RealTime IT News

Redmond's Really Big Year

Best of 2006 Internetnews.com wades through the top stories and issues that rocked the industry in 2006 in this ongoing series.

As the year winds down, so will be tens of thousands of Microsoft developers -- once Vista is actually out the door and on store shelves. But that's not all that helped make for an intense year for the tech company based in Washington's Redmond.

Microsoft  undertook its most ambitious product schedule ever, a monstrous effort that produced several significant new titles all at the same time.

Vista was the focus of the most attention this year, going from a poorly received second beta early in the year to much-improved release candidates later in the year.

However, Microsoft's  biggest news was something long-expected: the departure of founder Bill Gates as the chief software architect, to be replaced by Ray Ozzie. Ozzie is widely considered to be every bit as technologically-capable as Gates. The only question is whether he will have the gravitas.

But the change was widely expected, especially in light of Gates and his wife Melinda being voted Time Magazine's Persons of the Year, along with U2 singer Bono. Gates had been progressively less involved with the company in recent years as his passion had been for his philanthropic work.

Meanwhile, life went on at Microsoft. Vista wasn't the only product finished in 2006. This year, the company shipped or completed Office 2007, Exchange 2007, Expression, Internet Explorer 7, .Net Framework 3.0, OneCare, BizTalk Server 2006, Office Communications server, Windows Media Player 11, Office Live and Windows Live Messenger. It also entered the handheld device market with the Zune, to lukewarm reviews.

"Any time you ship Windows and Office, that's a good year," Microsoft watcher Greg DeMichilie of Directions on Microsoft told internetnews.com. "Those are the flagship products. They are where the majority of the money comes from."

Next year, look for Microsoft to shift its focus from the client version of Vista to the server side; Longhorn Server, the code name for the still-unnamed server version of Vista, is due in the second half of 2007.

Next year will also bring new versions of Systems Management Server, System Center Operations Manager, Office SharePoint Server 2007, Office 2007 for the Macintosh and possibly Visual Studio.

Long a developer-minded company, Microsoft embraced, without extinguishing, dynamic languages in 2006. This year, Microsoft released IronPython, a Python   implementation for .Net, and expects to ship Atlas, a set of .Net extensions for Ajax support.

Microsoft continued to reach out to open source developers. It launched CodePlex, an open source developer community modeled after the popular SourceForge site, and Port 25, an open source lab. Port 25 even extended a hand to Mozilla developers, inviting them to Redmond to help in ensuring compatibility between Vista and Mozilla.

Then there was its ongoing trouble with the European Union.

Next page: EU, WGA and Xb start to add up