Late this afternoon, Microsoft answered a question oft-asked by investors this month: What's up with Windows 8? The new operating system, which launched October 26, was supposed to lift sagging PC sales and demonstrate the capability to successfully compete with so-called post-PC platforms like Android and iOS. Now we know more. Windows & Windows Live revenue passed Business, making the OS division most-valuable again.
For fiscal second quarter, ended December 31, Microsoft revenue was $21.46 billion, up 3 percent year over year. Operating income: $7.77 billion, a 3 percent decrease. Net income was $6.38 billion, or 76 cents a share.
Another Thanksgiving arrives here in the United States, and some people consider what they have to be grateful for. I celebrate by talking turkey, not just eating it, about the companies I cover. It's tradition, going back to 2006, that I present the things Microsoft should be grateful for.
Last year, 11 items made the list, keeping with the 2011 theme. For 2012, I reduce the list to eight; my hat tip of respect to Windows 8, which launched nearly a month ago. There are many more things Microsoft could be grateful for, but I chose some that might not readily come to mind. The list goes from least to most important.
Windows 8, Windows RT, Surface, and Windows Phone 8 may have received all of the public's attention recently, their comrade Windows Server Essentials 2012 has officially become available with almost no fanfare.
Windows Server Essentials 2012 is a lower-end consolidation of the next-generation versions of Windows Small Business Server (Essentials and Standard), Windows Home Server, and Windows Storage Server Essentials in a single product. It also comes with some rather important new features for the home office and small business (supporting up to 25 users).
Most people probably didn't turn a glance at Microsoft's other big recent release, Windows Server 2012. Server operating systems rarely get much attention, and appropriately so; their appeal and importance really only extends to the rank and file of server administrators and other similar decision makers. And plus, with Windows 8 and Surface making the public rounds, there's plenty of fanfare to go around.
But there's something most obviously missing from the latest Server 2012 lineup, and that is a subsequent Small Business Server release. Redmond Channel Partner magazine first brought this to my attention. Not only did SBS get the axe, but Microsoft also went on to kill off Windows Home Server as well. The last public version of WHS was version 2011, which happened to be the second and final release in this platform's short lived history.
Computing, and I use the term in the widest sense, has always been tribal to an extent. People have loyalties, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This year, tribes are called "ecosystems", but whatever the current label, looking around the Interweb it seems to me that tribalism is becoming more prevalent and more aggressive. It’s as if everyone stood on soapboxes with their fingers in their ears, shouting "LALALALALALALA", while at the same time (a good trick, this) yelling through a megaphone that theirs is the only way and anyone who doesn’t agree is just too stupid to be considered human.
Famously, way back in 1994, the writer and thinker Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose) compared computing loyalties to religions: Apple followers were Catholics who believed that they would find salvation through following the One True Path. Conversely, PC users, like Protestants, were obliged to find their own way through the many paths open to them, and not all would be saved. And (I guess) Linux users are the hairy prophets who come out of the desert proclaiming, "It’s really easy. Honestly. And these days you only have to scourge yourself with thorns once a week …"
Today, Microsoft's CEO released his annual shareholder letter, which also is meant for customers, employees and partners. Steve Ballmer's looking back-peering ahead missive comes as the company stands on a precipice between the PC and cloud-connected device eras and seeks reinvention through an unusually strong late-year release cycle that includes Surface tablets, Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Server 2012.
Under Bill Gates, Microsoft sought to put a PC on every desktop, with software innovation driving that effort. Ballmer describes post-PC Microsoft as a "devices and services company", which aptly describes the fundamental shift in progress. Services focus reminds of IBM, which dominated the mainframe era the PC displaced. This devices and services ambition "impacts how we run the company, how we develop new experiences, and how we take products to market for both consumers and businesses".
Windows Server 2012 launched a little more than a month ago and packs quite the toolset. To further complete the package, Microsoft announced the arrival of Windows Azure Services to its cloud-oriented server operating system, though only in beta for the moment.
Microsoft's cloud computing platform services are designed for hosting service providers, which was until recently exclusive to Windows Azure but in July was showcased on Windows Server and System Center. According to the company, Windows Azure Services on Windows Server is now a feature-complete beta release that focuses on delivering a considerable number of improvements over the previous versions.
For those of you still pining for Small Business Server, you'll have to settle for its successor, which is available now for evaluation following its RTM. Microsoft expects the software to be available in "all channels" by November 1 -- or after Windows 8 launches in 17 days. However, preloaded systems will likely come later, but before year's end, while server manufacturers conduct final testing and create system images.
Unlike its predecessor, Windows Server 2012 Essentials adds more cloud utility around a straightforward concept: Provide small businesses or sole proprietors with access to their important information anytime, anywhere and on anything.
Hyper-V, Microsoft’s answer to VMware, a virtual machine system has been around since Server 2008. And earlier versions of Microsoft virtual machines have been around since Server 2003, so the software is not new. But Microsoft’s latest version which comes out with Windows 8 as Server 2012 will introduce new features to Microsoft's server operating system.
Microsoft came into the virtual machine system market late, and VMware has been the dominant company running the software for about 10 years. But Microsoft is making tremendous strides in trying to catch up. So when Server 2008 was released, you could set up various virtual machines in the system and run different programs simultaneously, never affecting the host computer. A virtual machine is software that mimics an operating system, thereby allowing a “computer” to run inside a computer. So you can have Vista running in an XP system, and neither operating system will interfere with the other.
Microsoft will publicly release Windows Server 2012 a month earlier than Windows 8, the company's server and tools business vice president Satya Nadella told attendees of the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto on Tuesday. The release will be part of a broader effort to draw customers away from its competitors and on to the Windows Azure platform.
The server platform will release to manufacturing first in August, followed by general availability of the OS in September.
Server 2008 and Windows Home Server will soon be a part of Microsoft history. While Server 2008 provided many enhancements to the Server role in the Microsoft Network control system, the recent enhancements in technology, especially the Cloud, meant that the OS was behind the times in functionality. That is why the new OS will reflect the advances that are now prevalent in IT.
Server 2012 will be offered in four editions. These are Data Center, Standard, Essentials, and Foundation. A huge cut in versions when you compare it to the 12 versions that Windows Server 2008 R2 was available in. Microsoft continues its efforts to streamline its product line. The details of the four models appear below the fold.
Microsoft is doing what it can to promote cloud computing, focusing on the platform at the TechEd annual developer conference in Orlando, Fla. this week. In the event's opening keynote, Server and Tools chief Satya Nadella told a sold-out crowd of 10,000 that the future of Microsoft is in the cloud.
In the month or so leading up to TechEd, Microsoft has made a fair number of cloud-related announcements. Some of this is out of necessity, because of customer demand, but a lot of it has to do with competitive pressures.
Microsoft's suite of enterprise products isn't about to let the consumer-facing ones steal the headlines. On the same day the Redmond, Wash. company announced the Release Preview of Windows 8, the company's enterprise and developer software arm announced the release candidates of .NET Framework 4.5, Visual Studio 2012 and Windows Server 2012.
Visual Studio 2012 and .NET Framework 4.5 are available for download by anyone by visiting the Visual Studio 2012 website, while Windows Server 2012 is available only to TechNet and MSDN subscribers by visiting TechNet.
This just in from Microsoft: Windows 8 release candidate won't be the only one coming your way in less than six weeks. Expect Windows Server 2012, too. "The Windows 8 Release Preview will be publicly available in the first week of June 2012", Microsoft's Jeffrey Snover says. "We plan to deliver a release candidate of Windows Server 2012 in the same timeframe".
Windows & Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky revealed the June RC for the desktop operating system earlier today in Tokyo. Concurrent Windows Server 2012 release candidate isn't surprising given the operating systems share common code and development has tracked closely all along.
Late this afternoon, after the closing bell, Microsoft revealed results for one of its most uncertain quarters in years. That's because Gartner and IDC report tepid PC shipments and Microsoft prepares to launch a horde of new products later this year, including new versions of Office, Windows and Windows Server, among others. Sometimes sales sag in the quarter or two before new product releases -- and for 2012 there are many core ones coming.
"With the upcoming release of new Windows 8 PCs and tablets, the next version of Office, and a wide array of products and services for the enterprise and consumers, we will be delivering exceptional value to all our customers in the year ahead", Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says.