On the horizon
The year 2003 is a banner year for Microsoft Corporation as the company pours more money into research and development (R&D), ships several new releases including the first .NET-connected products, and steps up security efforts. The editors of Dell Insight asked Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about these topics and others, including the company's close partnership with Dell.
Dell Insight: What kind of innovation should enterprise customers expect from Microsoft in the next six months?
Steve Ballmer: This will be a great year for our customers and partners. We've made deep investments in research and development (R&D) over the last several years, and they're coming to fruition now with products that offer much greater operational efficiency and dependability. In April, we will launch Microsoft® Windows® Server 2003, the next major evolution of our server platform. It builds on the proven reliability, scalability, and manageability of Windows 2000 Server. It delivers a highly productive infrastructure for connected applications, networks, and XML Web services—from the workgroup to the data center.
We also plan to release Exchange Server 2003 in the middle of this year. It contains lots of new features and enhancements, based on customer feedback. It will help information workers be more productive and help IT managers deliver mission-critical messaging and collaboration services at lower cost.
This year, we're also releasing the new Microsoft Office System, Visual Studio® .NET 2003, and SQL ServerTM Enterprise Edition, plus new XML Web services technologies, a unified e-business environment, and InfoPath, which streamlines information gathering by teams and organizations. So lots of great things are happening.
DI: Microsoft is increasing its R&D spending this year by 11 percent. Why such a large increase at this time? Where will this money go?
SB: Innovation is at the core of our long-term business strategy-that's the reason we're increasing our R&D. Over the years, our R&D investments have produced groundbreaking innovations in speech and handwriting recognition, text display, digital media, software programming languages, and many other areas. We've pioneered next-generation information worker technologies for collaboration, real-time communication, mobility, and digital rights management.
We see lots of opportunities to deliver new and better solutions and services for customers—making computing more reliable and secure, delivering on the promise of Web services, helping information workers be more productive, and increasing customers' return on investment while reducing the complexity of their IT infrastructures. Some great work is coming out of our five research labs around the world. We have more than 700 researchers really pushing the envelope in terms of exploring future technologies and solutions, while also working with our product groups in the near term to incorporate exciting advances into products.
DI: How do customers get the most out of what they've already licensed, and be primed to add new hardware and software to make it all work together?
SB: Customers tell us that two things are very important: enhancing productivity and reducing total cost of ownership. We are passionate about both. They are a major focus for our work with industry partners such as Dell. We built Microsoft's enterprise software, including Windows Server 2003, to work well in a mixed environment because that is what our customers tell us they need. Totally homogenous data centers are extremely rare these days, so Microsoft's approach is: Don't rip and replace! Maximize your existing IT assets. If you have already invested in UNIX® or Linux® -based applications, you can continue to operate them while gaining the benefits of Windows Server 2003 and Windows-based applications—in the same environment.
DI: What key Microsoft products and initiatives demonstrate Microsoft's commitment to work with Dell to provide enterprise computing products that minimize TCO and maximize ROI?
SB: A specific example is our close collaboration with Dell to help small businesses reduce the complexity and cost of deploying a server-based environment. With the Windows platform, scenario-based solutions can deliver an integrated experience out of the box, which dramatically reduces the need for additional software and services to build solutions. And Windows is coupled with a comprehensive and integrated set of distributed computing services, application frameworks, and advanced tools, which give you single sign-on between applications, a common IT systems management infrastructure, and consistent user interfaces across many applications and other components. Backing up these tools is a global community of 750,000 independent software vendors and other Microsoft partners, 450,000 Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers, and 1.5 million Microsoft certified professionals providing support and services around the world.
DI: How does Windows Server 2003 support that vision?
SB: Businesses need a complete technology solution that is dependable, connected, productive, and economical. Windows Server 2003 adds to the productivity of businesses by increasing overall computing efficiency, connecting people in real time, and enabling IT administrators to have confidence in the stability of their networks.
DI: Please describe Microsoft's vision for .NET in enterprise environments and how partners will be critical to the platform's success.
SB: The goal of Microsoft .NET is to enable faster, more agile business integration, and deliver on the promise of information anytime, any place, on any device. Building on XML Web service standards, we're providing the ability to quickly build and use solutions that connect information, people, systems, and devices. That's the clear business value that Microsoft .NET helps partners deliver to their customers.
DI: Explain the importance of intellectual property, in Microsoft's view.
SB: Innovation is the fundamental component of progress and growth in the IT industry; it's the essential foundation for the delivery of great new products. Companies whose business is based on the commercial software model, such as Microsoft, engage in applied research to develop products that advance the state of technology. We generate jobs, profits, and tax revenues that boost the economy and that fund additional basic research in the process. Microsoft believes that protecting intellectual property is central to ensuring a continuous cycle of sustainable innovation that benefits customers and sustains the vitality of the IT industry.
DI: How can a customer make the right decisions in such a complex environment where the good news is that they have a lot of choices and the bad news is perhaps that they have too many choices?
SB: We think customer choice is a great thing. Our job is to simplify the process for customers so they can make the best-informed decisions for their businesses. Customers tell us that the Windows platform provides greater productivity, a safer investment, and the greatest value for their money.
DI: Please discuss Microsoft's efforts in the area of security.
SB: We have made important progress in the year since Bill Gates challenged Microsoft's employees to build a Trustworthy Computing environment for customers. In early 2002, we took the unprecedented step of stopping the development work of 8,500 Windows engineers while the company conducted 10 weeks of intensive security training and analysed the Windows code base. These efforts have begun to pay off.
We're eliminating vulnerabilities with offerings like Windows XP Service Pack 1. New products such as Windows Server 2003 also have gone through our Trustworthy Computing security review cycle. Looking ahead, we're working on a new hardware/software architecture for the Windows PC platform that will significantly enhance integrity, privacy, and data security.
Meanwhile, we're closely examining when to preconfigure products as "locked down," meaning that the most secure options are the default settings. We have updated and significantly expanded our enterprise security tools with Software Update Services (SUS) and the Systems Management Server 2.0 SUS Feature Pack. And responding to customer feedback, we've worked with industry professionals to develop a new security bulletin severity rating system, introduced new security bulletins designed for consumers, and begun developing an e-mail notification system that will enable customers to subscribe to the particular security bulletins they want. In the coming year, we will continue to work with customers, government officials, and industry partners to deliver more secure products and share our findings and knowledge about security.
DI: Specifically, what can customers expect to see as a result of the DellTM and Microsoft relationship in 2003?
SB: Dell and Microsoft both have proven individual histories of driving down costs for customers while providing best-of-breed products. Dell is participating significantly in the Windows Server 2003 launch. In the enterprise, customers will see Dell and Microsoft delivering enterprise-class solutions for Windows-based server consolidation, UNIX migration, Windows migration, and server application deployment including SQL Server and Exchange. We'll focus on key products such as Exchange, Windows Server, and SQL Server as well as Windows NAS storage solutions. It's a great alliance.