It's a little hard to pin down what Microsoft is trying to do these days. But that's what you would expect from a company that's fighting for its life.
It used to be relatively simple to figure Redmond out: they ruled the desktop and productivity application sector, had a decent showing in server space, and every once in a while would kick out some experimental product that would hit (Xbox) or flame out (Zune).
But in a keynote presentation at the Microsoft's Worldwide Partners Conference this morning in Toronto, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner identified several technology trends the company plans to pursue, including cloud computing, big data, and the heady goal of ubiquitous technology.
Turner's mission was clearly to rally the troops, getting partners on board with the company's focus on these key issues. He spent a lot of time focusing cloud computing, particularly on Microsoft's biggest face in the cloud: Office 365, which he sees as topping the growth of SharePoint as early as next year.
"Office 365 is our joint future," Turner told the crowd. "Make no mistake Google is pitching our customers but fortunately they don't win much. When they pitch Google Apps at $50, you need to look below the surface and understand there's a whole lot of cost associated with making their solution work. We have a great story on functionality, costs and enterprise credibility. Winning with Office 365 is the single most important thing we need to do within the enterprise."
But Turner also took some shots at VMware along the way as he hyped up the virtualization aspects of cloud computing. Admitting that Microsoft came a bit late to the virtualization party, Turner emphasized that Microsoft's Hyper-V now has 27 percent market share and is growing at twice the rate of VMware.
It wasn't all about the cloud; Turner also smacked Oracle around while extohling the "great story" of Microsoft and big data. SQL Server 2012, he claimed, would be able to scale more than Oracle and still beat the database on pricing.
Turner's comments, particularly on big data, have the feel of a lot of hyperbole. Microsoft's forays into big data have been tentative at best to date, with just a recent focus on Hadoop implementations on the Azure cloud platform. Lag notwithstanding, it doesn't take a away from the fact that Microsoft is committed now to making sure SQL Server is well-integrated with Hadoop as part of customers' data workflows.
Turner didn't neglect the consumer side of Microsoft's business, pushing Windows Phone 8 as well as urging partners to migrate their customers to at least Windows 7 before the end of life for Windows XP in April 2014.
"The customer is why we're here. Let's accelerate adoptions and eradicate Windows XP, lead customers into the cloud, leverage our strong R&D story, and we have to remember the customer is always right. They vote by what they buy," Turner said.
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