Microsoft roadmap leaks for Office 15, IE 10 and more key products

Screen shots of a Microsoft product roadmap for partners have leaked to the Web. Here are the key take-aways.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft has provided some of its partners with a roadmap for next versions of many of its key products, including Office 15, IE 10 and Windows Phone, and parts of that document have leaked to the Web.

One of the partners who received the roadmap, Maarten Visser, CEO of Meetroo -- a new SharePoint and mobility startup -- recently posted screen shots from it and tweeted links to them.

"For who want to know: I got the roadmap from the Microsoft Partner Network, where it can be downloaded without logon," Visser tweeted a week ago.

Visser gave me permission to embed his screen shots on my blog. I can verify this roadmap, which is marked confidential, was distributed by Microsoft externally to some of its partners and bears a 12/22/11 date. As Visser indicated, the document is/was not password-protected by Microsoft (for whatever reason).

Here are the two shots Visser posted from the roadmap:

(click on image above to enlarge)

(click on image above to enlarge)

And here's the key to what the symbols mean that are on the roadmap:

My 10 key takeaways from the roadmap:

The Windows piece of the roadmap is unsurprisingly vague about anything beyond the Developer Preview. Because the roadmaps were created in December last year, they don't even mention the Consumer Preview, which Microsoft released on February 29. The roadmap specifies "Windows 8 information will be communicated via other channels." (In other words, what happens in Windows client is only shared by Windows client.)

Internet Explorer 10 looks like it could be released any time now. Microsoft officials have never said when they planned to deliver IE 10 for Windows 7; in fact, they haven't updated the preview build for Windows 7 since June 2011. But note that the symbol marking general availability (in terms of the color orange) for IE 10 is a bar instead of a square. The bar symbol, according to the key for the roadmap, indicates "historical cadence." So all I can say for sure from this is if Microsoft follows its established release patterns, IE 10 could be out by mid-year -- maybe around the time Microsoft delivers the Windows 8 Release Candidate.

The Office 15 wave of products don't specify an RTM date. (The release to manufacturing dates are marked by circles on the roadmaps.) But they do indicate general availability for these products will be in the early part of 2013. As I've reported before, the "whisper date" for Office 15 RTM is November 2012, but the launch/general availability date is believed to be early next year.

Lync Server 15 is the one Office 15 product that is missing entirely from the roadmap. The roadmap for Lync shows Lync Online only, which is being updated quarterly like the rest of the products (Exchange Online and SharePoint Online which comprise the Office 365 family). Does that mean Lync is going cloud only with the next release? No. I hear Microsoft still is planning to release an on-premises Lync Server 15 product, but maybe it will lag the release of the rest of the family in terms of its RTM date.

On the Windows Phone front, the roadmap also is fairly vague. There's a square (marking general availability) somewhere around the latter part of 2012 marked as "future investments." This could be the Tango Windows Phone updates for the Mango release of the operating system. I tend to think it's more likely, though, that this is Apollo, a k a the Windows Phone 8 operating system -- which Microsoft has told some of its partners will be out before the end of this year.

There are other interesting parts of the roadmap which Visser didn't post screen shots of. These include:

Silverlight: The roadmap shows Silverlight 5's December 2011 release to the Web. After that, there's nothing on the roadmap indicating that future releases are in the pipeline.

Visual Studio: VS11, the coming release of Microsoft's tool suite that will support Windows 8, is shown as being released to manufacturing in the latter part of 2012, as expected.

SQL Server: The roadmap shows SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse as being released to manufacturing in the latter part of 2012. It also indicates an online transaction processing (OLTP) appliance from HP running SQL Server 2012 will be out around the same time -- the latter part of this year.

IIS: Around mid-year, Microsoft will release to manufacturing codename "Antares," which I recently blogged about. Antares, which may be IIS 8.0, based on how the roadmap reads, is Microsoft's Web hosting framework for Azure and on-premises Windows Servers.

Things to keep in mind about all this. First, while December 2011 doesn't seem all that long ago, dates slip and commitments/priorities change, meaning these targets may not be absolutely on track. Also: There's a tendency by some teams at Microsoft to pad dates provided to partners to keep Microsoft from looking late. (The old "under-promise/over-deliver" thing.) So some of these targets also could contain a bit of "fat."

Update: And here's a Microsoft spokesperson emphasizing those same caveats in a statement sent to me via e-mail today: "We often provide forward-looking information to our partners and customers under our confidentially agreements with them. This information contains our best estimates and is, in no way, final or definitive."

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