Microsoft Integration Work Paves Way For Office 365 Blitz

Microsoft's Office 365 won't be ready until later this year. But the company is making sure that customers will have plenty of ways to access the cloud computing applications once they are generally available.

The next release of Windows Phone 7, code-named "Mango," will provide access to Office 365 applications, Microsoft executives said at the Microsoft TechEd 2011 conference in Atlanta this week.

And in a move that could speed solution providers' transition to cloud computing, Microsoft plans to integrate Office 365 with its Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials as part of an effort to boost Office 365 sales through the channel.

Robert Wahbe, corporate vice president of server tools marketing, unveiled the planned Windows Phone support for Office 365 during a keynote speech Monday. The announcement was part of Wahbe's larger message about Microsoft's focus on developing technologies for cloud computing and mobile devices.

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"Over time, we think most of your workloads will run in the context of cloud computing," Wahbe told the 10,000 TechEd attendees. More immediately, he said, businesses will adopt cloud computing by developing extensions to existing applications and use it to handle workloads with large volumes of data or have high-performance computing requirements. And some specific applications, including content distribution and marketing campaigns, will migrate to the cloud more quickly.

"We are investing heavily in technology for all these scenarios," Wahbe said.

Mango, due out later this year, will let users of Windows Phone 7 devices access Office 365's capabilities, such as collaborating on documents through SharePoint Online and accessing file folders in Exchange Online.

The Windows Phone-Office 365 integration could provide a boost for the mobile operating system, with which Microsoft is trying to gain market traction against competitors Apple and Google. And providing easy access to Office 365 could increase demand for the cloud applications, which recently entered the public beta phase.

Next: Microsoft Seeks Channel Boost For Office 365 Through SBS Links

Demand for Office 365 applications could also get a boost from the planned links between Office 365 and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, which just began selling this month. And integrating the two products could provide an entre into cloud computing for solution providers with limited expertise working with cloud technologies.

SBS Essentials, an edition of the channel-friendly Small Business Server line, is designed to help small businesses with up to 25 users manage access to online services.

Michael LeWorthy, senior product manager for Windows Server marketing, disclosed plans for the Office 365-SBS Essentials integration at TechEd Sunday. Microsoft will offer training and other resources to VARs to encourage them to carry Office 365, he said.

Details about the integration work and the opportunities for channel partners will likely come at the Worldwide Partner Conference in July and later in the year when Office 365 becomes generally available.

Microsoft also disclosed that the first service packs for Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 would be released by the end of next month. Office 2010 SP1 and SharePoint 2010 SP1 would be the first upgrades for the applications since they debuted last year.

Microsoft also plans to expand the application lifecycle management (ALM) capabilities in the next release of the Microsoft Visual Studio development toolset. As organizations develop applications to run across a broader array of devices -- and at a faster pace -- such capabilities will be crucial, said Sean McBreen, senior director of ALM product management, in an interview. No details were released on when the next Visual Studio release is expected.

And during the Monday keynote Jason Sander, corporate vice president of Visual Studio, demonstrated new connector software that links Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. Zander said the connector, which is available now as a beta "community technology preview," helps IT operations managers send application performance and diagnostic information to software developers.