Analysts from Directions on Microsoft provided insights into the firm’s enterprise product plans.
An analyst team from Directions on Microsoft, an independent consultancy that has been tracking Microsoft for over 20 years, recently provided a glimpse of where Microsoft may be heading this year with a focus on the firm’s future enterprise product releases that may be useful to agency IT managers.
The team’s presentation, "Enterprise Priorities and Roadmap for 2015," was led by Rob Helm, the firm's managing vice president. Here’s a summary of the near hour-long presentation,which can be publicly accessed at this page.
Helm noted that Microsoft has been shifting its business model toward mobile and cloud services as the company seeks to replenish revenue from its now sliding Windows operating system market. The move encompasses both Android and iOS, in addition to Windows.
Microsoft's leading-edge Windows 10 client OS represents the company's direct attempt to regain lost mobile OS market share, Helm said. Microsoft will use its Outlook apps for Android and iOS as a subtle way to drive users more toward its Office 365 services.
Windows 10 will show up in the fourth quarter of this year. Helm said he expected it to hit release-to-manufacturing status in August, with a product release in October. So far, the Windows 10 preview version includes a revamped user interface, security and management improvements, plus a new browser called Spartan.
Microsoft is also expected to deliver faster software releases, especially with Windows 10. The company has also recently hinted at coming new "servicing branches" for organizations managing Windows 10 deployments, which may entail accepting different update paces.
Office apps and Office 2016
Microsoft is expected to ship its universal apps versions of Office when it ships Windows 10, according to Helm. These apps, touch-optimized versions of the Microsoft Office suite apps, were released this month at the preview stage. Helm described Office universal apps as having "a subset" of the Microsoft Office product suite capabilities, enabling quick edits.
While it's likely that an Office 365 subscription would be required for business use of the Office universal apps, Helm conceded that it's possible Microsoft would offer business use rights for free as well when it releases the Office universal apps products.
Microsoft recently announced its forthcoming Office 2016 productivity suite, which will be optimized for keyboard and mouse use. Helm noted that it's not clear yet whether Office 2016 will be available to run on Windows 7.
Mobile and management products
Microsoft will support mobile device management with its Enterprise Mobility Suite licensing, which includes rights to use Azure Active Directory, Azure Rights Management Services and Microsoft Intune, Helm said. Microsoft's upsell from the Enterprise Mobility Suite is its Enterprise Cloud Suite licensing option, which Microsoft rolled out on Dec. 1.
Microsoft likely will be pushing its subscription-based licensing model. The company possibly might charge more for its nonsubscription licenses, Helm speculated.
Helm said that an updated Microsoft Intune service is expected to ship in the first quarter of this year. Microsoft recently indicated that it plans to ship its Intune updates on a monthly basis, going forward.
The next System Center Configuration Manager product will get an update toward the end of 2015 to support Windows 10. Helm described Configuration Manager as "just a pretty front end" on Intune for managing devices. However, it was noted that Intune can't configure servers, so Configuration Manager is still needed for enterprise deployments.
During the Q&A portion, it was noted that the last System Center technical preview released by Microsoft did not include Configuration Manager. A Configuration Manager preview likely will be arriving sometime in the second half of this year.
Server and cloud products
Helm described Microsoft's server products as still catching up with its cloud products.
The next Windows Server product – Helm called it Windows Server 2015 – will include storage, virtualization and security improvements. A new Azure Pack "platform on premises" product also will ship.
The next Lync Server unified communications product will be called Skype for Business. Microsoft previously indicated that the product will roll out in the first half of this year. Microsoft is supposed to be adding the ability to use regular phones to connect with the Skype for Business enterprise voice service, but it may be struggling behind the scenes, possibly with telco carrier or regulatory issues, Helm suggested.
Microsoft has announced OneDrive for Business improvements and has plans to bundle this cloud-based file sharing service with Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions. However, other SharePoint Online capabilities have been quietly going away. Helm pointed to the SharePoint Server Newsfeed feature, which might get killed off by Microsoft in 2015.
Microsoft has typically pointed to Yammer, a cloud-based collaboration service, as its replacement, although there is no premises-based Yammer version. Helm expressed surprise at how slowly Yammer is getting integrated into Microsoft products.
On the cloud front, Microsoft Azure's platform-as-a-service operations will get improvements in 2015, including in areas such as data management, search and machine learning. It will get a couple of new components, including a new Workflow Engine and Microservice Framework.
The Microservice Framework is component technology designed to help Azure apps be built on reusable Web services, Helm said. Microsoft plans to use this Microservice Framework for its BizTalk line of services for apps and business-to-business services, he added.
The talk included more nuances than provided here. The Directions on Microsoft team is planning to update its roadmap publications in March, when it will also update its enterprise software and Azure roadmaps.
For those looking for updates throughout the year, check out the 2015 Microsoft Product Roadmap article at 1105 Media sister site RCPMag.com. Microsoft publishes an Office 365 Roadmap and a Cloud Platform Roadmap,"which sometimes show the changes it is planning, although they are not comprehensive lists.A longer version of this article originally appeared on Redmond, a sister site to GCN.
NEXT STORY: Hawaii rebuilds HR systems with cloud upgrade