The jewels in Microsoft's 'boring' 2011 product road map

After the explosion of major Windows Server releases in 2010, it may appear not much is worth getting excited about in 2011 -- wrong

You know tech journalists are scraping the bottom of the barrel when you see articles with captions like "screenshot leaked of Windows 8" that include pictures that are downright worthless or when you see article after article about Office 365 (guilty as charged), which is still in private beta (not even public beta). Ah, years like 2010 are hard to repeat: It saw SharePoint 2010, Exchange 2010, SQL 2008 R2, Office 2010, Data Protection Manager 2010, Lync 2010, and more!

But that doesn't mean 2011 has to be a complete dud. There are some interesting releases planned, as well as some service packs. Here are the ones worth your attention.

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2011 Microsoft products already launched

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: Most people wait to deploy until after the first service pack, so we should see a new Windows deployment wave this year and next. Although this service pack didn't bring tremendous improvements to the desktop OS, it did add some cool virtualization features to Windows Server, such as dynamic memory for Hyper-V and RemoteFX for Remote Desktop Services.

SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse 3.0: Released in February, this wasn't as exciting as the upcoming version of SQL (code-named Denali), but it shows forward movement on Microsoft's part to provide for higher-scalability deployments.

Small Business Server 2011 Standard: SBS 2011 Standard went live in March. It includes Exchange 2010 SP1, SharePoint Foundations, and more for 75-seat-and-smaller deployments. 

MultiPoint Server 2011: This is a great product for classrooms, conference rooms, and other such shared sites. It provides support for thin clients over a LAN to allow for a shared computing environment that teachers or others can control. The standard edition supports 10 stations, and the premium edition supports 20.

Windows Intune: I had the chance to see some of what Intune can do last year at TechEd, but it was just released last week. Windows Intune offers a cloud-based management for desktops. In environments where you think you would benefit from using System Center but the place is a bit too small to warrant that investment, you can gain the same benefits through Intune. One cool aspect is that you get upgrade rights for Windows 7 Enterprise for all desktops covered under Intune.

Internet Explorer 9: Microsoft's first HTML5-capable Web browser went live last month.

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