NetDocs Succumbs to XP

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2001-04-16 Print this article Print

Microsoft puts technology team under Office umbrella, ending rivalry

In a defensive move designed to protect its lucrative Office software suite, Microsoft Corp. has moved the rival NetDocs team under the Office umbrella. The shift terminates the very real threat NetDocs posed to Office and ends the rivalry and intense competition between the two teams, which have been headed by Office Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky and NetDocs chief Brian MacDonald, senior vice president of Subscription Services.

MacDonald has taken a leave of absence for family reasons, officials said, and the 400-member NetDocs team will now fall under Sinofsky.

NetDocs is the code name for the integrated application that Microsoft demonstrated at its .Net unveiling last June. It includes a full suite of functions, including e-mail, personal information management, document authoring tools, digital-media management and instant messaging.

Microsoft watchers say it was inevitable that Office, as one of the companys crown jewels, would win the battle, even though NetDocs was designed to showcase .Net technologies. One of those technologies was a new user interface that delivered an integrated workspace that enabled all the application modules to be available simultaneously.

Office Product Manager Lisa Gurry downplayed the situation, saying the intention from the start has been to take the NetDocs technologies and incorporate them in other products, including Office versions beyond Windows XP.

Gurry also poured cold water on the possibility that NetDocs could survive as a stand-alone product, even as a .Net offering available as a hosted service over the Internet, saying NetDocs and Office would merge.

The entire NetDocs team was "floored" by the decision, a source close to the company said. "They have the whole product fully built and already had contracts in place for things like co-branding. The Microsoft powers-that-be have once again come down on the side of proprietary platforms instead of on standards-based ones," the source said.

To further protect the Office numbers, the implementation of the Office XP subscription service may be delayed beyond May 31—the date the packaged version hits retail stores. Pricing for the subscription offering has also been held back. Analysts said this could be designed to drive the number of full-paying upgrade users and new licensed users.

Microsoft is scheduled to release its financial results for next quarter this week. Analysts expect the Redmond, Wash., company to squeak past the low end of its earnings estimates.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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