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October 30, 2009

Microsoft drops Office Accounting products

Posted by David Hunter at 11:32 AM ET.

Wave goodbye to Microsoft’s foray into small business accounting software. Today they pulled the plug on their Office Accounting family:

Starting November 16, Microsoft is ending distribution and sales of its Microsoft Office Accounting product. Company officials began notifying customers of the decision on October 30.

All Microsoft Office Accounting products in the UK and North America are affected by the decision, including Office Accounting Express, Office Accounting Standard, Office Accounting Professional, Office Accounting Professional Plus, Office Accounting 3-user and Small Business Accounting.

Microsoft officials said that existing Office Accounting customers will get five years of mainstream, free support and five years of extended, paid support. Those who recently bought the product can return it for a refund within 30 days of purchase.

There are more details in the Office Accounting Discontinuation FAQs including a bit of gallows humor:

… we have determined that existing free templates within Office used with Excel was a better option for small businesses, and the Microsoft Dynamics ERP products were appropriate for mid-range organizations.

When free templates for Office and Excel spreadsheets are better than your small business accounting product, it really is time to close up shop. A more pertinent rationale is that Microsoft was never able to get traction in a market with strong existing players, notably Intuit’s QuickBooks.

Filed under Coopetition, Intuit, Microsoft, Office, Office Accounting

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October 22, 2009

Microsoft releases Windows Vista SP3, calls it Windows 7

Posted by David Hunter at 12:04 PM ET.

Today’s the big day for Microsoft’s client operating system crew – Windows 7 is now generally available:

Today Microsoft Corp. announced the worldwide availability of its new Windows 7 operating system. Windows 7 delivers on a simple premise: make it easier for people to do the things they want on a PC. The new operating system offers a streamlined user interface and significant new features that make everyday tasks easier and allow people to get the most out of computers of all styles and sizes.

Er, about those new Windows 7 features:

Best of all, Windows 7 represents a departure from Microsoft’s usual “success is measured by the length of the feature list” philosophy. This time around, it was, “Polish, optimize and streamline what we’ve already got.”

Rather like a service pack, eh? Yes there is new eye candy in Windows 7, but wariness of antitrust regulators forced some standard applications to be dropped along the way:

Finally, out of fear of antitrust headaches, Microsoft has stripped Windows 7 of some important accessory programs. Believe it or not, software for managing photos, editing videos, reading PDF documents, maintaining a calendar, managing addresses, chatting online or writing e-mail doesn’t come with Windows 7.

What kind of operating system doesn’t come with an e-mail program?

Instead, you’re supposed to download these free apps yourself from a Microsoft Web site. It’s not a huge deal; some companies, including Dell, plan to preinstall them on new computers. But a lot of people will be in for some serious confusion — especially when they discover that the Windows 7 installer has deleted their existing Vista copies of Windows Mail, Movie Maker, Calendar, Contacts and Photo Gallery. (Mercifully, it preserves your data.)

Some good news is that since Windows 7 is Vista SP3, the device driver model did not change and Vista device drivers will work for the most part on Windows 7. However, you really should hit Microsoft’s Web site and download  the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to check your Vista system for incompatibilities before upgrading. For example, I have an Epson scanner that apparently needs an update.

Finally, if I seem a little grumpy about Windows 7 – I’m not really. It seems like the operating system Vista should have been and would have been if not for a development catastrophe. I fully expect that businesses who were reluctant to adopt Vista will rapidly get on board since the defects of usability and compatibility have been remedied (by time if nothing else in the latter case).

What I do find irritating is that Vista users are being charged for what is effectively a service pack. Through no fault of their own they purchased an operating system that wasn’t finished yet. Admittedly Vista SP1 and SP2 helped, but now that Vista is finally finished Microsoft has slapped a different brand on it and is charging for the upgrade.

Filed under Microsoft, OS - Client, Windows 7, Windows Vista

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October 21, 2009

Microsoft releases Beta 2 of Visual Studio 2010 and .NET FX 4 on the way to March 2010 GA

Posted by David Hunter at 1:49 PM ET.

Microsoft’s Developer Division has a lot on its plate: Windows 7, Cloud Computing, SharePoint 2010, Office 2010, and the yearning to somehow get Visual Studio Team System to make inroads on IBM’s Rational application lifecycle management tools. Visual Studio 2010 and the accompanying .NET Framework (.NET FX 4) is Microsoft’s answer and this week they announced Beta 2 and a scheduled general availability of March 22, 2010.

You will note, of course, that VS2010 lags Windows 7 and that is a problem for developers who really want to be at the cutting edge., particularly with .NET. While you certainly can build applications with Windows 7 features with Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET 3.5 SP1 that comes with Windows 7, it is not the kind of experience Microsoft would prefer for developers. More to the point for development organizations: you won’t get fired for not exploiting the new Windows 7 features in your mission critical apps so inevitably such apps will be slow to arrive and even slower because of the schedule mismatch.

As for the rest of the agenda:

Beta 2 also includes integrated tooling for SharePoint, including project templates and debugging support, and runtime and tooling support for developing great Windows 7 applications.

Since Beta 1, new Windows Azure Tools templates make it easy to get started developing Windows Azure applications, and enhanced support for Silverlight 3 databindings let you focus on writing your code.

Team Foundation Server is now included in all versions of Visual Studio 2010 with MSDN.  For small teams that need only core development features such as source control, bug tracking, and build automation, TFS Basic offers a simple, streamlined install and runs on server or client machines.  Test Elements users will notice a more intuitive and responsive user interface.

In the latter regard, Microsoft has completely reorganized the packaging of Visual Studio and the Microsoft Developers Network to, among other things, merge Team System into the base packages.

Filed under .NET FX 4, Beta and CTP, OS - Client, Team Foundation Server, Team System, Technologies, Tools, Visual Studio 2010, Windows 7

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Microsoft reveals SharePoint Server 2010

Posted by David Hunter at 12:01 PM ET.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used this week’s Microsoft SharePoint Conference to reveal a bit about SharePoint Server 2010:

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer announced that the public beta of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010 will become available in November, and revealed some of the new SharePoint Server 2010 capabilities for the first time.

SharePoint Server is one of the fastest-growing products in Microsoft’s history, with over $1.3 billion in revenue, representing over a 20 percent growth over the past year. According to IDC, Microsoft attained a significant share of the collaborative content workspace market in 2008, and had the highest growth rate among top vendors with its Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.

During his keynote address, Ballmer talked broadly about SharePoint Server as a business collaboration platform and highlighted three key areas. One was how organizations can respond quickly to business needs with an improved developer platform that makes it easier to build rich content and collaboration applications. Another topic was the enhanced Internet site capabilities that help businesses drive revenue and retain customers on a single platform. The third was the choice and flexibility between on-premises and cloud solutions.

I’ve never found SharePoint Server particularly desirable for an Internet Web site, but as a intranet collaboration platform for an enterprise that uses Windows scaffolding (not just PCs) its attractions have definitely been recognized by large customers (although there are dissenters [1], [2]).

Hit the initial link above or the SharePoint Team blog for a survey of what is new in SharePoint 2010, but the key enhancements to my mind are the advent of real developer tools:

New SharePoint tools in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, giving developers a premier experience with the tools they know and trust

Business Connectivity Services, which allow developers to connect capabilities to line-of-business data or Web services in SharePoint Server and the Office client

Rich APIs and support for Silverlight, representational state transfer (REST) and Language-Integrated Query (LINQ), to help developers rapidly build applications on the SharePoint platform

And Microsoft hasn’t given up on SharePoint as a foundation for external websites – they claim to have two new SKUs for "Internet-facing sites, including an on-premises and hosted offer."

So when exactly will SharePoint 2010 be available? Microsoft says the first half of 2010 and rumor has it as late 1st half. And don’t forget that it will be 64-bit only.

Filed under Microsoft, Office, SharePoint Server, Technologies, x64

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