TechEd 2006: Microsoft creates "Forefront" brand for security software

Boston (MA) - The "Day Zero" keynote speeches from Microsoft's Ray Ozzie and Bob Muglia on Sunday night were full of promises, including four that may become company mantras as the year progresses. But there was little specific product news besides the introduction of the Forefront brand for security solutions - among the missing items was any mention of "Windows Server 2007."

It's not the least bit unusual for executives of Microsoft to be making promises in their opening night of keynote speeches before TechEd, or any of the other big company venues. But there was something different about Sunday evening: First of all, promises were the key theme, and products were not. Second, there was no Bill Gates; instead, there was the flamboyant prosaic styles of chief technology officer Ray Ozzie.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, there was no explicit mention on Microsoft's roadmap out into the end of 2007, with regard to when "Longhorn" - the next generation Windows Server operating system - would be made available. Indeed, with features slated for inclusion in Windows Server being doled out throughout the next 18 months, and with Windows Server 2003 R2 just now taking hold, there appeared to be a diminishing sense of urgency with regard to the Windows Server roadmap explicitly.

Ozzie spoke for about half an hour on Sunday, presenting what appeared at first to be a huge buildup. He announced the dawn of what he called the "era of services disruption" - a phrase that, taken out of context, could be taken to mean that Microsoft is out of the DOS business and into the DoS business. Here, Ozzie uses "disruption" synonymously with "revolution," touting an era of internetworked services that he promised would transcend the advent of the Web in importance and impact.

But Ozzie tied this impact to few specific Microsoft products or technologies (one exception being Identity Server, which was already announced). Instead, his buildup transitioned into the second stage of the presentation, led by senior vice president for the Server and Tools division, Bob Muglia. For the next two hours, in a series of presentations punctuated by a satire on the TV series "24," and impromptu stage skits from "24" actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, Muglia presented a series of "4" Microsoft promises. Without being product-specific, the promises themselves may represent the company's gradual move away from the carrot-and-stick philosophy of enticing developers with future technologies, and more toward a focus on what they can do with what's available to them today.

For the record, the "4" promises are: #1: "Manage complexity", Achieve agility"; #2; "Protect information; Control access"; #3: "Advance the business with IT solutions"; #4: "Amplify the impact of your people".

Perhaps the biggest product announcement of the entire keynote session was the launch of the Forefront brand, which Microsoft will use to represent its new and existing line of security technologies. Based on the roadmap Muglia presented, probably during the second half of 2007, the company's existing server-based email security product line Antigen will be folded into the Forefront umbrella, which will likely be extended to include Internet Security plus several new and existing client-based security products.

More on some of Sunday's keynote demonstrations, plus news from the demos today, as we continue TG Daily's coverage of TechEd 2006 throughout this week.