What’s New in Microsoft Land: 4 – 8 February, 2008

The whole week was pretty slow when it came to what everybody expected to come true, Yahoo! accepting the offer that Microsoft put on its table, so everything else kind of remained in this deal’s shade. Nevertheless, the Redmond-based company managed to keep its employees focused on their tasks at hand, so Monday, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, the apple of so many engineers’ eye, was released to manufacturing alongside Windows Server 2008.

The date for the release of SP 1 was not pinned, but it is said to come somewhere in March, while Windows Server 2008 will be available to new clients as of March the first, and Microsoft Volume Licensing customers that have an active Microsoft Software Assurance coverage, or an Enterprise Agreement, will be able to download it earlier. There will be an event to mark it, part of the joint Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 "Heroes Happen Here" launch.

The Windows Vista Service Pack 1 was expected for over one year, ever since
the official launch of the Operating System. What was broadcasted at the time as the best Windows to come so far turned out to be a bitter disappointment to some, who saw numerous vulnerabilities shipped along with the OS. Patches and updates that came afterwards managed to smooth the transition from XP to Vista in reliability and performance, but they were never enough. The wave of complaints will finally come to en end in March… hopefully.

Meanwhile, on the Yahoo! front, Google’s David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, jumped at Microsoft’s throat, claiming that the unsolicited bid would "extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet."

Tuesday was the first day of the Microsoft Office Visio conference 2008, where delegates got to take a peak at the features that are to come with the next release of Visio. Add to that a keynote addressing the company’s future vision for the product, delivered by Jeff Raikes, the President of the Microsoft Business Division, and you can see why 250 seats weren’t enough.

"The fundamental premise behind Visio is that a picture is worth a thousand words. The ability to represent data in a visually-rich way really brings information to the surface in a way you just don’t get from raw data. Visio allows users to zero in on the relevant information to get the clarity they need to drive timely, informed decision-making. This is a capability that’s becoming more and more valued by organizations amid the ever-increasing volume of data they face, and we’re certainly seeing Visio’s problem-solving capabilities pretty squarely aligned with some of the biggest growth opportunities for organizations today," Richard Wolf, General Manager told Press Pass.

Apparently, the next Visio release will attend to what users have been asking for a long time, such as a new ‘fluent’ user interface, which is very important because it allows more of the product’s functionality to be exposed. It will also smoothen the learning curve for new Visio users by being able to use the ribbon (another way Wolf called the fluent user interface) just in the same manner as they would any of the Office tools.

News that Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, called CEO Jerry Yang in order to offer his company’s help surfaced, and Microsoft suddenly started having chills running down its spine.

The middle of the week brought the best news for small businesses and their owners, as Microsoft decided to give the world a version of Microsoft Outlook 2007, complemented with Business Contact Manager on Wednesday. "Small-business owners need effective solutions for managing their customer base. […] Currently, many small and home-based businesses keep their contacts in several different places — some in Rolodexes, some in spreadsheets. We understand the importance of good customer management and are providing simple and affordable solutions to help small businesses centralize their customer information so that keeping track of customers is more effective and less time-consuming," said Takeshi Numoto, general manager of Microsoft Office 2007 at Microsoft.

The new standalone product offers all the functionality of MS Office Outlook 2007, and thus making it easy for small businesses to track their sales and market activities ‘under one roof’. It was released due to the success that the 2007 edition had, that noted nearly 2 million registered users, taking advantage of the 28 languages the product comes in.

Google decided to stop Microsoft’s attempt to take over Yahoo! by all means, so it started lobbying at Capitol Hill, figuring that it’s payback time for the time MS told on its acquisition of DoubleClick. Important people from the Mountain View-based company have highlighted just why the deal shouldn’t go through in front of the lawmakers, leaving Microsoft’s lobbying somewhere in the shade.

Privacy and security first and foremost, cried Microsoft Corp, Google, Yahoo! and IBM on Thursday, as they all joined the OpenId Foundation. They sat at the round table and each brought forth what it had to offer, namely expertise in Internet and security technology.

The point of the Foundation is to empower users with portable Internet identities, or OpenIDs, that would let people have control over the way their personal information is to be used online, not to mention that it would simplify the management of digital identities. "With this support from these new company board members, the OpenID Foundation will be able to continue to promote and protect the technology and its community moving forward. […] The community has expanded quickly since the inception of the foundation, and these companies will help bring OpenID into the mainstream markets," said Bill Washburn, executive director of the OpenID Foundation.

Yahoo decided to level the playing field in the small businesses area, and although it did not roll out a competitor to Microsoft’s Outlook 2007 doubled with the Business Contact Manager, the Sunnyvale-based company announced that they have leveled all the fees they charged for hosting the services and for the traffic they had. To top that already marvelous piece of news, an "unlimited storage" sticker was glued on its cover and it was ready to ship and skyrocket Yahoo!’s customer base.

Jerry Yang addressed a second mail to all his employees, letting them know that no decision had been taken.

Friday, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, addressed Yahoo! indirectly and let the world know that the Sunnyvale-based company’s brand will remain untouched, should they decide to accept the unsolicited bid. Many casualties are to come, due to the similarities of services both Microsoft and Yahoo! offer. Count Live Search and Windows Live Messenger are casualties of the great takeover war, because if the Yahoo! brand is prominent, there’s no way they could live together. United, under one name, and that will have Yahoo! up front.

Kevin Johnson, President, Platform & Services Division, said that "A key synergy we’ve identified in this combination is really about expanded R&D capability. It doesn’t make sense to have thousands of engineers at Yahoo working on a search index, thousands of engineers at Microsoft working on the same search index. By combining, we can have one team of people across the two companies working on the search index, and then have others continue to focus on areas where we’ve defined differentiation in search. New search verticals and expanded user experience for search."

As midday approached, a new problem emerged for Microsoft: Yahoo!’s rising shares and its own declining ones made the bid look weak, compared to the possibilities of stock holders to sell on the open market. How that turns out will be an interesting story to follow.

source : news.softpedia.com

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