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Vista: Still an Offer You Can't Refuse

Imagine the scene (entirely fictional, of course): Bill Gates, Ray Ozzie and Steve Ballmer kick back in the dimly lit basement of a Seattle coffee shop, double lattes steaming. Kevin Johnson, the new Windows boss, and Jim Allchin, long-time head of Windows now on his way out, relax in leather chairs. Over hands of high-stakes poker, Gates and Ballmer spin tales for Ozzie about their most famous whackings -- Kahn, Andreessen, now McNealy. Just then, a minion knocks timidly on the door.

Hat in hand, the underling enters the musty room and nervously breaks the bad news: Vista, the next version of Windows, is going to ship later than planned -- even later than Microsoft said it would a couple of months ago. We're talking RTM in Q2 2007 now, which means everything -- even the version for volume licenses due in November -- gets bumped once again, well into next year. Partners aren't going to like this, the minion bleats. Consumers are going to have to wait even longer, too...

Johnson looks up nervously from his cards at the Godfather and his consigliore. Gates and Ballmer shrug. Allchin, a made man, takes a pull of latte. Ozzie looks at his cards, waiting silently for a reaction. "Eh," Ballmer says. "It's not as though we haven't been through this before. Besides, if users don't like it, they can just buy the competitor's product." With that phrase out, Ballmer begins a long, slow laugh that builds into a full-fledged guffaw. Gates bursts into laughter. Allchin takes a pull of latte. Ozzie joins in the laughter, slapping a nervous Johnson on the back.

Back in the real world, the analysts at Gartner say there's no way Microsoft will have Vista ready by the dates it re-stated in March: November for volume licenses and January for everybody else. Microsoft says everything's still on for November/January as planned -- or re-planned, as the case may be.

But the real question here isn't when Vista will come out, it's whether or not you care about another Vista delay. You're going to sell and develop for Windows no matter what, right? Regardless of version? The buzz now is that nobody (except Microsoft, presumably) really cares whether Vista comes out "on time" in late 2006/early 2007 or a few months later. Vista will still be an offer nobody can refuse, even if it's late; there are no real alternatives. If Vista really does slip into Q2 of next year, is it a big deal for you? For anybody? Or is it just business as usual with Microsoft? Let me know what you think at lpender@rcpmag.com.

I've Got You, Babe...For Now
Let the word go out to Simon & Garfunkel, Hall & Oates, Loggins & Messina and even Peaches & Herb -- Microsoft and SAP now have a "Duet" of their own. Formerly known as Mendocino, the integration of SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) processes into Office is now called, rather poetically, Duet. It's scheduled to ship in June.

For users of these two completely dominant sets of applications, Duet could make beautiful music. For SAP, it's an immediate interface upgrade into the ubiquitous Office applications. For Microsoft...it might very well be a signal that Redmond is serious about ERP. The company is finally starting to make a coherent push behind its own Dynamics ERP applications, talking strategy and roadmaps and introducing a big new advertising campaign. Microsoft might just be using Duet to show that it's into the ERP thing before eventually de-emphasizing the SAP partnership and steering customers over to the new, improved Dynamics -- expected to be a single-platform supersuite by 2009 or so.

Along those same lines, Microsoft announced a partnership with UGS, a maker of product lifecycle management (PLM) software, this week that will bring the full UGS PLM product suite to the Microsoft platform. Microsoft already has a similar deal with another PLM giant, France's Dassault Systemes, whose products are still sold largely through IBM. PLM software lets companies automate the design and manufacturing of all sorts of products and then manage the "lifecycle" (maintenance, repair, etc.) of those products until they get put out to pasture. It's a money spinner of a software sector that has cross-industry appeal but is absolutely enormous among automakers, aerospace firms and just about anybody else who deals with anything mechanical. Is Redmond on the hunt for a PLM play? Stay tuned...

Hey, Redmond, Watch Out for Those Goths
Microsoft issued an earnings warning last week that sent Wall Street into a bit of a panic. There was good news, though -- Redmond plans to boost R&D spending in the months to come.

The question is how and where that money is going to be spent. Microsoft is into just about everything now, from video games (the money-losing Xbox) to ERP. Most of the time, when Microsoft wants to dominate a market, it just goes and does it. Maybe not overnight, but eventually. That's pretty much been the rule in most categories of software, anyway. Still, we have to wonder how far the hegemony of Windows will take Redmond. Dynamics is getting ready to ramp up big time, and Microsoft is now making interesting little moves in business intelligence and even PLM, among many other categories. What's the final frontier? Is there one? Like the Roman Empire, could Microsoft ever spread itself too thin and suffer some (or many) consequences?

As a partner, where would you like to see Microsoft go -- or not go -- next? Tell me what you think at lpender@rcpmag.com.

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Somehow, 'MSN It' Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring to It
Here we go again...this time it's Google complaining that Internet Explorer 7 might violate antitrust rules. It seems as though Microsoft might want to use IE7 to direct users to MSN Search rather than Google.

What's that you say? Microsoft using one product to steer users to another? Shocking...

Note to Google: Hey, we see where you're coming from. But, you've got a good thing going, and nobody has ever really taken down Microsoft in the courts. Keep focusing on innovation, and don't let the legal stuff distract you. You're part of the Internet lexicon now -- much more so than Netscape ever was. It's better to keep Redmond on its toes through innovation and clever marketing than it is to get wrapped up in court.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 03, 2006 at 11:53 AM