Shanen Boettcher, Microsoft general manager of Windows product management for the enterprise, provides an update via the Windows Vista blog about the company's recent gains with a stealth set of tools that are already transforming how businesses deploy and manage Windows desktops. What he's tip-toeing around, however, is that some of these tools--the SoftGrid-based Application Virtualization and the recently-acquired Kidaro-based Enterprise Desktop Virtualization products--will form the basis for Microsoft's backwards compatibility story going forward. Yes, it's all about virtualization, and I've got a lot to write about this in the upcoming weeks. But for now, let's see what's going on right now from a bigger picture perspective:

While there are many facets to the Optimized Desktop, the framework is based on technologies that enable decoupling the traditional desktop stack of hardware, operating system, applications, data, settings and user profiles, making desktop management more efficient and easing change and user migration.

With Windows Vista, Microsoft Optimized Desktop Pack (MDOP) and System Center, companies can create a flexible desktop environment - one where users can log on to any managed PC connected to the corporate network and have the same familiar environment and access to applications and data, while enabling IT departments to reduce costs and deliver applications and data services that are compliant with their data security and regulatory requirements.

We have officially finalized the acquisition of Kidaro Technologies, whose products enable a seamless combination of applications running from within both a host and guest OS. This technology will help enable end users to run applications from multiple versions of Windows at the same time, with seamless windowing and menus, and without the confusion of logging into and seeing multiple virtual machine desktops. The product teams are working closely with our new colleagues from Kidaro to incorporate the desktop virtualization technologies into MDOP in the first half of 2009, under the new product name Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization.

We've created five Windows Optimized Desktop Scenarios that outline solutions for different types of customers. It's important to realize that no "one size" desktop fits every user's needs. These scenarios highlight how you can use OS, application and user state virtualization to deliver very flexible yet manageable environments for your users:

By examining the different user scenarios within your organization, and taking advantage of technologies such as BitLocker Drive Encryption, Folder Redirection, Offline Files, Microsoft Application Virtualization and Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD), you can find the right balance of end-user flexibility and IT management and control.

There's been a lot of silliness lately about how developers aren't taking advantage of new Vista technologies (and some corresponding history rewriting about how Mac OS X developers are supposedly doing much better with new Leopard technologies). But the truth is, that stuff doesn't matter: What's more relevant is that Microsoft is addressing issues that actually matter to its paying customers. No, it's not "exciting" in the way that a shiny new bauble can be. But this stuff is important and, I think, a real differentiater for Microsoft now and in the future.