Will Microsoft be relevant in the SaaS world?

As some reading this might know I’m a bit tired of Microsoft everywhere, so I apologize in advance if you perceive some negative sentiment towards Microsoft. I have been like that since 2001/2002, when .NET was announced/released and everyone came knocking on my door – you have to look at this. I’d turn around and say Why? its an earlier version of what I’m working on with J2EE. I’d already worked out how to use EJBs and related technology properly by that time and how to specify J2EE projects for delivery (hard, hard work getting to that point though) using geographically distributed development teams.

I suppose .NET woke some of the J2EE guys up by having the Microsoft People say "Don’t rule us out, .NET can do it too!" but at the same token the Microsoft aligned developer community needed something to move to. As VB, ASP and MS C++ development was no longer exciting at that time or able to scale. Now did you notice that I said "Microsoft People"? What surprised me, was that there was an option for these Microsoft People to explore alternate technology besides the newly introduced .NET. After all, who uses version 1.0 software? I wonder how many explored alternate technology only to say that .NET Ver 1.0 was the way to go as it protected our investment in VB and ASP skills? Many did just this, they kept to the Microsoft technology, even though there were maybe better alternatives for their circumstances, thus I call them Microsoft People.

SaaS (Software as a Service) is the future of software delivery, being that it will be off-premise delivery of software as a service to the consumers of the products. There is lots of interest in this subject and the analysts are always commenting about strategies that organisations will adopt to transform over time to the SaaS delivery model. For Microsoft, there will be a loss of income as the number of licenses installed on-premise will dissipate as these off-premise services become more pervasive. SaaS will also be extremely disruptive on the IT services community that is supported by these Microsoft People. I can see many Microsoft People becoming disgruntled, especially in the Microsoft software channel as the need for the software channel dissipates through the direct to consumer engagement model of SaaS.

Microsoft is a company that has grown up with packaged software on-premise and its technology has grown to support that model. Because the technology was for on-premise and used extensively in lower concurrent user usage scenarios, emphasis was not placed on those items for higher concurrent usage and availability scenarios like in-process fail over. I’m still not certain if .NET can support this or not? Now this is where the J2EE technology shone in so many ways above that of .NET. 

I think there is some very turbulent times ahead for Microsoft and the recent Yahoo take over activity shows that they are looking for more ways to accelerate this change then what can be achieved through internal change and innovation alone. As they say, a large ship can not easily be turned by a small rudder.

Now I grew up in my early teens programming Microsoft Level II Basic (this is giving away my age), and entered the work force as the PC was becoming ubiquitous in business operations. So much so, that I avoided learning how to program the Mainframe. I bought a copy of MS-Access Ver 1.0 at a discount. I used to program using early versions of Microsoft Studio for C etc but during that time and up to now, I have never seen Microsoft have it’s "IBM Moment".

Is the Yahoo takeover activity an early signal or is it the continuing emergence of SaaS as a disruptive influence potentially signaling Microsoft’s "IBM Moment"? I’m not a 100% certain, what I believe though is that there may be too much inertia with Microsoft’s current business model to enable it to change rapidly enough to be relevant in the SaaS world of tomorrow.

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