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Microsoft Unveils SQL Server 2005 Partner Efforts

At the 2005 PASS Community Summit today, Microsoft announced it’s launching two partner efforts around the impending launch of SQL Server 2005. Project REAL is a set of best practices Microsoft has developed with a number of business intelligence partners and one customer, Barnes & Noble, that’s intended to help partners implement successful BI applications. The other initiative, SQL Server Front Runner, offers technical and marketing benefits to help ISVs bring SQL Server 2005-based applications to market more quickly.

Psst! Office 2003 SP2 is Available
With zero fanfare, Microsoft on Tuesday released Service Pack 2 for Office 2003, which includes a number of security, stability and performance enhancements, and wraps some previously released fixes into a single update. Microsoft watchers at note that the update contains some new anti-phishing features, including a series of alerts intended to help stop end users from clicking on bogus links. Download the update here.

Sun Unveils Latest StarOffice
Sun Microsystems this week released a new version of its StarOffice business software suite, selling for the princely sum of $69.95. The competitor to Microsoft Office is touting features including "seamless compatibility with Microsoft Office," support for XForms XML-based forms and lots of ease-of-use improvements.

The release may turn out to be perfect timing for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which has proposed that the state standardize on the OASIS OpenDocument format, which StarOffice supports. The 30-day commentary period on the state’s proposal has just ended and dozens, if not hundreds, of comments posted on the state Web site are running heavily in favor of the move.

"It's hard to understate the implications of the Massachusetts proposal," writes Joe Wilcox of Jupiter Research in his blog (see the Sept. 23 entry). After scanning the comments on the Massachusetts site, it’s hard to disagree. If StarOffice really does work as advertised, the business case is compelling (check out a review of the suite here).

Microsoft needs to provide partners with a better answer than, "We support XML," if it’s to beat back this groundswell of support. Would it be so bad to simply support OpenDocument? At the hefty premium customers pay for Office, shouldn’t it be expected to compete on features? Let me know what you think: [email protected].

Special Report on Office 12
At least Microsoft is now being more forthcoming about Office 12 (perhaps not coincidentally). Scott Bekker, editor of our sister site, this week offers a special report outlining 10 key features of the next version of Office, including one that should be of particular interest to partners: deployment help.

Data Protection Manager Ships -- Really
Here’s one of those products that seems like it’s been announced about a dozen times, but this one’s for real: Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, a new disk-based backup and recovery server for Windows file servers, became generally available on Tuesday. The company is clearly trying to build momentum behind it, finding some reason to issue a press release every month or so. Hopefully that strategy will work, because it does seem like a good partner opportunity, as we reported in July.

SharePoint Services SP2 Ships
Windows SharePoint Services Service Pack 2 is likewise now available, according to a posting on the Windows Server Division Weblog. The SP offers advanced extranet and intranet scenarios and supports Windows Server and SQL Server 64-bit editions as well as .NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005.

Business Press Beats Up On Microsoft
First BusinessWeek ran a big story about how the best brains were fleeing Microsoft while those left behind were hugely unhappy. Now Forbes is joining in, with its own in-depth piece that says Microsoft is losing its competitive edge and not growing fast enough, a la IBM in the late ‘80s.

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My take is that the complaints are driven by one inescapable fact: Microsoft’s stock price has been stagnant for about three years. What I don’t understand is why that’s the case. Here’s a company that is raking in huge profits year after year, according to Forbes’ own numbers. No, the growth rate isn’t what it used to be, but Microsoft still has a 31 percent profit margin -- nearly 10 percentage points better than Google, the industry darling of the moment. Microsoft made more than $12 billion in profit last year on sales of nearly $40 billion. This is a problem? By contrast, Google made $1 billion on $4.5 billion in sales.

Google has a great search engine which it has parlayed into a very nice business driven by advertising. But I fail to understand how it can be seen as a serious competitor to Microsoft’s core offerings -- Windows and Office. Yes, some consumers and business users employ the Google desktop search engine. Great. But what has Google got in the pipeline that will offer serious competition to Windows and Office for business users? Nothing that I can see. So why is Google’s stock going through the roof why Microsoft’s remains stagnant? I have no clue. Which is why I’d never make it on Wall Street.

Posted by Paul Desmond on September 28, 2005