What is the opportunity for Microsoft partners (or other VARs, SIs, ISVs and technologists) in the emerging cloud computing space? Don't think of cloud as a threat but as an opportunity to ratchet up your value to the business my evangelizing and encouraging their transition to the cloud. How? At the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference I addressed this issue in an Expo Theater presentation. Missed it? Now you haven't:
This week, I was at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., and it was all about THE CLOUD. Now, many colleagues argue that Microsoft will be the second-to-last major vendor to show a 100% cloud commitment, saying that “it’s too embedded in its traditional software business,” “it doesn’t understand the new world,” and “it’d be scared of cannibalizing existing and predictable maintenance revenues.” But I remember Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft Business Systems, tell me with a mischievous grin that he’ll probably earn more money from Exchange Online than the on-premise version — “firstly, it’s mainly new business from other platforms like Lotus Notes, and second, I even generate revenues by charging for things like the data center buildings, the infrastructure, even the electricity I use.” That was in Berlin last November. I suspected then that Microsoft did get it but was just getting its platform ready. This week, I am convinced — Microsoft is “all in,” as they say.
And at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, it was driving its partners to the cloud as aggressively as any vendor has ever talked to its partners at such an event. All of the Microsoft executives preached a consistent mantra: “MOVE to the cloud, or you may not be around in five years.”
Microsoft’s cloud-based Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) is already being promoted by 16,000 partners that either get referral incentives for Microsoft-billed BPOS fees or bundle it into their own offerings (mainly telcos). There are nearly 5,000 certified Azure-ready partners. This week, Microsoft turned up the heat with these announcements:
Google announced yesterday that it is buying ITA Software for $700 million. ITA does two main things: airline eCommerce and reservations management solutions and a cross-airline flight comparison tool called QPX, used by most of the major travel comparison Web sites including Kayak, Orbitz, and Microsoft Bing.
Google purchased it for the QPX product in a classic example of buying technology instead of either building it in-house or licensing it.
Today, Bing, Microsoft’s search offering, offers a solutionthat is based on QPX to help customers search for flight information on the Bing Web site. Google has nothing comparable; instead, they direct customers to other travel specific sites (see the screenshots below).
Google is focused on the goal of staying at least half a step ahead of Microsoft in all aspects of search technology; in order to stay ahead of Microsoft in this area, Google had three major options: 1) License the technology; 2) Build it themselves; 3) Buy ITA.
Licensing the technology would mean that Google would end up with a solution equivalent to Microsoft’s and not as robust as specialized Web sites like Kayak. Building the technology would take several years, allowing Microsoft and other competitors to continue to differentiate themselves and pull ahead.
This left the acquisition as the only viable path to regaining leadership in this area, while at the same time placing Microsoft in the awkward position of relying on Google-owned technology as the backend for one of their major search features.
Many product strategists are, like me, old enough to remember software stores like Egghead. Those days are gone. Today, consumer packaged software represents a very limited market – the software aisle has shrunk, like the half-empty one at the Best Buy in Cambridge, MA (pictured).
Only a few packaged software categories still exist: Games. Utilities and security software. And Microsoft Office – which constitutes a category unto itself. Some 67% of US online consumers regularly use Office at home, according to Forrester’s Consumer TechnographicsPC And Gaming Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US). Office is the most ubiquitous – and therefore successful – consumer client program aside from Windows OS.
Office 2010, Microsoft’s latest release, will continue to succeed with consumers. On the shoulders of Office 2010 rests nothing less than the defense of packaged software in general. It’s also the most tangible example of Microsoft’s Software Plus Services approach to the cloud – a term that Microsoft seems to be de-emphasizing lately, but which captures the essence of the Office 2010 business goal:
To sell packaged client software and offer Web-based services to augment the experience.
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
Okay, so I'm a sucker for nostalgia. But being on the same stage as Gilda Radner and John Belushi and John Candy and Tina Fey was a thrill. And being in the same studio where Elvis Costello and the Attractions stopped "Less Than Zero" after a few bars and jumped into "Radio Radio" in defiance of NBC's wishes brought a rebellious, empowered smile to my face.
NBC's Studio 8H, home of Saturday Night Live, is where Microsoft launched SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 yesterday. It was a short, punchy, customer-filled event. These products are the latest in the "Wave 14" product set, a ginormous (as my 9-year old says) overhaul of the Office product line. And they're beauts. Here's my (admittedly enthusiastic) analysis of what Microsoft has accomplished with this product.
The lion awakens and roars.
Microsoft's Office business has taken a battering in the press as journalists chase stories about the important innovations from nimble startup competitors, open source alternatives, and Web-based productivity tools. But let's face it. Microsoft doesn't have 500,000,000 people using its tools for no reason. And while three years is a long time to wait for a product release (especially in this era of instant innovation via the Internet), Microsoft has re-confirmed its position as the most important driver of business productivity on the planet. This launch will crush the dreams of a 100 entrepreneurs and force another 1,000 to rethink their companies. That's okay. It's what happens when Microsoft turns a niche product for a geeky few into a global feature that anybody can use. As an economy, we need it.
I've just had the chance in the past few hours to really play with the device. I find myself smiling each time a new SMS bubble pops up. I love it. I also like seeing my friends' faces on my phone. I love being able to navigate my content and messages via my friends. Loved how easy it was to set up my email, Facebook, and Twitter. Packaging rocks ... and is recyclable. What is subtle in this device, in my opinion, is how intuitive the UI is. The UI looks and feels similar to others I have seen, but I was able to pick up this phone and use it without reading the instructions.
My colleague Charles Golvin will provide a more in-depth analysis of the device itself.
From a social networking/media perspective, the KIN is a good start, but I hope to see more with upcoming releases, especially around helping people build their social graph. I don't put this burden on Microsoft alone, but on the industry and all handset manufacturers. The content we create needs more meta data or labels. We need logic to mesh this content together and navigate through it. It's great that I can navigate to my friends' status and messages through my contacts (and KIN's UI is a lot of fun). I also want to navigate through my photos and location. Location should be table stakes for photo/status/review (restaurant/bar) content and the logic shouldn't flow in just one direction. Based on my location (simple location or map), I want to see who is nearby or what restaurants my friends liked. Navigating through my friends, I want to see what restaurants they liked. I want to group photos by location. I want to group photos by friends. These are just a few examples. With every product and service developed, one can't have everything. There are cost, time and design trade-offs. I completely understand that the KIN and DROID and others couldn't get everything done in v1.0. I look forward to the next version.
I had the opportunity to go to the KIN launch today. My colleague Charles Golvin has a full take here.
I loved the social networking features on the phone (and the graphical interface with the "spot" though I'd need a change-up on noises). This isn't the first phone we've seen where the experience is centered on my friends and my contacts, but they keep getting better. We argued (see report) long ago as many did that the cell phone should be the hub of one's social graph and not simply an application on the handset. The KIN comes close and does many things well including:
- Offers status updates inside of my contact profiles which are "live" on my homescreen
- Allows the user to post photos directly from the phone
- Tags photos with location
- Allows me to choose one of many communication channels within profile (many options, but not my full list)
- Builds an online journal of my photos, videos, messages and contacts (looks to me a lot like the concept Nokia tried with their life blog application a while back)
What it is missing, but I suspect is in development:
- Tags (meta data) that allow me to build a richer social graph by tagging my photos with contacts, groups, trips, etc.
- Ability to help me find my friends
- Location tags integrated into maps that connect me to my friends' favorite restaurants, bookstores, etc. - or more generally their content - could also be photos, videos and posts
I was lucky enough last week [22 March 2010] to moderate a panel at EclipseCon on the future of application servers. The panelists did a great job, but I thought were far too conservative in their views. I agree with them that many customers want evolutionary change from today to future app servers, but I see requirements driving app servers toward radical change. Inevitably.
The changes I see:
Get more value from servers, get responsive, get agile and flexible