Ballmer launches Windows Server 2008, lauds user base

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially launched Windows Server 2008 and other new products Wednesday in Los Angeles

Besides launching a set of updated products Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer lauded the company's IT user base, calling them the "heart and soul" of the industry.

The glowing rhetoric fit the theme of Microsoft's launch event, dubbed "Heroes Happen {here}" in homage to IT workers everywhere. But Ballmer quickly segued into a pitch for the new software, which includes Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008.

"I see each and every one of them as simply an enabler of the heroes [in enterprise IT shops]," Ballmer said as he worked the massive stage at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles during the event, which was webcast. Details of the products had already been released to the public and widely discussed, making the launch event anticlimactic.

Ballmer talked up Microsoft's "Dynamic IT" vision, which fits into four main topics that customers have been discussing with Microsoft: achieving agility and managing complexity; protecting information and controlling access; delivering business value; and making sure that IT professionals are "not the cobbler's children without shoes."

With characteristic gusto, Ballmer painted Microsoft as a company set to transform IT from the data center to the browser.

"This is the most significant Windows Server release we have made since the first version," he said, citing in particular hardened security and power savings.

Windows Server 2008 OS is set to ship next week, followed by SQL Server 2008 in the third quarter. It is expected that more customers will buy the 64-bit versions of the products, in part because of wider availability of 64-bit x86 server hardware and the trend toward server virtualization and consolidation.

"We think we now have the best platform, bar none, for hosting Web applications," Ballmer said later in the presentation, referring to Microsoft's Internet Information Services Web server and Silverlight, its browser plug-in for building rich Internet applications.

Ballmer also looked ahead to the upcoming release of Microsoft's virtualization hypervisor, Hyper-V, which will be offered free with the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2008.

"I think it's well-known we're not the market leader in server virtualization," he acknowledged, but added, "We want to democratize virtualization. Virtualization should be properly, if desired, run on 90 percent or 100 percent of servers, not the current 5 percent or 7 percent."

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Chris Kanaracus

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