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Top 5 Takeaways from Microsoft APC 2013

The annual Microsoft Australia Partner Conference just took place in Cairns, QLD. Our CEO, Scott Osborne, and Product Development Manager, Jon Devine, went up to hear all about what Microsoft has to offer its broad partner network right now and what’s coming in the future.

Here are Scott’s top five takeaways from #APC13:

Microsoft APC 13

Windows XP is soon dead but 82 per cent of SMBs don't yet know.

We have written about this before, but if your business is still using Windows XP operating system, IT’S TIME TO UPGRADE! (In fact, you’re already very late). That doesn’t necessarily mean changing to Windows 8 — if you don’t like the idea of change and having to learn how to do things in more modern way — you can also upgrade to Windows 7. But it does mean you should probably replace your hardware with something a little more up-to-date — this is what you run your business with, after all. Click here to read more.

With Windows across all devices including smartphone, tablet, PC and TV, it is fast becoming more about services, delivered via software and innovation partners.

With the range of Microsoft tools and platforms available to developers, service providers and training partners, the wave of ‘technology as a service’ is spreading far and wide. Microsoft is enabling partners with the latest cloud solutions, cloud infrastructure, programming platforms and support systems to create services designed to support businesses in more efficient, connected and professional ways than ever before.

Cloud software such as Office365, Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM, internal social collaboration tools such as Yammer, and a mobile-to-desktop operating ecosystem mean partners have never been better equipped to innovate new solutions for business needs. These opportunities are gradually taking hold — most notably Office365 grew by an incredible 500 per cent in the last year.

Microsoft’s hardware partners are also launching a massive range of Windows 8 devices including tablets, hybrid ultrabooks, laptops and desktops, all of which take advantage of touch screen and a burgeoning range of apps.

Windows 8.1 is not a service patch, it’s a full blown upgrade

We’ve highlighted the upcoming Windows 8 update to Windows 8.1 previously. It has been received with various views and perhaps isn’t widely understood to be a full-blown upgrade. While nodding towards some of the early adopter gripes — such as the removal of the start menu and not booting straight to desktop — with the addition of a start button (but still no menu) and the boot to desktop function, it includes a number of advanced and forward-looking upgrades and continues Microsoft’s plan for a device agnostic operating system. Click here to read more.

Microsoft needs to demonstrate its innovations for the marketplace to understand their true value

Microsoft has learned that talking about its new products and hardware is not quite doing the best job at explaining the range of capabilities and enablement being offered to partners and consumers. More roadshows and experiential events are being planned to take the mountain to Mohammed, so-to-speak, and get the products and solutions on the road. These are designed to be opportunities to touch, feel, experience and be wowed.

Cloud is the ultimate business enabler

A real cloud environment not only gives the ability to work through a browser, but to be the ultimate collaborative, connected environment. The scope of connectedness and ubiquity across platforms changes how quickly and simply local and global businesses can operate — whether sharing files or data sets or communicating on projects — and completely removes geographic barriers.

Microsoft is expecting to have its first Australian Windows Azure datacentre up and running by the end of the 2013 calendar year. Two reasons it has decided to go down the path of onshore infrastructure for Australia are that some bigger companies have claimed to be seeing lag time to Singapore (although this is not something we have experienced with our own Azure environment) and there is a need to address sovereignty of data issues in order to satisfy government requirements, an area Microsoft is targeting.

Sovereignty of data, though, is an interesting issue when many companies and government departments may already be using Office365, cloud software which is hosted in a Windows Azure platform in Singapore.

Overall, cloud is an enabler and we’re not talking about hybrid or private cloud, but real public cloud. Software as a service, accessed via browser, developed as a mobile responsive platform designed to work on any web-capable device is not simply about hosted data or files or shifting IT requirements, it’s about being able to do more, be more efficient, more productive and, above all, satisfy our customers’ needs more effectively.