TECH ED - Microsoft touts multifaceted 'People-Ready' plan

With a celebrity assist from a star of the TV show "24," Microsoft on Sunday touted its "People-Ready" business strategy and four attendant promises for IT.

Evening keynote presentations at the TechEd 2006 conference featured product discussions and demos centered on these promises, which include managing complexity and achieving agility, amplifying the impact of people, advancing the business with IT solutions and protecting information and controlling access.

Appearing onstage in character as 24's technology wizard Chloe O'Brian, actress Mary Lynn Rajskub said the fictional character she plays has presented unrealistic expectations of IT, such as the notion that software is available to find people based on personal characteristics. But her character faces life and death, she joked.

"You have killer deadlines and killer demands, but at least you don't have to worry about actually getting killed, like I do," Rajskub said. She appeared at various times between the technical presentations.

Product discussions, meanwhile, covered a gamut of offerings ranging from Windows operating systems to the Exchange message system, Office Live Web-based services applications, and the Visual Studio developer platform.

"We see enormous opportunities for software to change the way that business runs," said Bob Muglia senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business.

"What makes people successful? It's people. People are the heart and soul of business," Muglia stressed.

Citing Windows enhancements, the planned Vista OS features improved security and compliance and enables a mobile workforce, Muglia noted. The version of Windows that will follow the upcoming Longhorn product, meanwhile, will feature operating services virtualization, giving it the ability to virtualize key system services and run multiple instances of them at the same time, Muglia said.

Virtualization is critical to Microsoft's strategy and is integrated with all the company's tools, said Muglia. "We really think of it as part of your overall infrastructure," he said.

Microsoft's Chris Caposella, corporate vice president of the information worker business unit at Microsoft, demonstrated an Outlook voice access feature that enables dialing into Exchange Server and giving it instructions via voice commands.

Capabilities linking Visual Studio to SQL Server also were demonstrated, as was Expression Interactive Designer, which is based on the Windows Presentation Foundation presentation subsystem.

In other TechEd developments, Microsoft launched Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2006, which is an integrated edge security gateway to protect IT environments from Internet-based threats. The company also announced public availability of a System Center Operations Manager 2007 beta release, which leverages the System Definition Model to provide service-oriented management for business services such as Exchange, SharePoint, Active Directory and applications built on the SQL Server 2005 database. The product is the next version of what is now known as Microsoft Operations Manager 2005.

Also appearing onstage was Ray Ozzie, Microsoft chief technical officer and the creator of Lotus Notes. "People-Ready also means IT-ready. It means that well-accepted, user-friendly tools needn't be out of control or unmanageable," Ozzie said.

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