WPC 2010 Brings Windows 7 SP1, InTune Beta 2, SBS News, More

I wasn't able to attend this week's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference because of a last minute change to my work-related commitments. And that's too bad. I love Washington D.C., where WPC is being held this year. But more important, of course, WPC has offered up a ton of news from a variety of Microsoft product groups. In fact, WPC has become such a hotbed for announcements in recent years that it's largely replaced PDC (Professional Developers Conference) and WINHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) as the most important stealth Microsoft event.

Where to start?

Service Pack for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. If you've been waiting to check out SP1, it's available now in Beta form. Remember, however, that SP1 doesn't offer much for Windows 7. It is, however, a major update for R2, with new features like Dynamic Memory for Hyper-V and RemoteFX.

Windows Small Business Server 7 and "Aurora." I've been getting increasingly frantic emails about the future of Windows Small Business Server, since the current version is based on Windows Server 2008 and shipped years ago. I've been biting my tongue for months, but can now discuss the fact that Microsoft is updating the SBS product line with not one but two new products based on the Server 2008 R2 codebase. The first, called Windows SBS 7, is a traditional SBS product with on-premise solutions that offers a logical upgrade path for current SBS customers. The other, currently codenamed Aurora, takes SBS where I believe it needs to go: To the cloud. Microsoft calls it is a "cross-premise" solution because it offers the on-premise services that make sense--storage, ID management through Active Directory, security, and so on--but lets customers mix and match with the cloud services--read: hosted Exchange and SharePoint--that they need.


I am particularly excited about SBS "Aurora" and will reviewing this product as soon as possible. For now, if you want to learn a bit more about either SBS update, check out my preview.

Windows InTune Beta 2. We just discussed Microsoft's in-beta Windows InTune management service last week, and this week Microsoft provided a major update, releasing the Beta 2 version of the product and announcing pricing. Like Beta 1, InTune Beta 2 is a public beta, and like Beta 1, it will only be made available to a limited audience, so sign up fast if you want to check it out. (That said, the pool is bigger this time, with 10,000 open slots available in Beta 2.)

Windows InTune Beta 2 comes with some new functionality, but the big news this time around is that Microsoft will provide a multi-account management console so that partners that sell and service this product will be able to manage multiple accounts through a single location. It was a big feature request, I bet.

As for pricing, Microsoft will make InTune available to paying customers in early 2011 for $11 per PC per month. This cost includes the InTune cloud management service with integrated functionality, as expected, but it also includes Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights for each covered PC. Additionally, customers that license InTune can also license the excellent and diverse Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for an additional $1 per PC. MDOP provides a number of on-premise client management tools that, in Microsoft's words, "complete" what InTune offers from the cloud.

Slate PCs. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pledged at WPC this week that Microsoft's partners--including heavyweight, tier-1 PC maker partners like Dell, Samsung, and Toshiba--would ship Slate PCs (and a variety of other Tablet PC types) by the end of the year. These PCs will run Windows 7 and, unlike the Apple iPad market leader, will provide business solutions as well as consumer offerings.

Of course, Ballmer previously pledged--at CES 2010 in January--that these Slate PCs would appear this year. The difference is that in January, Ballmer was showing off an HP Slate PC that is now in limbo, either because of the unexpected success of the iPad or, more likely, because HP is going to forego Windows 7 and go with Palm's WebOS instead. (HP purchased Palm a few months back.) I think it's safe to assume that HP's Slate won't ship in a Windows 7 version.

Windows Phone. Microsoft is gearing up to deliver Windows Phone 7 by the end of the year--in October, according to one particularly loose-lipped executive--and this week, the software giant delivered the first beta version of its Windows Phone developers tools. (The previous versions were categorized as CTP, for Community Technical Preview.) This includes a completely integrated version of Expression Blend (allowing you to graphically design Windows Phone apps) and a near-final version of the Windows Phone SDK, among other tools.

As exciting, perhaps, Microsoft will begin shipping prototype Windows Phone devices to developers next week, allowing them to test their new applications on actual (not production quality) hardware. Check out the Windows Phone Developer blog if you want to be included, though understand that only a limited number of devices are available.