In a week in which Microsoft has been hit by a record EU fine, the company's CEO Steve Ballmer has remained characteristically ebullient, talking up the company – and its customers – at the launch of Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008.

"This is the most significant Windows Server release we have made since the first version," Ballmer said, citing hardened security and power savings in particular.

Ballmer praised Microsoft's customer base, calling them the "heart and soul" of the industry and also talked up Microsoft's "Dynamic IT" vision. This fits into four main topics that customers have been discussing with the company, namely:

  • achieving agility and managing complexity
  • protecting protecting information and controlling access
  • delivering business value; and
  • making sure that IT professionals are "not the cobbler's children without shoes."

With his usual gusto, Ballmer painted Microsoft as a company set to transform IT from the datacentre to the browser.

Ballmer also looked ahead to the upcoming release of Microsoft's virtualisation hypervisor, Hyper-V, which will be offered free with the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2008.

"I think it's well-known we're not the market leader in server virtualisation," he acknowledged. However, "we want to democratise virtualisation," he added. "Virtualisation should be properly, if desired, run on 90 percent or 100 percent of servers, not the current 5 percent or 7 percent."

Windows Server 2008 OS is set to ship next week, followed by SQL Server 2008 in the third quarter. It is expected that more customers will buy the 64-bit versions of the products, partly because of wider availability of 64-bit x86 server hardware and the trend toward server virtualisation and consolidation.