Microsoft connects developers and IT admins

Microsoft opened its largest annual show on Monday by providing details on how it plans to evolve its software, servers and tools in a way that will turn developers and IT administrators from traditional adversaries into new-found allies.

CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage at TechEd in his usual bombastic fashion, pacing back and forth and bellowing a guarantee that IT would have a bigger impact in the next 10 year than the previous 10 years.

Ballmer had little news to announce, but spent much of his 75-minute keynote pumping his energy into the room and trumpeting Microsoft's newest marketing concept: The New World of Work.

"Our job is to give you, developers and IT people, the tools you need to drive business success," said Ballmer. "If we are going to do our jobs we need to engage in this new world of work."

Ballmer said that world includes optimizing the supply chain, team collaboration, unified communications, personal productivity, business process and improving customer interaction. Microsoft says it will more closely integrate its software to support those efforts.

As an example, Ballmer said that Microsoft would ship in the fall a combination of technology that would allow IT to update and remotely manage and secure e-mail on mobile devices in a direct attack on Research in Motion's BlackBerry. The combination is Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 and the Messaging and Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5.0, which was code-named Magneto.

During a demo, Mike Hall, technical product manager of the mobile and embedded team at Microsoft, showed how IT could configure mobile devices and also remotely wipe the contents off the device if it was lost or stolen.

Ballmer also announced the Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the Microsoft Office System and demonstrated an application built using those tools that integrated a customer relationship management application with Outlook 2003.

Ballmer said Microsoft has three milestones as it evolves its server infrastructure: anywhere access without compromising network security, self-service capabilities to free IT from routine task management and IT fundamentals to continue to reduce costs and complexity.

"The backbone of the tools, the infrastructure to connect people and information really comes out of the presence, identity, rights management and network access," said Ballmer.

To support identity, he highlighted the forthcoming Active Directory Federation Services, which will ship with Windows Server 2003 R2. Ballmer also seemed to hint that R2, due to ship in the fall, may be delayed. He referred once to R2 being available in the next 12 months and a second time to R2 and Windows Compute Cluster Edition being available in the next 12 months.

He said that Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative, its plan to create a management platform for Windows, and the complementary System Definition Model (SDM) were key s to pulling together developers and IT. The forthcoming Visual Studio 2005, which will ship in November, will be the company's first support of SDM, a technology for embedding management instructions directly into applications.

He also showed a new ThinkPad X41 Tablet PC from Lenovo that included a biometric finger print reader and embedded security subsystem.

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