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Gartner Analysts Down on Microsoft's Future

Everybody wants to douse the Windows 7 fire with cold water. Last week, it was a couple of Gartner know-it-alls, who grilled Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, on whether Microsoft's products still had any value and whether the company was in for a bleak future.

Elop, of course, used a lot of words but said essentially nothing, which is the primary form of communication in Redmond. (It is, perhaps, a trick the Microsoft folks learned from the French, who can use their lovely language to make totally nonsensical sentences sound like a Mozart piano concerto.) Anyway, the Gartner inquisitors fired the same old questions and accusations at Elop as everybody is shooting at Microsoft these days. Check out this blurb from the story linked above:

"[Gartner's Neal] MacDonald said that the upcoming 2010 versions of Windows, Office, Exchange, SharePoint and their respective online versions represent more of the same, one-size-fits-all applications that Microsoft has offered in the past. He predicted that people will not be willing to migrate to these new versions because there are so many new competitors offering commoditized versions that are either free or that come at a very low cost.

"[Gartner's Brian] Gammage agreed, saying that customers are now asking where the business value is in Microsoft's products, especially when there are multiple options available."

Now, we're not saying that the Gartner guys are wrong. We're big cloud proponents here at RCPU, and we feel that Azure in particular and a coherent cloud strategy in general will play absolutely critical roles in keeping Microsoft relevant -- and possibly dominant -- in IT in the years to come. (Already, Amazon is launching a major cloud initiative aimed at Microsoft.) But the cloud isn't yet the de facto choice of IT platform for most businesses, especially not for larger ones, and it likely won't be for a while. It's still a developing model, and Microsoft seems determined, after a few missteps, to be at the forefront of its development.

Also, we're acutely aware, as we've said here many times, that competition facing Microsoft's core products is arguably stronger than ever -- from Linux servers and desktops to cloud-based applications and operating systems to even the Mac, which has started to find a niche in the enterprise. So, again, we're not saying that Gartner's grillers are wrong when they talk about Microsoft's products.

We're saying (again) that they're missing the point. The real strength behind Microsoft is the best and almost certainly one of the largest partner ecosystems in the software industry. (Is it the largest? Probably, but we haven't checked lately.)

Why go with Windows over Linux or with a Microsoft stack over something from a competitor? Because there probably isn't another software company with the breadth and depth of expertise available that Microsoft can offer through its partner channel. And, in the long run, support and maintenance -- and not just license fees -- cost money.

Microsoft's products, we believe, are better than the Gartner folks make them out to be. In fact, word is that Windows 7's launch could lead to a jump in PC sales, which kind of deflates the whole Microsoft-is-irrelevant argument, at least for now. But you, partners, are what keep Microsoft ahead of everybody else in the software industry, and that's what the naysayers don't understand. You do, though, and hopefully your customers do, too.

What's your take on the future of Microsoft? Is it headed for a dark era, or will it stay on top? Send your opinion to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on October 28, 2009