Road map 2012: Microsoft's big bang of new releases

From desktop to server, almost every major software component is getting revved. Get ready to kick off your upgrade strategy

Last year, I complained about the drought of new Microsoft product releases. Each week, I had to search the corners of the digital universe to come up with something unique and interesting to say for this column. But this year (and next) is bubbling over with new releases from Microsoft, so there will be plenty to discuss.

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Microsoft's 2012-2013 lineup

Starting at the top, what major releases are coming our way and when can we expect them?

  • Windows 8: The rumors are that we'll have a summer launch of this before the kids start buying computers for school in the fall. Others are saying it will need more time to bake.
  • Windows Server 8: This is looking like a Q3 or Q4 release, and from what I've seen, it's a solid next step in the server lineup. One reason it's very compelling is the set of Hyper-V improvements.
  • Exchange 15, SharePoint 15, and next-gen Lync: These are all anticipated for Q4 2012 and might well be released on the same day.
  • Office 15: Also anticipated (according to Redmond Magazine) for Q4 of 2012; from the buzz on the wire, the next flavor of Office is more tightly integrated with the Office servers (Exchange and SharePoint) and sports a new Metro skin to match the new Windows 8 OS.
  • SQL Server 2012: It looks like this one will be coming in Q2 2012.
  • System Center 2012: Also slated for Q2 2012, the upgrades to the System Center family have been gaining a good deal of praise, especially the Configuration Manager and Data Protection Manager tools. I'll dive into these soon enough, and I'm looking forward to the sessions coming up at Microsoft's TechEd conference in Orlando this year.

There are other new releases to look forward to as well: a Windows Phone upgrade ("Apollo"), a new Visual Studio, and Windows Azure enhancements.

Microsoft is hoping you'll upgrade across the board -- but should you?
Why is everything being released in such a short period? If you're getting a new PC with Windows 8, you probably want the latest Office on it too. And if you're rolling out new desktops with the latest version of Office, you may want to give your people the latest enhancements in SharePoint as well. These are no longer separate products but instead rely on each other to create a singular -- and awesome -- experience.

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