To date, Microsoft's messaging around Windows 7 has been focused primarily on the consumer market. But starting September 1, the Softies began cranking up the business-focused marketing machine around Windows 7 and a number of other soon-to-be-shipping enterprise products.
On September 1, Microsoft made available "while supplies last" a free, 90-day trial version of 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. Enterprise is the business-user-focused release of Windows 7 that will be available to Software Assurance licensees only. (However, the trial is for those without Software Assurance, so if trial participants decide to buy Enterprise Edition, they will need to get Software Assurance to do so.) Those interested in test-driving the release must activate their copy within 10 days of obtaining the bits.
Microsoft also announced on September 1 availability of the final Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise bits for volume licensees who currently don't have a Software Assurance license. To entice more businesses to upgrade, Microsoft is making the Professional version available via Volume License resellers at a 15 percent discount through February 28, 2010.
During a worldwide series of business launch events, kicking off on in late September, Microsoft will be touting Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Exchange Server 2010, the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), the Forefront security suite and the System Center family of management products. The theme of these launches is "The New Efficiency" -- how to do more with less. Attendees will receive a free copy of Windows 7. Several of the launches, including ones in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Jose and Washington, D.C., already are sold out. CEO Steve Ballmer is headlining the September 29 San Francisco event, which will be Webcast.
Microsoft released to manufacturing Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 in July and began providing various user communities with the final bits over the past month. Exchange Server 2010 hit Release Candidate (RC) status in late August; the product is slated to go final before the end of the year. MDOP 2010 is due by early 2010 (and is on an every-six-month update schedule). Microsoft is rolling out the "Stirling" release of its Forefront products starting in late 2009 and through the first part of 2010.
Microsoft has a number of irons in the System Center fires. (I'll have a separate post or two on what's going on with System Center coming soon.) Meanwhile, on September 1, Microsoft announced plans to offer small/mid-size business users a bundle of Microsoft System Center Essentials 2007 and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 via a new licensing agreement direct from Microsoft or via various OEMs (including Dell, Fujitsu and Lenovo).
While Microsoft is continuing to use its tried-but-true "Better Together" concept to sell business users multiple products simultaneously, the company is expected to emphasize more the ROI/cost-savings message as it rolls out its enterprise offerings in the coming months. Microsoft's growing stable of virtualization products is key to that cost message -- as is the Softies' desire to keep the pressure on virtualization leader VMware.
Meanwhile, expect to hear more from Microsoft around how small/mid-size businesses can afford its technologies. The company is planning to beat the Windows Server 2008 Foundation -- an entry-level version of Windows Server. (I'd think the Softies would be refreshing the code base to include the Windows Server 2008 R2 bits some time soon.) "Infrastructure optimization" is another big theme Microsoft is likely to be pushing in the coming months.
And I'd think this fall might not be too soon for Microsoft to finally put some real meat on its "private cloud" bones with a more comprehensive explanation of exactly how Microsoft intends to allow business users to run and access sensitive data in a protected-cloud environment. Microsoft definitely needs to provide more details of its strategy here, especially since Amazon threw down its Virtual Private Cloud gauntlet...