What I learned at the Microsoft Vista business launch

Were there any surprises left for Microsoft's business launch of Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 on November 30? Surprisingly, there were a few.

Were there any surprises left for Microsoft's business launch of Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 on November 30? Surprisingly, there were a few.

As expected, Microsoft made available to its volume licensees the final Windows Vista and Office 2007 bits, as marked by its "New Day for Business" launch in New York on Thursday.

So what caught me off-guard?

First, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that the consumer launch of Windows Vista will be “back here in New York” on January 30. (That’s great for me, being a New Yorker; but not so great for West Coasters who might be caught in a blizzard jetting back here in the dead of winter.)

Microsoft still is planning a major Vista presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. A pavilion where Microsoft partners will show off new software and hardware – including a number of brand-new form factors that are still completely under wraps, I hear – will be a highlight of the show. Vista-enabled scenarios will be a theme of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates’ CES keynote address. But the actual big-bang Vista consumer launch? Sounds like it’s New York on January 30. .

I also was surprised that Ballmer never once said the words “Better Together” during his hour-long remarks to press and analysts attending the New York launch event. (He did throw in a few “People-Ready” mentions, and lots of claims about “innovation.”)

But that doesn’t mean company representatives failed to hammer home the Better Together messaging. When Julie Larson-Green – a group program manager with Office who is moving over (along with a growing contingent of other Office officials) to the Windows team under Steven Sinofsky – did her demo during the launch, it was next-to impossible to tell which features she was showing were part of Office 2007 and which were in Vista.

The confusion was intentional, Ballmer acknowledged. Microsoft is expecting potential business customers to evaluate the Vista and Office 2007 products separately but deploy them simultaneously due to cost savings, Ballmer said.

Another surprise? Ballmer talked a lot more about future products in the pipeline than I expected he would at a launch event that was so specifically focused on three very specific ones (Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007). Ballmer repeated several times that Microsoft has more than 30 new business-focused products that are shipping within the coming year. When he finally provided a laundry list, he was counting each of the individual Office 2007 client and server products (such as InfoPath 2007, Excel 2007, Word 2007, etc.) separately.

Some of the others coming next year that are designed to supplement Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007:

Voice Call Management for Office Communications Server 2007 (a voice-conference product about which the always-excitable Ballmer seemed even more excited than usual)

• PerformancePoint Server 2007

• Data-Mining Add-ins for Office

• Windows Desktop Optimization Pack

• Forefront Client Security

• System Center Configuration Manager (client and server)

• System Center Operations Manager (client and server).

I’m glad there were a few things left to write about for someone who has spent the past five years covering every twist and turn on the road to Vista. Anyone else hear/see anything surprising from today’s business launch?