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Microsoft Cancels BI Event

Don't worry, readers: Doug will be back on Monday to deliver Redmond Report as usual, but in the meantime, we're filling in for him. Let's get started:

Microsoft changed its plans: It won't be holding its business intelligence (BI) conference this year in October. Instead, its next BI event will take place in Seattle, Wash. Some time in October 2010, according to Microsoft's announcement. What does this mean? The announcement simply explained that Microsoft was meeting a request from its partners and customers to hold the event every other year. Moreover, event organizers expected to see travel cutbacks in the current down economy.

David Linthicum, a consultant on distributed computing and SOA, took a different view on the cancellation.. "The larger issue is that I just don't see Microsoft as a player in the world of BI, beyond their database presence, which is significant," he wrote.

Ouch! As an indication of Microsoft's weakness in BI, Linthicum pointed to the folding of Microsoft's PerformancePoint Server into SharePoint, which was announced in late January. Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, later explained PerformancePoint's removal as a standalone product, saying that Microsoft was pulling back somewhat from vertical competition with IBM and SAP, as noted by Redmond magazine's Lee Pender.

However, Andrew Brust, director of new technology at twentysix New York -- and, by the way, a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP, as well as a contributor to Visual Studio Magazine -- disagreed with Linthicum's critique. He took Microsoft at its word that conference attendance is generally down and that BI will be discussed at several other upcoming Microsoft events, including next month's Tech-Ed in Los Angeles.

"Microsoft is not getting out of BI," Brust contended in an e-mail. "They are imbuing Office and SharePoint (and SQL Server and Dynamics) with BI to get BI past niche status and into the mainstream. The rest of the market is still going the niche route, which doesn't make them more dedicated or serious. It makes them more elitist and far more expensive."

Indeed, BI has shown increasing signs of commoditization or even "death," as smaller companies specializing in BI have been gobbled up by the likes of IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft.

Microsoft's last BI event, held last October, highlighted three forthcoming BI components -- all currently at the CTP stage -- including the next version of SQL Server (code-named "Kilimanjaro"). In addition, Microsoft plans to release a data mash-up tool code-named "Gemini" and a scalable data warehousing solution using massive parallel processing technology that Microsoft acquired after buying DATAllegro. Other existing components in Microsoft's BI stack include Office, SharePoint and Dynamics.

Back in October, Microsoft had predicted that Kilimanjaro would be a "full product" in "the first half of calendar year 2010." Microsoft touts Kilimanjaro as a way of simplifying BI functionality for end users by supporting a beefed-up Excel interface, as Visual Studio Magazine Editor Jeff Schwartz has reported previously. Microsoft also promises that Gemini will simplify data manipulation by end users of BI. Madison is also expected to appear as a product some time in 2010.

Those who can't wait for Kilimanjaro and Madison news can sign up to hear Microsoft's webcasts planned for next week, starting Monday.

Is Microsoft's BI dying? Are you disappointed by the rescheduling of Microsoft's BI event? Tell Doug what BI means to you at [email protected].

PC Struggles Hurt Microsoft's Q3 Earnings
When the headline crossing the wire simply states "Microsoft Reports Third-Quarter Results," you know the news is gonna be bad. In my memory, it's only the second time we haven't seen a Microsoft earnings report embellished with words like "record" or "fastest" or "robust."

As the saying goes, what goes up must come down. The global recession makes for a good excuse right now, and indeed the 6 percent revenue drop -- the more painful number was the 32 percent drop in Q3 net income -- was mainly attributed to sluggish sales of Windows-loaded PCs worldwide.

The sky didn't completely collapse, though: Microsoft made gains in software license renewals, as well as Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and the Systems Center suite.

With two straight losing quarters, is this the beginning of the end for Microsoft? Chicken Littles can send their predictions to [email protected].

Oracle's Sun Buy: Will OpenOffice Remain Free?
There are already lots of analyses about Oracle's purchase of Sun, mainly looking at how the buy will affect Microsoft (think MySQL and Oracle 11g), IBM (think DB2 and Big Blue's failed talks with Sun) and Web browsing and development (think Java).

Not mentioned much is OpenOffice. It'd be interesting to see if OO continues to remain free, figuratively and literally. All I care about at this point is that I don't have to resort to migrating once again to Google Docs or Zoho.

Mailbag: Upgrading from XP, Microsoft Security Falls Short, More
On the topic of upgrading to Windows 7, one reader says not offering an upgrade path from XP isn't very a smart move on Microsoft's part, but another says he probably wouldn't take the upgrade anyway:

Microsoft HAS to provide an update path from XP Pro to Windows 7. They may be posturing to get some dupes to buy Vista as a means to upgrade, but the overwhelming majority of XP users may bail, go Apple/Linux and use VM platforms to run Windows apps. Not providing an update path is political and commercial suicide.

Speaking only for our organization and as an IT professional, I see little interest in upgrading to Windows 7 from XP. The main reason would be that there is little value gained and the industry is looking at acquiring low-cost netbooks with either Android or Windows XP Home utilized for free. So why upgrade?

Meanwhile, Kevin thinks it's not completely the end of the road for XP support:

You might want to verify for your readers' benefit that the support that's about to end on XP is only for the version that shipped originally. To my knowledge, Microsoft's support for XP running with certain service packs will continue for quite a while. I don't have the exact dates in my head but I'm sure a journalist of your \ caliber could find them quickly enough.

I only mention this as I think what you wrote is a bit misleading without this additional, very important information. I don't write this to dissuade people from upgrading to Vista or Windows 7, as I think they are both fine operating systems. I'm just pointing out what I believe is an important thing to know.

These readers say it doesn't make much sense to pay Microsoft for its security products:

I can't see myself selling Microsoft security to my clients. Why would I trust my security to the company who created the security problems in the first place? And why should I pay for something from Microsoft that helps fix those holes? If they can develop software that will protect their security problems, why don't they just fix them in the OS like they should?

The last thing I would do is try to sell my clients on a Microsoft security solution. I don't care how great Forefront is -- it just seems like paying them twice for something I shouldn't have to worry about in the first place.

If software is open to attacks, isn't that a flaw in the software? Should the publisher charge you an additional fee to protect you from the flaws in the software it just sold you? Isn't this a bit absurd? Are there other industries that openly sell you a defective product, then charge you an additional fee to remedy the defects?

I give Forefront an "A" just because it did the job. After using it for a few years, I have replaced it with a more comprehensive and cost-effective SaaS solution. In a cost comparison, I give it a solid "C" and I don't really miss it.

One reader responds to John's gripe last week about paying for a full-year subscription for the soon-to-be-axed OneCare:

Microsoft has publicly stated that they're going to support OneCare until all the paid subscriptions expire.

I couldn't tell if John was saying it was asinine for them to sell it to him, or for him to buy it.

And speaking of gripes, Bill's letter last week about IT pros who "blame Microsoft" struck a chord with some readers:

Thanks for printing Bill's rant. It is the best thing I have read in a long, long time!

Many thanks to Bill for pointing out that most user problems with Microsoft are because the user either has poor administration skills or will not follow best practices. Kudos for pointing out that this incompetence actually improves job security. As I told my college students, if they ever bill clients hourly, learn how to say, "Darn Microsoft and Bill Gates" and keep the meter running. And if you can sweat a little, you can be totally incompetent but your client will believe you are an expert.

Blaming Microsoft for your computer/server rebooting from a security patch during a 4TB RAID rebuild is ridiculous. Any admin worth anything would NEVER have their server update automatically. For the love of God, turn off auto update.

Ignorance is bliss, isnt it? Ignorant users who have no idea what they are doing, thinking the grass is greener on the other side. All computers are a pain in the ass, whether it's Apple, Linux or Microsoft. You just need to know how to use them correctly. Otherwise, it's all bash and not one fact to back it up.

Tune in Monday for more reader letters. In the meanwhile submit your own comments below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 24, 2009


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