Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A day late & A dollar short: Microsoft In a Web based world

So the proverbial Cat is out of proverbial Bag, sometime back Bill Gate sent a memo to his staff, (Direct Reports, Distinguished Engg and Executive team). In this memo Mr. Gates acknowledged the threat of Web based application and alerted them about the upcoming seismic shift in the software industry. He also assured them that they have anticipated it (.net & Windows Live) and they are still in the leading position in the market.

Are they? Well on the face of it both of the claims are true. Microsoft had anticipated the trend but miscalculated the magnitude and velocity of change. One company, which was mentioned prominently and explicitly in the memo, was Their CEO Mark Benioff sent a memo to his staff telling them that there time to take over the world has come. Its there hour of glory and now Microsoft doesn’t have a chance to stand anywhere in this Web service Eco system (Benioff called it Business Web) finally he shouted “Aloha” and concluded the memo.

All very (Yawn.) interesting.

As a web service enthusiast I admit Microsoft’s stance is good news for me. They have finally validated it as a feasible and sustainable way of doing business. With all its financial muscle and development bandwidth why is Redmond giant so afraid?

I think they are in real panic to make up for the lost time. They have realized that they were a bit late to respond to change and there delay can cost them dear. They are in habit of imposing their standards on developer community but web services are evolving on their own course. Microsoft doesn’t have the clout to mould it in their favor. With Longhorn in pipeline and Linux of its head I think Microsoft is having a little bandwidth available to actively monitor this arena. This alone explains the phenomenal rise of Ray Ozzie in Microsoft. They neither have time nor bandwidth to handle this they are basically “ A day Late & A Dollar Short “ in this situation.

On the second thought this situation is not new for them either. They were late in browser war and nearly gate crashed the party and killed the opponent (Read Netscape). But things are a little different now. In the past all the brilliant move of Microsoft were based on the strategy of “Operating System Integration” now as I mentioned in an earlier posting that OS Monopoly is not an (sustainable) advantage anymore.

Web service is alive: :Is Windows Dead??

It is commonly believed that any company which leads in one wave of computing is rarely a leader in subsequent wave. It’s hard to be on cutting edge of innovation if you have a big turf to protect. When a firm adopts “Process” mindset, innovation is usually it’s first casualty. So it’s easy to conclude that Microsoft can’t innovate and its end is near. True but not very true.

Bill Gates in his book “The Road Ahead” said, “We often overestimate what will happen in next two year and underestimate what will happen in next ten years. Market are by definition very optimistic on a short term basis”.

I agree, market work on a quarter –to – quarter basis and there memory is also limited up to previous quarter. I hear everywhere that company like & will be the replacing Ms-Office but when people shout that this is a new idea I can only scoff in pain. Idea of having web based office productivity software is perhaps as old as Internet itself. Nothing new here, Borland tried it in past and failed, Google said to be doing it and so does many other companies. These companies might have the technology to pull this stunt but nobody ever come up with the good enough explanation/strategy to offset the “My Data-on –your Server “ fear of enterprise customer.

If you look it more closely the very idea of Web service is not totally new. It’s just a next step in Mainframe-To-Fat Client-To-Thin client –To –Internet, series of evolution. . They are as some skeptic call them “Glorified Web Based Light weight vendor neutral API”.

Well the difference is that the buzz has caught a Grass Root fanfare. This time it is not confined in the realm of Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) only. As this is the “Hot “ Technology every smart developer wants to work on it and Microsoft has very little to offer him. Though they have .net but there standards are still an “Also Run” along with BEA, Sun One, WSDL, SOA and other dozen such standards.

Surprisingly all these consortiums are cooperating with each other up to now but I doubt it will be the same when there will be a mass adaptation of this techniques. Standards are still in flux and nobody know who will be the winner .I can bet that sooner or later companies will have proprietary implementation of some service specification and that will contaminate the open source culture of web service. The low level service may remain “open Source” but higher level, business critical service will be proprietary and so interoperability will be an issue. No matter what we love to believe we should remember that Software firms love to lock the customer. For them marketing is just the art of making better mousetraps.

Coming back to the question of Windows. I think the web service is a good, much needed but still and evolving technology and this hype will do much harm then good to it is still very far from becoming a viable way of business so any talk of being a windows killer is just crap. Windows is very much alive and if at all it will die its own death under the weight of Longhorn. We don’t need Linux or to do it.

The only beneficiary of this saga is and Mr.Benioff. He has cashed this opportunity to secured some good lead and must have made a good PR and promotion stuff out of the memo I salute him for his business sense. The guy really knows how to make most out of the given opportunity.

Post Script: on last update Microsoft is pulling its act together they are sniffing the market for some desktop based feed reader, which they might provide free with Vista (Like IE). Still stuck to the old method of “Operating System Integration” old habits goes hard. If they can’t take desktop to web they will bring web to desktop. Its so typical Microsoft act. J

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