Durban - 17 October, 2011 - Microsoft has stepped up its aggressive drive into the South African consumer and cloud space with the imminent local release in the next few months of two key products: its Azure cloud platform and its cloud subscription version of Office, Office 365 as well as with the recently released Windows Phone Mango platform.
That was the big news from the opening day of the software maker's Tech-Ed and Partner Summit 2011 in Durban, which has attracted more than 3 500 technology vendors, developers and executives from across Africa.
Tech·Ed runs from 17-20 October at the International Conference Centre (ICC), with Partner Summit ending one day earlier on 19 October. Another smaller event, Microsoft's CIO Summit, will be hosted at the Oyster Box Hotel at the same time, and is has drawn nearly 100 of the country's top chief information officers.
The Windows Phone Mango update brings 500 new features to local users of the platform, but the major development is the availability of Marketplace, which will allow South African consumers to buy local and international apps using local currency via their credit cards. Mango also includes Xbox live integration, which will allow users to access Xbox mobile games.
Speaking at the event keynote at the ICC, Microsoft corporate vice-president Jason Zander said Microsoft's cloud platform, Azure, which is planned for release between March and May 2012. Office 365, which brings cloud productivity to businesses of all sizes, will be commercially available in the first half of 2012, with trial availability towards the end of this year.
"Microsoft has repeatedly made its commitment to the cloud very clear and has made repeated updates to its cloud offerings," said Zander. "We recently announced several new updates to the Windows Azure platform - which we see as the most comprehensive operating system for Platform-as-a-service - that will help customers create rich applications that enable new business scenarios in the cloud."
In his welcome, Microsoft South Africa MD Mteto Nyati said the event would focus strongly on the two broad trends that are shaping the industry and are shaping Microsoft's strategy: the cloud, both public and private cloud computing, as well as devices.
"You're going to see a whole bunch of devices of different shapes, sizes, form factors, speeds, usage types. We need a world of devices, and they need to be smart. They need to create data, they need to connect to the cloud," said Nyati.
"The cloud for us is the extension of rich experiences that once began on the desktop or on the server, and it's making them richer and more interesting to users and more compelling every single day."
Microsoft has high hopes for Office 365, which it says will bring cloud productivity to businesses of all sizes, particularly smaller businesses without an IT department. The service will be hosted from the Microsoft datacentres in Europe, leveraging the economies of scale present in these large datacentres.
"Office 365 is the best of everything we know about productivity, all in a single cloud service," said Zander. "The power of cloud solutions allows companies to rent computing power, rather than acquire it outright. Microsoft Office 365 is software-as-a-service, a form of cloud computing where business services are presented to the end user in a subscription model."
Customers and partners can visit www.office365.co.za to pre-register for the trial.