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Microsoft CEO thanks partners and talks Windows 7 (and 8) at annual WPC

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer opened the company’s yearly Worldwide Partner Conference by thanking the 64,000 worldwide partners – 15,000 of which were represented at the first day of the 4-day event. He praised them for helping the Windows 7 operating system become the fastest selling in history with 400 million licences sold in under two years.

In the keynote speech from the WPC in Los Angeles, Big Ballms suggested that Windows 7 was the starting point for the evolution of the platform into Windows 8, with future versions in development. The CEO says that partners can be confident in “Windows for PC, phones, servers and the cloud” (no tablets?). There was no mention of a pre-beta build of Windows 8 as was previously expected.

Corporate VP and Finance Boss Tami Reller backs Ballms, saying Windows 7’s relevance is still very important to the growth of the OS and Microsoft hope to move all customers over to 7 before the arrival of 8 – as the “best way to prepare for the future”.

“At the heart of our ability to deliver Windows 8 is the flexibility Windows has consistently shown. Its ability to adapt over time is what ensures Windows will continue to be highly relevant in the future” the VP adds.

Microsoft’s opener went on to cover the year past, as well as taking a look forward. The partnership with Nokia on the Windows Phone 7 project and Bing’s relationship with Facebook was talked of – this was important leading into The House of M’s acquisition of Skype (now a major new feature in Zuckerberg’s Social Network).

The company’s strategy to deliver motion control gaming with Kinect more into the foreground was addressed.  This along with bringing entertainment, television and the Bing service to Xbox 360 by the end of the year – even demoing a little bit of Bing on the console.

The main meal of the day, however, was Windows. It’s interesting that Microsoft isn’t going with a full forward strike with Windows 8 after so heavily pushing the OS back in June – and the absence of the expected pre-beta version suggests that there’s perhaps been a backwards step?

The full press release for Day 1 of the Worldwide Partner Conference can be read below.

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[spoiler]LOS ANGELES — July 11, 2011 — Kicking off Microsoft Corp.’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), a four-day event that celebrates the accomplishments of the company’s 640,000 global partners, CEO Steve Ballmer today thanked partners for helping make Windows 7 the fastest-selling operating system in history and indicated that with future versions in development, partners can be confident in their bets on Windows for phones, PCs, servers and the cloud.

Speaking before nearly 15,000 partners from around the globe, Ballmer said more than 400 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold in less than two years, and that the best way to prepare customers and prospects for the future is to move all customers to Windows 7.

Echoing that point, Tami Reller, corporate vice president and chief financial officer of Windows and Windows Live, emphasized that Windows 7 is the path to Windows 8. Noting that there are still more than 200 million PCs running Windows XP, which was launched in 2001, Reller told partners they have a real opportunity to deliver more value to customers in the short term and “set them up for the future.”

In providing an overview of the road ahead with Windows, Reller told partners that despite the record growth and success of Windows 7, there is tremendous Windows 7 deployment opportunity now and well into the future. “We see a future with a heterogeneous enterprise environment of Windows 8 devices and apps alongside Windows 7 PCs and apps,” she said.

“At the heart of our ability to deliver Windows 8 is the flexibility Windows has consistently shown; its ability to adapt over time is what ensures Windows will continue to be highly relevant in the future,” Reller added.

Other news from Ballmer’s and Reller’s presentations included the following:

• In a wide-ranging keynote speech that highlighted major moments from the past year and looked ahead at what’s next, Ballmer also focused on key accomplishments for Windows Phone, including the company’s partnership with Nokia; Xbox, including Kinect and the company’s strategy to bring controller-free games and entertainment to the living room and live TV to Xbox this fall; progress with Bing, including a demo of Bing on Xbox (“You say it, Xbox finds it”) and social features in Bing resulting from Microsoft’s partnership with Facebook; an update on the company’s impending acquisition of Skype; and cloud services momentum.

• Reller announced the beta of the next release of Windows Intune for cloud-based PC management and security. Windows Intune provides the best Windows experience for customers by giving them access to the latest, premium version of Windows plus PC management and security in the cloud. The new Windows Intune features, including software distribution and remote tasks, strengthen the opportunity for partners. The limited, public beta is available at

• American Airlines will soon update its application for Windows Phone, which will provide “the fastest delivery of flight information data on the planet,” according to an American Airlines spokesperson. The update will allow real-time flight status information, including gate changes and baggage claim areas, from American’s reservation system to be pushed to a cloud-based Windows Azure system, which can then push the flight status notifications directly to the application’s Windows Phone Live Tiles. American Airlines customers who download the application and pin it to Start will have instant access to their most current travel information on the top-level user interface of their phone, eliminating the need for text message, email or phone-call updates. The application was developed in conjunction with Microsoft partner migration mobi of Austin, Texas.

• Boeing is using compelling ways to market its best-selling 737 with Windows Azure, the Windows operating system, and Windows Touch. The “Boeing 737 Explained” tool, developed by Boeing and Wire Stone LLC, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, is hosted on the Windows Azure platform.

• The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the United States, will use Microsoft Dynamics CRM for its 70,000 employees, and SpaceX, a private-industry successor to the U.S. Space Shuttle program, will use Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for its financial and project accounting.

• Less than two weeks after the official launch of Office 365, more than 50,000 organizations are trialing the service — a rate of one company every 25 seconds. Ballmer said that more than one in five of the Fortune 500 uses Microsoft Online Services and large organizations worldwide are moving to the cloud-based service, including the American Red Cross, which will move 66,000 people to Office 365 by the end of this year, and Softbank Technology Corp. in Japan, which moved to Office 365 to help reduce its overall technology maintenance costs while driving increased productivity across its 19 subsidiary companies.

Partners to Hear From Other Executives

Throughout the week, senior executives will offer an inside look at the road ahead for Microsoft and its partners:

• Tomorrow, Satya Nadella, president of the Server and Tools Business; Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division; and Kirill Tatarinov, president of Microsoft Business Solutions, will highlight new cloud-centric program and product opportunities for Microsoft partners and customers.

• Andrew Lees, president of the Windows Phone Division, and Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of the Original Equipment Manufacturer Division, also will speak on Tuesday about how Microsoft and its hardware partners are able to provide the most unique experiences and offer the best value to consumers and developers.

• Kevin Turner, chief operating officer, will speak on Wednesday, addressing the competitive advantages to partnering with Microsoft and the partner opportunity in emerging markets.

• Sir Richard Branson, renowned entrepreneur, author, and founder and president of Virgin Group, will conclude the conference on Wednesday as the guest headliner.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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