Still, for all the talk about the future, WPC has also made clear one of Microsoft's biggest present-day challenges: Worldwide, almost 40% of computers still run Windows XP.
As a result, the company is somewhat awkwardly perched between two extremes, rushing toward a mobile, cloud-oriented future even while millions of customers have resisted the new wave in favor of a decade-old product. Windows XP will lose support in April 2014, meaning that users who don't upgrade will no longer receive critical security patches such as those that Microsoft released this week.
On Monday, Erwin Visser, GM of Windows Commercial, addressed this challenge during a breakout session at WPC. According to ZDNet, Visser said that Microsoft and its partners need to migrate 586,000 PCs per day to meet the forthcoming service-termination deadline. The figure suggests around 160 million Windows XP machines need to be upgraded. Visser said the migration process represents a $32 billion service opportunity for Microsoft partners.
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Visser reportedly also said that Microsoft's top priorities are to move businesses off XP, and to make Windows 8 the top OS for business tablets.
Both are tall orders, but the company is making efforts to reach these goals. Some, such as Windows 8.1's refined user interface, have been publicly brewing for months. Others were revealed for the first time at WPC. During Monday's keynote, for example, Microsoft touted its Cloud OS Accelerate program, which strives to promote cloud adoption and, in a roundabout way, the use of mobile devices. The company also used the conference to describe its TouchWins program, which will pay distributors and resell partners a per-device incentive of $5 to $10 for selling certain touch-enabled Win8 PCs and tablets.
It's not known how many businesses will struggle to migrate from Windows XP before the deadline. It's also unclear how many of those upgrades will go to Windows 8; so far, most XP-reliant organizations have opted for Windows 7 instead. That said, compared to iOS and Android devices, Windows 8 tablets boast several work-oriented advantages, such as the ability to run x86 apps. Microsoft hopes this quality will help adoption take off later this year.
Microsoft's WPC announcements Tuesday included plans to integrate the Windows Embedded Partner Program into the Microsoft Partner Network. Windows Embedded is often used in point-of-sale kiosks and marketing displays, but it can also hook into the Internet of Things and other intelligent systems. The OS has been used, for instance, to help turbines more efficiently generate wind power.
Microsoft said that by merging the partner programs, it can provide better, more scalable support to embedded device manufacturers, silicon vendors, designers, system integrators and others. The company said that independent software vendors and system integrators, for example, will be able to design products in close consultation with the Windows Embedded team and its customers.
Microsoft also released a survey, conducted by research firm Ipsos, that suggests social tools such as Yammer and SharePoint are gaining popularity in the enterprise. Around half of the 10,000 respondents said these tools increase productivity, with some employees stating that they'd be willing to pay for the technology themselves.