Microsoft focuses on Cloud Computing
"Partly cloudy" was how Windows 8's Weather application described conditions in Amsterdam at Microsoft's TechEd Europe conference.
It couldn't have been a better description of the keynote speech delivered around cloud computing by Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's management and security division.
Cloud computing is the popular term for the means by which the likes of Microsoft hosts operating system (OS) software and data for its clients at large data centres the world over.
"We are living in the era of the cloud OS," Anderson said.
The traditional computing model, in which computing functions were thought of independently of hard disk drive storage and computer networking, was changing.
"These are all converging."
Windows Server 2012, demonstrated by Microsoft's Jeff Woolsey, was an example of what Anderson was talking about.
"Windows Server 2012 is about making your business more agile, making your business more flexible, about extending your data centre to the cloud," Woolsey said.
"We want to redefine performance and scale."
He rattled off a series of very technical specifications, some of them 32 times better than other market offerings, which drew the biggest applause from the thousands of IT professionals attending. Game changing, jaw dropping and brilliant, was how some described it.
Microsoft also demonstrated how its Windows Azure software could help make a client's transition from running applications on its own servers to the cloud easier.
"You can take your existing applications and you can move them into the public cloud and they will just run," he said.
His colleague Mark Russinovich demonstrated how Windows Azure could also be used to create a virtual machine, used when a new person joins a company and needs a profile on the company server, in a couple of minutes.
"We want to make it so easy that even your boss can do it," Russinovich said.
Microsoft has also worked on ways of integrating data generated by social networking applications like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to be usable in Microsoft Office, a new version of which is due soon.
"Users want to collaborate," Anderson said. "They want to have these social things they use in their personal life. They want them in their work life."
Microsoft's Riccardo Muti showed how the Power View function in Visual Studio 2012 could be used to capture and analyse data delivered in 12 million Tweets about movies via Twitter.
He found a correlation between a spike in Tweets about the film The Hunger Games ahead of release and box office receipts, meaning cinema proprietors could use such information to decide how many screens to devote to a movie ahead of release.
The technology could be applied in many business sectors.
"With a few clicks we have got some big insights . . . This is really amazing, we have taken big piles of unstructured data."
In a demonstration that took a few minutes Microsoft's Scott Guthrie showed how development tool Visual Studio 2012 could be used to build a simple internet application from scratch.
It allowed the audience to submit messages on a web page which were displayed live.
It was, according to Anderson, evidence of the "simple and obvious" integration between Microsoft's software developer and operations tools.
The keynote also tackled the controversial issue of staff bringing their own computing devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, to work. It's been frowned on by IT departments for years because of issues such as data security. What if, for example, you leave your smartphone containing work email in a taxi?
"You've users who want to be productive on their own devices, they want to be able to work when, where and how they want . . . We are building the technology that enables you to say yes to BYOD (bring your own device) . . . You may have a policy that says you have to have a power on password."
Microsoft was also excited about Windows Intune, launched two weeks ago, which allows especially written applications such as payroll software to be installed on multiple devices on different platforms.
The demonstration showed how a Windows application could quickly be deployed on an Apple iPhone - it would also work on an Android phone.
"You get this beautiful experience, fast and flowing," Anderson said. "We are committed to making sure all of your users can access all of their data across all of their devices."
Chris Gardner's trip to Amsterdam was courtesy of Microsoft