I spent most of today at a briefing at Microsoft’s London Customer Centre, hosted by one of their development partners: a mix of Microsoft and partner presentations, covering Microsoft’s office (small ‘o’), collaboration and enterprise management tools. It’s rare to have this kind of opportunity since I left enterprise IT. But it’s important, because topics like Sharepoint and Microsoft’s cloud office services (Office 365 for example) come up regularly in conversations, and in technical events that I facilitate.
Leading off the event was James Askrigg, of Microsoft. He ran through some of Microsoft’s visionary directions: Natural User Interface (which largely means gesture), with reference to the Xbox Kinect; the future of real telepresence, meaning fully animated avatars re-creating a full representation of a teleconference participant by close monitoring of the movement of the real individual. Is this cheaper/more effective than full high definition video? Don’t know; but we saw that, too, when Polycom took the stage.
Askrigg took the discussion towards the variety of form factors and “Post PC devices” which are coming through, and the need to work generically with these categories. As was commented in an event I was working with yesterday: you can’t enumerate the possibilities, and deal with them individually, any longer. The approach has to be more generic. And he sees the move to cloud services as very much part of the solution to this problem. If services, and data, and authentication, and management are mediated through the cloud then provisioning unconventional devices becomes simpler. Bill Gates’s original vision of “A PC in every home and on every desk” has become “Continuous cloud services for every person and every business”. Cloud Power is a paradigm, not for provisioning boxes, but for delivering services.
And there was a considerable focus on Lync 2011: communication, collaboration and technology platforms brought together and integrated under the one marketing banner. As we saw these services demonstrated later, the story is a strong one. Windows Live (free for home users) and the new IE9 with HTML5 and features which increase the integration between the browser and the rest of the desktop experience: both are crucial parts of the overall picture. There was a lot on Sharepoint too, difficult to reflect in these notes particularly as the online demo suffered from loss of network connectivity (or something) and had no Plan B.
We had two other presentations from Eurodata, the hosts of the event. The first focussed on Microsoft’s Forefront unified access gateway (UAG) and Direct Access technologies giving users seamless (ish, as a later presentation showed) access to their enterprise network and services without the intrusion of a VPN connection. It depends crucially on IPv6; IPv4 can be integrated, but the feature set is less complete. Polycom then shared a joint presentation with Microsoft: if I have it right, Microsoft give Polycom the lead on “phones and TVs”. Polycom on their own have a strong Unified Communications and presence story, but the integration with other office functionality, essentially through Lync, offers a lot of user options and flexibility. Perhaps too many options? but the live interaction which was demonstrated moved smoothly between IM chat, voice, video and screen sharing; and the ability to see who’s online and available saves a lot of wasted calls. These concepts have been around for a long time. Perhaps they’re now coming to fruition. I need to look up the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum. “Presence is king”, as another Microsoft speaker commented.
Eurodata’s second presentation took us through many of the management tools in Microsoft’s new management suite: not something I’d ever been familiar with (or needed to) and, if I gathered correctly, something of a rebranding exercise as well as a redevelopment. Good capabilities, and quite a strong plug for the Hyper-V virtualisation service.
Finished with a client case study and a few Q&A. And in the lunch break I got interviewed for their video capture of attendee feedback. If it turns up on the Eurodata website, I’ll let you know!
• Microsoft Lync currently showing the 2011 launch with a Bill Gates video
• Microsoft Cloud Power (this is where you get by searching for Office 365)
• Microsoft Sharepoint 2010
• Microsoft Forefront
• Xbox Kinect
• UC everywhere, by Polycom
• All you need to know about Microsoft in 2011: event page, 28 Jan 2011, from Eurodata Systems