Microsoft, is the ease in which such applications can be built. Because OBAs utilize Office applications directly, creating separate interfaces for inputting and displaying data is no longer necessary.

“Everyone in our industry is rethinking the relationship between software and services,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "We believe the future is in software plus services — combinations that give customers more options and create great new opportunities for partners. Microsoft, with our partners, is positioned to lead the way."

Such an approach will pit Microsoft against market leaders such as Salesforce.com. The company announced Tuesday the fourth version of its CRM solution, now known as Dynamics CRM Live, which will be available next year in two versions: Professional priced at $44 per month, and Enterprise priced at $59 per month. Enterprise includes offline data synchronization.

"Our product portfolio, long-term investments in XML and .Net and the diversity of our partner ecosystem give Microsoft a competitive advantage in the software-plus-services era," remarked Allison Watson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group. "This unique combination allows us to empower people and partners in their roles with rich solutions that drive new business opportunities."

Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 will play a central role in this effort when they launch next year. However, Microsoft is making sure customers have early access to the products so they can begin work immediately. Beta 2 of Visual Studio 2008 -- code-named "Orcas" -- is expected to be released this summer, while Community Technology Previews of SQL Server 2008 -- know as "Katmai" -- are available now.

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