The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

Summary: For Microsoft, 2011 was a year when its consumer products got most of the marketing and PR love. But 2012 could be a very different animal.


This past year, 2011, was one where Microsoft officials played up almost exclusively the company's consumer-focused products and services. Just look at Microsoft's own year in review lists and notice how many of the listings are for consumer products sold at retail. Part of this emphasis was due to Microsoft striving to position itself as a consumer-goods company. And part, I believe, was due to the fact that 2011 was an in-between year for Microsoft, as they had relatively few business-focused products ready to ship.

Despite the shortage, as Corporate Vice President of Communications Frank Shaw himself noted recently on Twitter, enterprise software can be sexy, too. (Scoble 2.0 doesn't think so, but plenty of my readers do.)

In 2012, if the Redmondians stick to their own roadmaps, we should hear a lot more about products of interest to business users. Based on hints from 2011, here's my Top 10 list for business products and technologies to watch for from the 'Soft in the coming year.

1. Windows Server 8: Windows Server 8 has hundreds of new features, just like its client counterpart. But the server features, not too surprisingly, are far more business-focused. PCMag served up a good list of some of the new Windows Server 8 features that could appeal to business customers, with shout-outs on the Hyper-V and PowerShell updates coming with this release. Windows Server 8 includes across-the-board improvements in storage, networking and clustering, too.

2. Windows 8 client: While most of the interest around Windows 8 on the client is (at least so far) focused around the coming tablet experience, Microsoft is touting its coming tiled and touch-centric operating system as ideal for PCs and laptops, too. Business users have a LOT of questions about Windows 8's interface, its security and management components, not to mention exactly how (and if) Microsoft will allow non-Metro apps to run on Windows 8 on ARM (on PCs and/or tablets). In fact, some are already writing off Windows 8's potential appeal to business users. (I'm taking a wait and see what the late February 2012 beta looks like, myself.)

3. Windows Phone 8: The Windows Phone 8 operating system, codenamed "Apollo," has been a deliverable targeted for late  2012 since word of it leaked in December 2010. The (increasingly plausible/probable) rumor is that Microsoft will be switching out the Windows Embedded Compact kernel in Windows Phone for a Windows one -- in the form of MinWin, perhaps -- with Apollo. Will this help Microsoft deliver enterprise capabilities (hello, encryption!) and apps that are sorely lacking with the almost entirely consumer-focused Windows Phone 7 platform? (If so, maybe that will help grow Microsoft's installed base by bringing the  the long-suffering Windows Mobile user base that hasn't already abandoned Microsoft over to the Windows Phone platform.

4. Office 2012 servers: New versions of on-premises Exchange, SharePoint and Lync unified communications servers are all in development as part of Office 15. I continue to hear Microsoft will ship them before the end of calendar 2012. A public beta should be out by mid-year at the latest. Next to nothing has leaked, in terms of new features coming with the next wave of server releases, but it's a safe bet that some of the enhancements in their cloud counterparts that aren't already in the on-prem versions could find their way into the Office 2012 servers.

5. Identity management: Expect to hear more in the coming year about the five pillars of Microsoft's identity-management platform -- specifically Active Directory Services; Active Directory Federation Services; Certificate Services/PKI; Active Directory Rights Management Services and Forefront Identity Manager. These services are at the crux of Microsoft's attempt to make single sign-on key for its private and public cloud offerings.

6. System Center 2012: Microsoft will launch in the first half of 2012 (probably at the Microsoft Management Summit in April) its full suite of 10-plus systems management offerings. Some of these disparate products will be able to manage iPads, iPhones, Android phones and other non-Microsoft devices for the first time. Early word is that Microsoft may attempt to sell all of its System Center 2012 wares as a single, integrated suite and not as a bunch of individual point products. (The Softies aren't confirming this suite concept; it's just what I've heard from my contacts.)

7. SQL Server 2012: Microsoft's next-generation database is due to launch in the early part of 2012. We already know the SKUs -- including a brand-new BI one -- and the pricing (which is moving to more of a per-core model). SQL Server 2012 includes components for providing more high-availability, self-service and analytics functionality.

8. Skype (+ Lync, + Outlook + more): Microsoft's $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype is supposed to result in lots of new Skype apps and integration for many of Microsoft's products, ranging from Hotmail to the Xbox. (The first of the deliverables, a Skype app for Windows Phone still has yet to materialize as promised in calendar 2011.) But there are business-side Skype integrations coming, too, including Skype integration with Lync, Skype integration with Exchange/Outlook and maybe even built-in Skype integration with Windows. It sounds like Microsoft is planning to keep some basic Skype services free and charge for others that may be of more interest to business customers.

9. AzureHadoop (or is it HadoopAzure?): Microsoft made available the preview bits for the Hadoop distribution for Windows Azure in December 2011. The final release is slated for March 2012. (Microsoft and partner Hortonworks are also working on an on-premises Hadoop on Windows Server distribution.) Hadoop on Windows Azure is interesting because it combines Microsoft's big-data plans and products with its cloud platform. The idea Microsoft will be pushing in 2012 is that Hadoop on Azure will give users of Microsoft's analytics tools, including plain-old Excel, a way to make use of the growing number of data sets stored on Windows Azure.

10. ERP in the cloud: Microsoft Dynamics NAV, codenamed ‘NAV 7,’ due in 2012 will be the first cloud-enabled ERP solution from Microsoft. Microsoft officials have said they  plan to move all four of their ERP products to the cloud (meaning hosted on Windows Azure). Dynamics CRM Online also will be moved to Azure at some point, though the Softies have not said when this will happen. For now, CRM Online is Microsoft-hosted, but not Azure-based.

That's my list of 10. What's on yours, Microsoft business users out there?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

    This is a good 2012 lineup for Microsoft. I actually think Win 8 phones will finally fulfill the promise of Windows phone 7.
  • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

    It will be so easy for corporations to deal with one Outlook on server and phones and tablets if it's integrated correctly.
    No one can beat word-excel if that's available on phones and tablets
    • Neither agree or disagree

      @amneel Right now Excel is definitely the king of spreadsheets. But Word is NOT the best document writer in the market. That title belongs to Apple Pages, which is the reason it is used by publishers and good old Wordperfect can match and in some cases surpass Word on functionality and usability. Now that doesn't mean that there is something wrong with Word ....
      • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012


        But for most businesses, Word is still king.
  • There's no chance of Enterprise usage of Metro - absolutely zero

    The demotion of .NET Framework and poor data access capabilities (no System.Data in the metro profile, no support of Compact SQL) means there will be no Metro development for business customers at all. That will remain classic Win32, Win64 and .NET for the foreseeable future, until Microsoft comes to its senses.

    If Microsoft thinks it can coax businesses to develop Line of Business apps without a significant database access capability, they're nuts.
    • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

      @rbethell That is why I think that businesses that do upgrade to Win8 will be buying Intel-based Win8 devices / PC's so that they contain backward compatibility
      • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012


        Exactly, Win8 isn't forcing people down the path of ARM and Immersive apps. Its simply making that sort of set up an option, especially for tablets.

        There are plenty of other large benefits in Win8 that will be great for businesses even outside the ARM model. They didn't demote the .NET framework, they just created an additional framework that is friendly to web developers who formerly had now playing field within Windows.
  • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

    MS better build in some type of metro ui management functionality or they are going to have a army of pissed off business users. I hope that MS has learned from there Vista mistakes or history will repeat itself 10 fold. I will be curious to see the Feb beta myself but if in only is the norm bug fixed and UI tweaks then it doomed. I hope they get it right. It is one thing to make mistakes it is another not to learn from them.
    • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012


      What is there to manage? The Metro Start screen is simply a replacement for the current Start Menu and optimized for tablets. They've already demonstrated the traditional Desktop is a click away.

      Stop freaking out, you obviously don't know whats already out there.
      • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012


        Actually yes i do i have been running the dev preview since its release. The Desktop is far from traditional no start menu control panel is MIA. Since you do not see what there is to manage. Lets go with this " MS NEEDS TO BUILD IN AN OFFICIAL METRO UI KILL SWITCH" This UI has NO point on traditional non touch centric devices period.
  • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

    How about Office 2012? that is coming out next year also
    • Office 2012

      The word is that Office 15 = Office 2012. It supposedly is on tap to RTM before the end of calendar 2012, my contacts have said. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
  • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

    Microsoft Windows 8 in all its forms and Skype are going to be the big headlines for 2012. I'm eagerly awaiting to see what they announce.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

    Wp7 is DEAD
  • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

    Windows 8 server and Hyper V3.

    Everything else probably won't make it in 2012 (Exchange, Lync, Sharepoint) or if it does you would be CRAZY to install it in production before a few good patch cycles.

    Windows Phone 8 is DOA. Windows 8 will hardly be used by corporations and it will sell well with new PC's. Windows 8 tablets...we shall see....I think they are WAY to late.
  • PowerShell with workflows blows bash/ksh/zsh/python/perl out of the water

    Imagine being able to write scripts which are actually <i>workflows</i> which can be suspended, resumed (even after reboot) or resumed on an entirely different machine carrying over the execution environment. You can script the entire operating system installation, configuration, application installation+configuration and *testing*. All with the PowerShell consistency and robustness (i.e. no brittle text parsing). Looking forward to Server8 indeed
  • RE: The 10 sexiest Microsoft business teases for 2012

    i like the w8 server!!!
    the number one hacker