At Dell World, Ballmer steers clear of tablets, smartphones, and Apple

The Microsoft CEO kept the focus on Windows and Windows Server

With many still reflecting on the contributions of Steve Jobs, being at Dell World this week almost feels like living in an alternative universe.

Dell World is all about x86, Microsoft, and Intel, and that may explain why Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, who spoke at the conference today, didn't say anything about tablets and only briefly mentioned smartphones, two of Apple's core markets and Microsoft pain points.

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There was probably no advantage for Ballmer to say anything at this conference about its plans in the mobile and tablet arena. You can't compete for market share with consumers who are now, as Computerworld's Jonny Evans reports, queuing up to buy an iPhone 4S "for Steve."

Ballmer kept his talk focused on Microsoft's core technologies for users at this conference, and those are its Windows client and server.

In just about 30 minutes, Ballmer, with the help of some technical experts from Microsoft, provided a quick overview of some of the new features of the upcoming client, demonstrating its tile-like user interface, as well as an overview of some of Window Server 8's capabilities.

The only indirect reference that Ballmer made to the world today has been a truism of technology for the ages. "Disruptive innovation is part of the world that we all choose to participate in," said Ballmer.

Ballmer was talking within the context of how his company is responding to those changes.

Conference attendees where shown a Windows Server 8 running 32 virtual processors, with more than 100GBs of RAM. The developer preview of the server OS supports up to 512GBs of memory and can manage a single virtual hard disk that is 16TB in size.

One demonstrated feature was a simplified live migration, the ability to move a VM (virutal machine) from one host to another host with drag and drop speed and no intermediary set up steps.

Jeff Simons, the IS director of the Washington School Information Processing Cooperative in Everett, Wash., serves 280 school districts in the state, saw the server demo and said he was particularly interested in the live migration features. He said if the migration capabilities are "truly able to pick and move" a VM it "will make high availability easier to do."

Dave Lochhead, technology director of St. Joseph School District in Missouri, said he didn't have any particular reaction to Ballmer's presentation on the upcoming Windows products.

"There are still a lot of unknowns," Lochhead said. The school district is about 80 percent Macintosh on the client, but uses Windows servers, he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com. Read more about servers in Computerworld's Servers Topic Center.

This story, "At Dell World, Ballmer steers clear of tablets, smartphones, and Apple" was originally published by Computerworld .

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