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Microsoft Talks Details - Not Vision - at TechEd

Microsoft's  annual TechEd Conference is usually a place for the company to outline its latest vision of the IT world of the future. But this year – the 15th TechEd -- perhaps sensing that IT staffers and developers may be bored with vision statements, Microsoft instead presented a lot of small details regarding actual products.

Indeed, in his opening keynote, Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, took a self-effacing swipe at "the vision thing" with a Back to the Future-themed presentation that starred the popular movies' quirky mad scientist, Christopher Lloyd.

Joking aside, however, the company was out to show that rather than prognosticate about the future. Muglia and company rattled off a slew of small announcements that revolve around SQL Server, Visual Studio, Forefront Security, Windows Server 2008 and desktop optimization.

For instance, besides revealing that the official name of the next major release of SQL Server, previously codenamed Katmai, will be – surprise – SQL Server 2008, Muglia also announced the first community technology preview (CTP) of the product is now available for download. SQL Server 2008 is scheduled for release next year, Muglia said.

Additionally, Microsoft announced it has acquired Dundas Data Visualization's products for data visualization within SQL Server Reporting Services.

The company also said that the next version of its developer tools suite, previously codenamed Orcas, will – also, no surprise – be named Visual Studio 2008. The second beta is due out this summer and will include Visual Studio Shell, which is designed to enable developers to create their own custom tools on top of Visual Studio's integrated development environment.

On the Windows Server 2008 front, Muglia announced that its stripped down Server Core, for server installations that do not require a graphical Windows interface, will include Internet Information Services 2007 as an option.

"With Server Core … we built a really minimal installation of Windows Server and allow you to run roles such as Active Directory, file serving, DHTTP, DNS, and I'm glad to announce today that we've added IIS to the list of roles that can be run in Server Core," Muglia said.

Regarding security, Microsoft announced an upcoming "unified" bundle of its Forefront security products. Codenamed "Stirling," the bundle will feature the next generation of the company's Forefront Client Security, Server Security, Edge Security, and Access solution along with a unified management console. Stirling is currently scheduled to begin beta testing later this year.

As they say on TV infomercials: "But wait, there's more."

For one thing, Microsoft announced it has acquired Engyro Corp. in a move intended to beef up its interoperability message in the systems management space. Engyro develops software that enables Microsoft's System Center Operations Manager to interoperate with other enterprise management systems.

For another, the company said it has shipped to manufacturing and will begin shipping to customers in July an updated version of its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for Software Assurance. Microsoft also announced that the original release, which came out in January, has now reached the one millionth subscriber mark.

Finally, the company released a technology preview of what it calls the Open XML Software Developers Kit (SDK). The SDK is meant to spur developers to create applications that take advantage of 2007 Office System and ease the pain of writing applications that support scenarios such as server-driven document creation, the company said.