Microsoft WPC 2012 Day 1 Highlights

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For anyone that didn’t catch my first blog, this is my first time attending WPC and, even though the first day is only half done, there’s a ton to talk about. However, before I get started, I want to make a confession: I am NOT a Microsoft fan boy. I mean I’ve used Microsoft products since MS-DOS 3.1 (and I remember the “big” changes in 3.11!), but I’ve used Macintosh products for nearly as long (the first computer I willingly bought was a MacBook 440 with 4 MEGABYTES of memory!) and I’ve used (and enjoyed) Linux for the last 6 years or so (and every computer at home dual-boots). Plus, I have an Android cell phone and tablet, plus I own an Xbox 360 and Wii. So, when I speak about technology, understand that I use all kinds of different technologies and love them all.

All that being said, I came away from this morning’s keynote with Steve Ballmer being a) very impressed with him personally (see the end of the blog as to why) b) very impressed with how Microsoft is approaching businesses and its partners and c) fairly impressed by some of the products Microsoft products they have coming down the pipe. But, in the interest in building a little suspense, I’ll go through these in reverse order after I recap some numbers that highlight where Microsoft is today (these numbers come from this morning’s keynote, so I’m not exactly sure of the respective sources):

  • There are over 1 Billion Windows PCs out there – which is a bigger ecosystem than any other software-based ecosystem – including smart phones, tablets (including iPads), etc.
  • There have been more than 630 Million licenses of Windows 7 sold (also a huge number)
  • Every day, half a million Desktops move from Windows XP to Windows 7
  • In the enterprise, 50% of desktops run on Windows 7
  • On its first day of availability, Windows 8 Preview version enjoyed over 1 Million downloads
  • Every year, roughly 375 Million PCs are sold (a strong, on-going, opportunity)

Microsoft Products:

As expected, there was no shortage of Windows 8 news. As cited above, the downloads of their Windows 8 Preview has been very strong and it was said to be the most widely tested OS ever. Plus, they have many demos that used Intel 3rd Gen Core processors running Windows 8 including:

  • Acer Aspire S7 13” and 11” Ultrabooks (AMAZINGLY thin!)
  • ASUS convertible (a tablet that that plugs into a keyboard) that impressed me the most
  • Fujitsu Stylistic Q702 – an Ultrabook ready for the business environment
  • HP Spectre XT Pro – full featured notebook with all needed ports
  • Lenovo A720 – All-in-one, demoed with “Fresh Paint” Metro app for painting with a stylus
  • Lenovo “Yoga” – an Ultrabook that folds from “closed” through “laptop” and onto “tablet” mode

There were a few other demos, but the above shined the brightest, especially (in my personal opinion) the ASUS Convertible (I already have a Transformer TF-101 so I can appreciate this concept) and the Lenovo Yoga (which I’ll try to find on the show floor later). Additionally, Microsoft announced that, if consumers buy a Windows 7-based computer today, they will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only about 15 bucks (which seems very reasonable to me. Finally, it was disclosed that Windows 8 will RTM (be Released to Manufacturers) in the first week of August.

There was also a lot of talk about Office 365 (which apparently is growing faster than Office 2010), but is also yielded the worst pun of the Keynote: “And Burger King is shifting to Office 365 and you can imagine, they got a Whooper of a deal!” Still, some top-line numbers for Office is there is roughly 1B users worldwide, which would be a proud accomplishment for any product, but one obtained by very few. Plus, there was a disclosure about Office 365 Open, but that belongs in the next section.

They also yammered (see, they aren’t the only writers of bad puns) for a bit about recent acquisitions. The first one they discussed was Yammer and how they were excited about what it could bring to the world of workplace collaboration. It was mentioned that it allegedly already works with SharePoint, and when you consider it in concert with other acquisitions and products like Skype and Lync, the world of working together from across the world seems to be ready to take a leap forward. There was also a lot of time spent discussing the very recent announcement (as in this morning recent) that it was buying Perceptive Pixel, which is a maker of very large (i.e. >80”) displays that supports both Touch (fingers) and Stylus that runs Windows 8 natively out-of-the-box (although the company’s founder, Jeff Han, must have said the phrase “out-of-the-box” about 20 times in 10 minutes). Still, it was impressive and one’s mind automatically leapt to ways in which this could change things in businesses – in conference rooms and collaboration centers – as well as education institutions where this could both re-ignite the interest of kids in learning as well as improve the efficiency of the classroom.

How Microsoft Does Business:

This may just be my personal opinion, but it feels like Microsoft occasionally (or perhaps frequently) gets a bad rap. But, I’ve got to tell you, in a room with 16,000 other people (the last time I was in a show this be as 1985 for a Bryan Adams contest), the feelings towards Microsoft was nothing but positive.

Why? Some folks will poo-poo the fact that Microsoft makes money, but honestly, that is actually the point of all publicly traded companies. Apple makes money (gobs of it), Google makes money (even more gobs of it) and, almost by the definition of the word, all “successful” companies make money. That being said, one of the reasons that I have to believe there was so much love flowing around is that Microsoft is enabling all of its partners to make money, to make a living, to put food on the table for their families and kids. And, from what I can tell, Microsoft is getting even better. For example, it announced Office 365 Open, which will allow its partners to sell it directly to their customers and be responsible for the top-line revenue. That means that partners can get paid more immediately and bundle it with the rest of their invoice with things may or may not include other Microsoft products. Simply put, this makes it easier for partners to do business with Microsoft. And that “make money WITH me” mantra resonates very well, especially during such depressed economic times

Steve Ballmer:

First off, I’ve never seen Steve (do you think he’d mind if I call him “Steve”) speak live before. So, I have the very unscientific study of one data point, but I will say that I really liked what I saw. He had passion. He had enthusiasm. He had passion (yes, it was that much passion). But he was also, was a supportive executive. There were several times during the keynote when folks made mistakes and he just gently corrected them back on track. In addition, he had, what could only be considered, a catastrophic microphone failure. Not only did his label mic stop working, but the first two handheld mics he was handed also failed. Ironically, we could hear him fine when he was near his interview because he had so much passion (read: LOUD), that the other guy’s mic picked him up ok. But, he rolled with it, laughed about it, and moved on. Plus, his style of presenting wasn’t that of a preacher to his flock, but rather in a more informal setting, with an interviewer, so that it had a nice, conversational style, similar to many popular news shows. I thought that was a very nice change and I hope a lot of other CEOs follow this trend.

So, that’s it, day one is just about done – lots has been seen, many people have been met – and there is actually, a lot more I could write about all just from my first day, but I’ll end this here. Therefore, I’ll close with this simple (two-part) question: If you’re at #WPC12, what was the most impressive thing that you’ve seen OR, if you’re not at WPC12 – what would you like to hear about or see? Let me know in the comments below or hit me on Twitter: @CaptGeek

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