Posts tagged "microsoft"

Is Microsoft's New Windows Phone 7 Smartphone Competition for iPhone?

winphone7_logo.jpg

The mobile space is always ready for a good dust-up, will Microsoft's (site) Windows Phone 7 be the one to shake the Apple tree?

One Ringtone to Rule them All?

Technology empires regularly come and go. When was the last time you heard the phrase "IBM PC", "Hayes Modem" or  "Sega Console"?.

In the mobile space, things seem to happen even quicker. PDAs — now smartphones — were long considered executive tinker toys. It is only in the last few years with BlackBerry, and then Apple's entry into the market (approaching a dominant 70% of the smartphone market between them) that cemented the idea of doing business on the phone.

Windows Phone 7 goes straight for the consumer with its bold, block-panel display, slick all-in-one interface and use of large font sizes. It all looks a million miles away from those HP iPAQ's that were de-riguer but much-despised before the rise of the BlackBerry.

The hype around the announcement is rather reminiscent of Windows 7 blowing PC users away after the botched launch of Windows Vista. It's a big improvement on Microsoft's existing product, therefore generates much noise, but still has to appeal to the wider phone market and picky real-world users. Even Microsoft staff seem loathe to drop their iPhones, to the annoyance of the head honchos.

phonewars.jpg
Microsoft has come a long way in interface design, but is it enough?

But can Microsoft and its many hardware partners (including; LG, Samsung, Garmin, Sony Ericsson, Dell HP and HTC) really storm the iPhone's market share in any meaningful manner?

A Brave New Rebirth

Apple, while hardly being innovative on the ideas front, has redefined the idea of apps and touch screens firmly in the consumer conscience and created a controlled environment to change the market.

Which brings us to the late market re-entrant that is Microsoft. Ever since the early PDAs and smartphones, Microsoft OS-based mobile devices have been clunky and boring to say the least. So, a total refresh was obviously needed. Something it took a brave decision to do, even as Windows 6.5 for smartphones was also in development. 

What the Experts Say

Mark Hattersley, Editor-in-Chief of Macworld UK, took some time to point out what he thinks are the pros and cons of the Microsoft's new play in the market.

The greatest strength is, of course, that it's Windows. Despite everything, that's still an operating system that many people are familiar with and integration with the desktop edition is always a strength Microsoft will have — especially integration with Office.

Beyond that key features such as tethering (available as standard on Windows Mobile phones) is something you have to pay for on an iPhone. Plus, of course, the OS supports a range of handsets giving consumers choice for things like keyboards, larger screens, haptic screens, and so on."

Too Little, Too Late?

Hattersley also points out the cons:

Weakness is simply timing, above all. Microsoft has been extremely slow to react to the iPhone, and Android, and it's hard to genuinely see a standout feature that Windows 7 Mobile has over the iPhone. The runaway success of Apple's App Store means that many iPhone owners have invested not just in hardware, but software, and it will be hard to convince them to lose all that for a phone that doesn't offer something substantial."

How does he think it will do in the overall marketplace? 

I think it'll struggle to take on Android, let alone the iPhone. Certainly for the next year or so. But Microsoft plays a long game and the mobile market is still incredibly new. I have no idea on numbers - shall we say"

Slightly more optimistic, Ben Harvell, editor of iCreate magazine, reckons

It seems the UI has more of a social bent than the iPhone which is a bonus for today's web-focused, social networking obsessed market. I also like the fact that (according to MS) all of the contacts I need and the information I'm after is available quickly and from the interface, not within individual apps. I would even go so far as to say I like the design! XBox Live integration will be a major deciding factor for a massive user base of gamers."

Under Pressure

The pressure is on Microsoft to get this right the first time. Apple got a lot of flack for issues with its early iPhones that have taken many updates and the recent 3GS model to put right. Apple still hasn't mastered multitasking, although that should be sorted by summer, and refuses to let Flash run.

Microsoft will not have the luxury of time (Zune, anyone?) on its side to get issues right. The phones, user interface, app store, the number of apps and marketing, all need to be 100% present and correct on launch day. 

Inter-Face-Off

On the plus side:

Range: Compared to Apple's single choice (barring memory sizes) of three different phone-types lets the buyer pick the phone of their choice:

  • Large touchscreen (iPhone)
  • Keyboard at the bottom model (Palm Treo-style)
  • Candybar or (possibly) slide-out keyboard (To be confirmed)

Office: Compatibility with SharePoint and Microsoft Office means instant access to most of the world's businesses.

Games: Linking into the Xbox Live brand could tempt gamers and the power of the SnapDragon CPU and portability of DirectX means a big gaming cross-over. Something that could produce better PSP-style gaming rather than the iPhone staples of cutesy time wasters.

On the minus side:

Brand: The name, "Windows Phone 7 Series" is already a confusing, jumbled, marketing loser. Hopefully, something snappier will be available by release — or phone makers will use their own branding — but that too will dilute the idea of a unified ecosystem which is where Apple has made its mark.

Late, late, late: Microsoft is so far behind the curve, to be almost off the chart.

Fortune Favors the Brave

Perhaps the biggest advantage Microsoft has is that a large core of phone users are gadget buyers who want the latest, coolest toys. It's this vocal minority of people who brought Apple into the market and they could do the same for Microsoft — if the product hits the right notes.

Time will tell if these people are Apple-followers in the Mac sense, or just a passing crowd willing to leave their iPhones behind.

Check it out for yourself:

 
Ballmer: 70% of Microsoft Employees are working on Cloud-based Projects

For a company that is known primarily for the desktop, new comments by CEO Steve Ballmer that 70% of Microsoft's employees are doing something "cloud-based or cloud-inspired" seems an odd shift in focus. But then, everyone is in a rush to the cloud these days. Why would Microsoft (site) be any different.

Spreading the Word on Cloud Computing

On March 4, Ballmer spoke at the University of Washington on the topic of cloud computing. He talked about how Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's Chief Software Architect, wrote a memo five years ago talking about the importance of the cloud, and how they were all "stimulated" by it. But, as he points out, Microsoft is really only scratching the surface of what they could be doing.

That being said, Ballmer went on to say that Microsoft, like many other tech companies out there, are "betting on the cloud". Which explains why 70% of the company is "doing something that is designed exclusively for the cloud, or is inspired to serve the five dimensions." And what 5 dimensions are these?

5 Key Dimensions of the Cloud

If you want to know where Microsoft's focus is, Ballmer offered five key opportunities, "five key dimensions in the cloud, five key opportunities, five key things that I think need your best ideas, your best thoughts, your best invention, commercial inventions, academic inventions, product inventions to really drive forward."

  1. The cloud creates opportunities and responsibilities
  2. The cloud learns and helps you learn, decide and take action
  3. The cloud enhances your social and professional interactions
  4. The cloud wants smarter devices
  5. The cloud drives server advances that, in turn, drive the cloud

We already know what cloud-based opportunities Microsoft has been working on: Office Web Apps, Microsoft Azure, SQL Azure, LiveID, SharePoint and Exchange. And it's pretty sure there are some other things happening in Redmond that we don't know about.

A year from now, Ballmer says that 70% of employees working on cloud-based projects will be 90%.

You can read the entire transcript from his speech, or if that's just a little too long a read (because it kind of is).

 

The Cloud Creates Opportunity

To quote Ballmer,

this cloud thing is just another big step that the world is buzzing about, and thinking about, that will create the opportunities for all the folks in this room to do important research, to build important products, to drive forward, and do fantastic things."

 There isn't a day that goes by that we aren't talking about cloud computing in some way, whether it's a new service, new infrastructure or research on organizations today are thinking about or doing with the cloud. Ballmer is right, the cloud does create opportunity. How is your organization taking advantage of it?

Is Cloud-Based SharePoint 2010 a Viable Enterprise Option?

A recent paper released by Forrester Research (site) entitled SharePoint 2010: A More Viable Cloud Option argues that if you are looking at deploying SharePoint off the premises, with the introduction of SharePoint 2010 (site),  now is a good time to do it.

The problem with SharePoint Online until now, report author Rob Koplowitz says, is that cloud-based SharePoint, either standalone or as part of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), demonstrates a number of limitations compared to an on-premise version. However, SharePoint 2010 closes the gap in functionality between the deployment options and opens up SharePoint Online to a wider range of applications.

And while there may be still some differences between SharePoint 2010 Online and the on-premise version, the report foresees Microsoft continuing to revisit the viability of including those missing features over time.

SharePoint Environment Improvements

In January, when we talked about SharePoint 2010 and the version of SharePoint Online that would run with it , we noted that the principal improvements would be the result of the multi-tenancy features that would see the online version coming a lot closer to the on-premise version  than the online version based on SharePoint 2007 did.

While the new version is unlikely to reach parity with this release, Koplowitz says, there are key improvements to the environment that will make SharePoint Online more viable for more organizations.

These include:

  • SharePoint Online Dedicated: Microsoft is to introduce a review process that will make code customization far more straightforward and accessible. Additionally, customizations that fall within the new “sandbox” definition will not require review at all.
  • SharePoint Online Standard: This edition will better align with the new server offering. The result is that users will be able to benefit from new capabilities including: My Sites, tagging, tag clouds, activity feeds, Office Web Apps, business intelligence, records management, forms amongst others.

Some functionality will continue to require an on-premise implementation. Microsoft (site)  has said it will be looking this over time. Also, easier integration with other internal applications often requires on-premise deployment.

SharePoint Online Deployment?

In light of the improvements, and because of remaining short-comings, the report has four recommendations for companies that might be considering taking advantage of the relatively low cost of online deployment.

These are:

  • Security and Compliance: Work with you legal and HR departments to determine if it is feasible to store data outside the enterprises on-site information store as there may be issues with compliance or security. However, even if the event that there are such issues, SP Online Dedicated may still be possible, while multi-tenant probably won’t.
  • SharePoint 2010 Online functionality: If you have not already deployed an on-premise version but considering SharePoint, then the costs for an online version might be worth looking at, including the costs of hiring or retracing staff as SharePoint particularly as functionality with SP 2010 is greatly enhanced.
  • SharePoint On-Premise and Online: Companies that already have SharePoint may take advantage of cloud-based services to augment an existing on-premise deployment (if only for reasons of cost). Common scenarios would include storing sensitive data on-premise while less sensitive business content could be stored in the cloud.
  • Partial Deployment: Another scenario is deploying a small on-premise SharePoint implementation to take advantage of advanced capabilities, while the majority of more commoditized capabilities like workspaces and portal content could be provisioned in the cloud.

If the principal reasons for not opting for SharePoint Online have been its limitations, then now is the time to rethink your options. While SharePoint Online based on SP 2010 is not the equivalent of its on-premise relative, it is close and Microsoft promise to keep looking at it.

If you are interested in reading more on this the report is available to buy from Forrester for US US$ 499.

Google's Marketplace Spells Trouble for Microsoft

Google set off an enterprise-tastic bomb last night when they announced the opening of Google Marketplace, an online store for business apps. Now, we can’t help but wonder, is Microsoft an impending casualty?  

The Strip

We noted Microsoft’s attempt to be “the very best option” for cloud lovers late last year when they announced their app marketplace for Windows Azure. Dubbed PinPoint, the online store helps users find related experts, applications and professional services.

In addition to PinPoint, Microsoft released an information marketplace called Dallas. This part of Azure is designed to provide developers with content (data, imagery, real-time web services) from third-party providers through clean, consistent APIs. It’s the same idea as Salesforce's AppExchange and Apple's infamous iPhone App store.

Imagine all those little stores residing next to each other in a virtual strip mall. Combined, they form what is undoubtedly the largest directory of IT companies and their offerings we’ve got. Now, picture a Texas-sized, G-shaped supermarket dropping right down in the center of it all.

Google’s Mega Outlet

Google's marketplace will connect developers with their whopping 25 million Apps users and the 2 million businesses that have gone Google. Better yet, from what we can tell, the store is simple and straightforward. Here are some high points from the presentation:

  • Google says everything businesses need is now in the cloud
  • Developers don’t have to use App Engine to build—you can use whatever you want
  • Google asks for a one-time fee of US$ 100, and a 20% rev share
  • Big G already has Over 50 launch partners, including Zoho, Box.net, Atlassian and Aviary

 

This is nice compared to Microsoft which splits its market into two sectors, and even Salesforce.com, which forces you to build your apps on their platform.

 

Microsoft, Oh, Microsoft

This is the second time Google has stepped on Microsoft's toes in the last handful of days.
The first was G's acquisition of DocVerse, a startup that allows people to collaborate with MS Office documents online. 

“The future of productivity applications is in the cloud,” wrote Google Enterprise marketing specialist, Ellen Petry Leanse, on the company’s official blog. “…we recognize that many people are still accustomed to desktop software. So as we continue to improve Google Docs and Google Sites as rich collaboration tools, we’re also making it easier for people to transition to the cloud, and interoperate with desktop applications like Microsoft Office."

Microsoft is doing what it can (moving to the cloud was one of the most popular topic's at the SharePoint 2009 Conference in October). For starters, the new SharePoint Online—a solution similar to today's SharePoint Online, but for internet websites— is slated to come out with SharePoint 2010. 

How much do you want to bet Microsoft will announce a marketplace for SharePoint Online sometime in the near future?

Until then, do you see the Google Marketplace as the very best option? Does Microsoft stand a chance? Let us know what you think.

Document Management Roll-up: Can't Let Go of the Paper, Has SharePoint Met Its Match?

This week there’s been a couple of wild claims doing the circuit, not least of which is the demise of SharePoint at the hands of Salesforce.com’s Chatter, while Microsoft gets social with Outlook.

Outlook Gets Social

The promised link between Microsoft Outlook and social networking has finally happened with Microsoft reporting this week that software updates between LinkedIn (site) and Outlook have just been released in beta.

Designed for Office 2010, the new set of applications that will also include email links for Facebook (site) and MySpace (site) will go on general release later this year.

The LinkedIn connection to Outlook lets people using the email program stay in tune with any changes in job status, contact information or affiliations being shared by friends at the career-focused online community.

The company says that the new connections are all about bringing, friends, family and colleagues into your inbox and enables you to communicate with them and see their social activities at the same time.

If you’ve been following us here you will be aware of the problems that managing unstructured content in emails is causing enterprises.

Likely that the same companies can hardly wait to thank Microsoft for this new Outlook ability. The test version of Outlook is available online at the Office website.

SharePoint To Be Killed By Chatter?

That Salesforce.com (site) has launched the private beta of Chatter, an enterprise collaboration tool for the cloud will stir some interest; that some of those involved in the private beta say Chatter heralds the end of SharePoint should cause more than a stir.

The end of legacy collaboration software like Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus Notes is here," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO, salesforce.com. "Consumer Internet services like Facebook and Twitter have shown us better ways to collaborate …".

Muscle-flexing aside, Chatter does come with a number of document collaboration tools, amongst other features, that should be useful for those with document management issues.

In this respect the document sharing and security settings are of interest. With Chatter, users can instantly and securely search the Chatter feed to access, share and even download the documents and other information files via an Internet browser.

It also enables users to manage who has access to what information based on Force.com platform security settings, which decides what information can be seen by who.

If you’re interested in more, you can find out more from the website, but nothing there would seem to back up Benioff’s claim that SharePoint is on its way out!

We Can’t Leave Paper Alone

According to AIIM (site) office staff just won’t give up on paper copies, despite the wide availability of scanners and document management systems.

A recent survey by the content management organization found that 62% of important paper documents are still archived as paper. Even when documents are sent off for archive scanning, 25% are photocopied beforehand “just in case” and less than a third of the paper originals are systematically destroyed after scanning.

Despite the fact that the legal admissibility of scanned paper documents has been established for nearly 20 years and is nailed down in legislation and standards around the world, there is still this suspicion among users that they may need to produce the original paper copy at some stage, the study says.

In the survey, 70% of the respondents agreed with the statement, “Users feel that paper records are needed for legal reasons.” Even at the organizational level, in 25% of businesses the legal admissibility of scanned documents is still seen as an issue.

According to AIIM president John Mancini, we still haven’t tapped into the real potential savings of using document management software, because we just can’t let the paper go.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can download the research from the AIIM website.

How Is Your Records Management?

Something else from AIIM this week that might help companies see how effective their records management software: take AIIM’s quick, easy online assessment to find out what stage of records management competency your organization is in, and then learn more about that stage, its risks and the benefits of progressing to the next.

Participants will be asked 13 questions in order to determine their organization's Records Management competency. Once the assessment is completed, participants can download the Solution Brief for their identified stage which includes information on:

  • Current state of records management
  • The risks of your current state
  • The benefits of progressing to the next stage.

And it’s all free.

Iron Mountain Adds Archiving

We couldn’t let this week go by with some mention of the acquisition of Mimosa Systems by Iron Mountain for an estimated US$ 112 million in cash.

Iron Mountain is a major player in the information management market with this deal providing it with an on-premise content archiving solution — in this case Mimosa NearPoint — to complement their cloud based offering.

Mimosa NearPoint is an email archiving and eDiscovery solution. Version 4 was brought to market last June, offering an integrated content archive that includes not only email, but also content in blogs, wikis, documents and more. It also improved content search, case management and came with a new user interface and data capture methodology.

It's these capabilities along with being able to now capture and manage content from additional devices like desktops, laptops and systems like SharePoint that caused Iron Mountain to choose Mimosa.

Microsoft And Yahoo Search Deal Gets Regulatory Approval

Microsoft  (site) and Yahoo! (site) have been given the final approval by the EU to go ahead with a partnership that was agreed to last July. That partnership will see Yahoo’s search results being powered by Microsoft Bing for a cut of the ad revenues.

The deal has also been agreed to by US regulators without any conditions seeing the two take control of 30% of the search market — the other 70% of which is controlled by Google.

A joint statement by the companies said: "While Microsoft will provide the underlying platform, both companies will continue to create different, compelling and evolving experiences, competing for audience, engagement and clicks."

By combining the two, Yahoo! will take over the search advertising work of Microsoft saving them the cost of running huge spidering centers, while Bing will provide all the links for every Yahoo search.

Like all such deals at the moment, the original agreement announced last summer is designed to cut costs for both companies and increase revenue share, which should see some improvement as the combined networks should be considerably more attractive to advertisers than they would be operating on their own.

Microsoft and Yahoo will begin the transition of algorithmic search and have set a goal of completing that effort in at least the United States by the end of 2010.

The companies also said they hope to make significant progress transitioning U.S. advertisers and publishers prior to the 2010 holiday season, but may wait until 2011 if they determine that the transition will be more effective after the holiday season.

All global customers and partners are expected to be transitioned by early 2012.

Internet Explorer 6 Cutbacks Continue

As the day draws nearer for Google Apps to drop Internet Explorer 6 support (March 1), other companies are following suit.

Internet Explorer 6 Sucks

Salesforce.com and Atlassian are the latest to kick IE6 to the curb. On Atlassian’s side, it was stated on the forums that IE6’s time is up as of the JIRA 4.2 launch date (Q3, 2010). As for Salesforce.com, a mass e-mail was sent out to customers:

“Multiple security vulnerabilities in IE6 have been exploited over the years. The most recent attacks against Google, Yahoo, and other companies specifically targeted vulnerabilities easily accessible in IE6 but much more difficult to exploit in IE7 and IE8—leading the Microsoft Security Response Centre to recommend that users of IE6 upgrade to a newer version of Internet Explorer.

And, in case that wasn’t enough to hammer their point in: “Of all of our supported browsers, IE6 provides the slowest and least rewarding user experience for our customers.”

Moreover, it looks like social networking is getting in some punches as well—mainly Facebook, which recently publicly prompted its users to upgrade to newer versions of IE. 

Not enough to convince you to make the switch? Here's a visual from the exo.performance.network:

exo_ie_performance.jpg

As you can see, even though IE6 is floundering, IE8 isn't doing half bad. Wrote the research staff on the exo.performance.network blog

Current data from the exo.repository shows a dramatic spike in IE 8.0 adoption, with over 70% of Windows XP systems - sampled from the exo.performance.network's IT-centric community of nearly 23,000 registered sites - now running Microsoft's latest web browser. This compares to the less than 10% of XP systems that are still running the aging IE 6.0, and the roughly 20% who are stuck on the in-between version, IE 7.0.

Not that Simple

As we said before, unfortunately it's just not that easy for some folks to switch browsers. For larger organizations and companies, mass testing and deployment of a new browser can be extremely time-consuming and expensive. Also, Microsoft has shown no intention of dropping support early. 

"…we committed to supporting the IE included with Windows for the lifespan of the product," said IE's General Manager Dean Hachamovitch. "We keep our commitments. Many people expect what they originally got with their operating system to keep working whatever release cadence particular subsystems have."

But we still can't help but wonder—considering IE6's rapid decline, will Microsoft sing a different tune before 2014 when support for Windows XP is scheduled to end?

SocialFest: Building Enterprise 2.0 Apps on SharePoint

In a continued effort to extol the virtues of the upcoming SharePoint 2010 (site) platform, Microsoft created a special competition for seven startups in their BizSpark program. The competition? In one week create an Enterprise 2.0 solution on the SharePoint 2010 platform. Here are the results.

Coding Enterprise 2.0 Apps

At the end of January, for 1 week, seven startups involved in Microsoft's BizSpark program got to travel to Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus to participate in a special competition called SocialFest. The goal? To build, in just one week, an Enterprise 2.0 application on top of SharePoint 2010.

They didn't do it alone. The startups had round the clock support from SharePoint engineers, and apparently a lot of pizza.

Who were the startups? And what did they build?

  • Cortex Intelligence: A text mining company who also does sentiment analysis created a market intelligence service.
  • Confer: A communications platform that includes features like micro-blogging, status updates and real time chat extended their micro-blogging platform into the SharePoint installation.
  • Calinda Software: A company that supports the use of email, built a "mail space" grouping related conversations.
  • Huddle: A B2B workspace platform, extended their solution into SharePoint 2010 allowing enterprise teams to integrate external users into their workspace and enable the synchronization of document libraries into the Huddle network or other SharePoint sites.
  • Leverage Software: A provider of enterprise social networks created DesignSpaces, a solution that analyzes email and extract and organizes relevant data.
  • Liase: Another startup that focuses on getting relevant information out of email, extended its solution into SharePoint by doing real-time updates of information into Task/Issues Lists, Discussions, Calendars and Documents.
  • Loqu8: A company that integrates data lookup for things like lexicons and other references, integrated their solution into a pop-up that shows SharePoint 2010 lists and search results in the context of the work they are doing.

Now these all seem like interesting and useful Enterprise 2.0 applications. But only one gets to go home a winner. That winner was chosen by a panel of industry experts and the investor community, including Microsoft's own Christin Finn and Tom Rizzo.

You can check out videos from the founders of all the companies who participated and read a few blog posts on their experiences.

SMB Tech Rollup: Security Concerns, Cloud Integrations, Collab Tools

Microsoft and Intuit are getting together in the cloud, HP and Cisco could be helping SMBs with new pricing arrangements, and Spigit is focusing on better collaboration tools.

Many SMBs Concerned With IT Security

Nearly finished with the outlooks for 2010, but still one or two more in relation to SMBs worth noting. The latest set of trends is from Forrester Research (site)  which shows that a large percentage of SMBs will significantly increase their spending on new IT security technologies in 2010.

The findings are contained in two reports: The State Of Enterprise IT Security And Emerging Trends: 2009 To 2010 and The State Of SMB IT Security And Emerging Trends: 2009 to 2010

They show that 37% of SMBs expect to increase investment in security focused technologies. While data security is the largest budget item for IT organizations, the greatest spending increases are in the area of network security, where 40% of enterprises and 36% of SMBs expect to spend more in 2010.

Nearly half of all enterprises (46%) were concerned about smartphones, while 38% were concerned about Web 2.0 technologies. More than 80% — large and small — identified managing vulnerabilities and complex threats as a high priority in the coming year.

Forrester's survey of nearly 2,200 enterprise and SMB business executives and technology decision-makers in North America and Europe is part of Forrester's Business Data Services (BDS) series.

And SMBs Are Also Embracing The Cloud

SMBs are becoming more sophisticated in their technology purchases and are buying into solutions like SaaS and managed services, new research from The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) reveals.

The survey of more than 400 SMBs across the United States found that nearly 30% of them plan to implement SaaS solutions in 2010 to lower costs and maintain their competitive edge. That’s up from 22% and 14% respectively in the two prior years.

Thirty percent of SMBs say they intend to implement managed services solutions in 2010. It also showed that 42% of SMBs do not have a formal IT department, relying instead on workers handling IT needs on a part-time basis.

The CompTIA study also indicates SMBs are placing increasing importance on technology solutions that drive revenues and have a direct, positive impact on the customer’s experience. This is reflected in their growing adoption of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and other such solutions in 2009.

CompTIA’s Third Annual SMB IT Spending Trends study is available at no cost to CompTIA member companies here.

Microsoft And Intuit Integrate Cloud Services 

Intuit (site) and Microsoft (site) have recently announced that they plan to integrate the capabilities of their cloud services platforms and create new opportunities for software developers to deliver and market Web applications to small business customers through the Intuit App Center.

Integrating the Intuit Partner Platform and Microsoft Windows Azure platform will enable developers and channel partners to deliver solutions to the millions of employees within businesses that use QuickBooks financial software.

In addition, the two companies will provide small businesses with Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity applications via the Intuit App Center. Intuit will name Windows Azure as a “preferred platform” for small business cloud application development on the Intuit Partner Platform. The free Windows Azure software development kit (SDK) for Intuit Partner Platform is available today.

Cisco And HP Go Head To Head For SMBs

Cisco Capital has just announced a three-year, zero-percent financing offer for SMBs in the United States for all Cisco products and services from US$ 1,000 up to US$ 250,000.

The zero-percent financing is available for U.S SMBs to help make technology investments in Cisco (site)  hardware, software and bundled services, and allows qualifying customers lease what they want from Cisco, financed for a 36-month period with no interest, and then own it after that.

The day Cisco announced it, HP (site) said that it would be extending its three-year, zero percent financing program for SMBs another quarter, past its end date of January 31. HP's three-year SMB financing program was first announced in January 2009. Like Cisco's program, it covers financing for 36 months at zero percent interest rate.

HP's program, however, extends to US$ 150,000, and doesn't cover services or software it also requires implementations to be 100% HP equipment to qualify.

Spigit Offers SaaS Collaboration For SMBs

California-based Spigit (site) has just launched WE by Spigit, a SaaS collaboration platform specifically for SMBs that the company hopes will give their clients a tool to reduce new product’s time to market through easy idea sharing.

WE by Spigit enables up to 500 employees to share, collaborate on and refine ideas in a common innovation space. Visibility within the space is enhanced with tracking mechanisms for top-rated and new ideas, as well as ideas meeting each individual's specific criteria.

It also comes with an analytics engine that shows both the top ideas and top contributors based on 360 degree community feedback, while workflow features ensures that everyone can have their say in regards ideas and projects.

In effect, what it does is to integrate social collaboration with traditional workflow and analytics and expanding companies' sources of innovation and reducing time to implementation for good ideas.

Get SharePoint 2010 Up and Running with VM from Microsoft

Excited to try out SharePoint 2010 (site) but not exactly sure how to get started? Microsoft is helping with the release of a free 2010 Information Worker Demonstration Virtual Machine (Beta).

Get a Demo Going Quickly

If you are a true die-hard SharePoint developer, you may prefer to do all the heavy lifting yourself. So you would download all the required software and run each install separately configuring it all as you go. But not everyone has the time (or is crazy when an easier solution is before them). And Microsoft does want people taking SharePoint 2010 for a test drive.

So they offer Virtual Machines that you can download and get to work. But there's a lot more than SharePoint 2010 in this package. It contains the entire set of tools you would need for an information worker solution, including, Office 2010, Visual Studio 2010, Communication Server 2007, Exchange Server and Project Server.

Which means you have a full environment to demonstrate all the capabilities of SharePoint and its interaction with the other Microsoft software. How the integration works is something you will likely get asked by customers and potential customers as you demo the platform.

The Download Details

The 2010 Information Worker Demonstration Virtual Machine (a beta release), actually contains two virtual machines.

Virtual Machine "a":

  1. Windows Server 2008 SP2 Standard Edition x64, running as an Active Directory Domain Controller for the “CONTOSO.COM” domain with DNS and WINS
  2. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 SP2 Enterprise Edition with Analysis, Notification, and Reporting Services
  3. Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007 R2
  4. Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 Ultimate Edition
  5. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise Edition Beta 2
  6. Microsoft Office Web Applications Beta 2
  7. FAST Search for SharePoint 2010 Beta 2
  8. Microsoft Project Server 2010 Beta 2
  9. Microsoft Office 2010 Beta 2
  10. Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2

Virtual machine “b” contains:

  1. Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Evaluation Edition x64, joined to the “CONTOSO.COM” domain
  2. Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Active directory has been pre-configured over 200 “demo” users with metadata in an organizational structure.

There are a number of considerations for performance and a number of instructions to get the VMs up and running. So make sure you read the details prior to doing anything.

Looking for Something Simpler?

So this is great, and anyone who has the required operating system and RAM will likely use it. But for those who want to do it themselves with a much similar install (which means SharePoint 2010 only), here are a few suggestions: