In his last letter to shareholders late last month, Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer promised his corporation would continue to help enterprises move to the cloud. And Microsoft’s wave of fall releases announced this week are all about enterprise cloud solutions. 

Separate Releases

Microsoft plans to stagger its latest cloud advancements throughout the fall:

Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2: Oct. 18. Companies are able to create data centers without boundaries using Hyper-V for high-scale virtualization; high-performance storage at dramatically lower costs; built-in, software-defined networking; and hybrid business continuity. On top of these run the new Windows Azure Pack; this includes self-service infrastructure functions users can deliver from their data centers.

information management, Microsoft's Future: Cloudy in Enterprise...and Leadership
Microsoft's Visual Studio 2013

Visual Studio 2013 and .NET 4.5.1: Oct. 18. These solutions, Microsoft says, help development teams, businesspeople and IT managers to build faster applications.

SQL Server 2014: Next week. The new version aimed at cracking big data for organizations will be released for a second preview. SQL Server 2014 also works with Windows Azure for built-in cloud backup and disaster recovery.

Windows Azure HDInsight Service: Later this month. This works with SQL Server and widely uses business intelligence tools, such as Microsoft Excel and Power BI for Office 365, and helps users combine private and public data in the cloud.

Windows Intune: Oct. 18. In the BYOD age, this solution combines with System Center Configuration Manager to help IT departments give mobile employees security-enhanced access to the applications and data on Windows, iOS and Android devices.

Microsoft Remote Desktop app: Later this month. This will provide access to PCs and virtual desktops on a variety of devices and platforms, including Windows, Windows RT, iOS, OS X and Android.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online: Later this month. The company’s CRM solution will help make customer interactions more personal via contextual information for deeper insights than the previous version.

Windows Azure US Government Cloud: No release announced. Microsoft is billing this as the first public cloud service of its kind to achieve government authorization; it will allow government users a community cloud for data, applications and infrastructure.

Partnership with Equinix

Microsoft also announced this week a partnership with global interconnection and data center company Equinix, Inc. Microsoft said the alliance will mean users will have more options for private and fast connections to the cloud.

Customers will be able to connect their networks with Windows Azure at Equinix exchange locations, Microsoft added.

Cloud’s $$ Forecast Not So Cloudy

Why wouldn’t Microsoft dive heavily into the cloud this fall?

Estimates have the potential IT market for cloud at more than US$ 2 trillion. And Microsoft’s commercial business, spanning nearly every area of enterprise IT, represents 58% of Microsoft’s total revenue, according to a blog post this week from Satya Nadella, executive vice president of cloud and enterprise at Microsoft.

Gartner’s most recent Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management said vendors are prioritizing efforts in the cloud, and it cited Microsoft again as a leader. 

And Microsoft is in the cloud for good, it looks like.

information management, Microsoft's Future: Cloudy in Enterprise...and Leadership
Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer promised in his last letter to shareholders: "As we go to market, we will primarily monetize our high-value activities by leading with devices and enterprise services."

In Ballmer’s swan song letter to shareholders last month, he said, “Enterprise services continue to be an area of great strength, growth and opportunity as businesses of all sizes look to Microsoft to help them move to the cloud, manage a growing number of devices, tap into big data and embrace new social capabilities.”

Uncertain Future for Microsoft?

Microsoft is doing well. According to Ballmer, revenue was up 6% to US$ 77.8 billion. But is the future as crystal clear as Ballmer makes it seem in his final messages to shareholders?

As we argued this week, Microsoft may not truly be able to tell the industry it has embraced disruptive technologies and produced innovated products in this arena. 

Who’s going to be the leader that guides Microsoft through the promises of enterprise innovation made by Ballmer in his exiting shareholder letter? Is Bill Gates’ presence on the board a problem, a roadblock to finding fresh new talent the company needs?

It seems Microsoft will have to answer important questions before it wins in the enterprise industry with its latest fall releases.