Yesterday in Vegas, Microsoft concentrated on the Cloud and server-side virtualisation. Today the emphasis was unquestionably on the client. Given by Brad Anderson, General Manager, Management and Services Division, Microsoft, the audience was given a clear view of how Microsoft believes we need to change our relationship with the user. He also dealt with virtualisation and the client which will have a major impact on datacentre thinking around virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI).
Anderson opened, however, with a status update on the management tools business at Microsoft. "We are the fastest growing business in Microsoft and over the three quarters of this year alone we are up more than 20% Year on Year. When you separate out the server business that figure rises to 40% and in the last 90 days, we have had over 1000 new customers purchase the System Center suite. There have also been more than 1400 licenses of the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack sold in the last year."
Compared to the problems Microsoft encountered last quarter, those figures suggest that it is clearly the client and Office business that are suffering hardest inside Microsoft. This is likely to be not only due to the problems of Vista but that many companies are now waiting for Windows 7.
"There are high level challenges driving change in managing the client in the enterprise" said Anderson. Over the last few years we have been aware of the increased mix of home and office based workers but Anderson thinks the problem is more complex. "We now have people in the workplace who were raised with PC's. They understand technology and want to interact with IT to get what they want. They want to work in a way that fits their style."
If you look at the number of students entering the US job market this year (750,000), the increase in social networking (100m new users to Facebook last year) and the fact that over 100m Smart Phones were sold last year, Anderson believes we need to change the way we approach the user.
"Users want a more flexible environment. To deliver what the end user needs we have to think about how to manage the applications, desktops and data for diverse needs" says Anderson. "Management success used to be about the ability to deploy out. That is going to change." The challenge for IT departments will be supporting users who are no longer tethered to a particular device.
Before going on to look at how we can address those challenges, Anderson talked a little about Windows 7 and some of the feature set inside it. "Over 2.5m users of the Windows 7 beta are synchronising with Windows Update at the moment." Anderson also admitted to only using Windows 7 on his own computer and that he had experienced no application compatibility problems. This will come as a significant relief to a lot of support desks.