All last week, Microsoft was trying desperately to shift the spotlight from Vista, the OS that has become a major liability for the software giant. To that end, Microsoft made a flurry of announcements including Azure, the newly announced cloud platform, the Windows 7 Alpha and a preliminary view of the web-based version of Microsoft Office.

It's clear that Microsoft has thrown in the towel on the woeful Vista. Maybe that's why Microsoft's love fest, aka the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) last week in Los Angeles, provided a 24/7 forum to discuss a future without Vista, but like a political convention (which it resembled), it's time to sweep up the confetti and take a clear-eyed look at what we witnessed.

No, You Shut Up

Regular readers may recall that a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Ballmer Needs to Learn the Art of Shutting Up. What prompted the post was a surprising presentation by the Microsoft CEO in front of the Gartner's Symposium ITxpo in which Ballmer basically threw Vista under a bus, stating that if people wanted to wait for Windows 7, they probably should. At the time, the statement seemed an outrageous gaffe, but perhaps Ballmer himself had already decided it was time to move on and knew that the PDC would showcase his company's new initiatives.

Could Windows 7 and Azure Represent a Fundamental Shift?

Microsoft still has some tricks left up its sleeve, that's for sure, and the conference gave company executives a chance to show off a bevy of new technology to key industry analysts, developers and technology journalists. The resulting publicity was mostly positive as this post from former Microsoftee Robert Scoble called Never Underestimate Microsoft's Ability to Turn a Corner. One thing is clear, however. After years of observing Microsoft, we should have learned that we can not judge the company based on its words, but on its deeds.

It all sounds lovely and some of this technology, especially exposing some key software such as Exchange and Sharepoint as services could potentially be very interesting, but today we don't have much more than some controlled demos and early prototypes. All of this technology has a long way to go before it's market ready.

Still Showing their Inferiority Complex

Meanwhile, even as they struggle to change the subject, Microsoft's inferiority complex is once again on embarrassing display. If they truly wanted to shift our attention from Vista, they wouldn't be performing pathetic stunts such as placing 'I'm a a PC' recording studios outside of Apple stores. They should just drop this immediately, but they seem incapable of letting it go, which only serves to let Apple to continue the conversation about Vista.

For now, all Microsoft has done is given us a peak of some impressive looking technology, but as Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu, said the other day in my post: Microsoft Jumps Into the Cloud with Azure Announcement, it also represents a fundamental shift in the way the company has traditionally done business. It remains unclear if Microsoft can cross a business-changing chasm and even come close to duplicating its prior successes in the desktop market. And, always keep in mind that until we see actual market-ready products, it would be prudent to look at all of this with a healthy dose of skepticism.