The Business User

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-06-07 Print this article Print

So the memo was just about how could we do this better. How could we make it easier for a large group of people … and I dont think it puts us in competition with, say, Microsoft because Microsoft, and I speak from experience from when we built Access, looks at things in regard to a minimum acceptable number of customers as 50 to 100 million. And most of the Office products have a lot more. And they dont build the product for the business user. As far as theyre concerned they want very, very large markets. So they want to get at the person I called the end user on that magic triangle I showed today. This is a subset, or what I call the smart business user, which is probably more like 20 or 30 million people. So its too small; its below their critical mass. And theres certain things I need to do and people at BEA know how to do, and customers need done; so theres an opportunity for BEA to differentiate. On the other hand you mentioned a blog reader, for example. But in the larger macro view how you monitor user input and what users want to do in terms of routing information, that would certainly get the attention of Microsoft.
Look, Microsoft does everything. So anything you do in software gets their attention. The issue is where do they put their focus? And they tend to put their focus in platform and in large market. Theyre an economies-of-scale company, and every time they try not to be an economies-of-scale company they dont do very well. Every time they actually do focus on economies of scale they normally do fairly decent.
Theyve never done particularly well at what you just described—which is not to say they couldnt. For example, I run on Exchange and I have my calendar. And I am highly mobile. So wherever I am in the world, so are my people. Ive got teams in India, in Europe, what have you. Just having a calendar and when you enter a time and you enter it in time relative to your location, so that no matter where I am I can see when its occurring, is not doable. Because theyre still more consumer than enterprise focused. And it drives me nuts, because what I end up doing is right now I think it is 2:11 p.m. [instead of 11:11 a.m.]. Why? Because I go and look at my calendar, which is on Outlook … and Ill be completely confused about when Im supposed to meet with you. So, yes, they may want to do that. But let me give you another example. I specd out what SQL Server, at the time, 2002 should look like in late 1999. And I specd in most of the features people should want in sort of an SOA [services-oriented architecture] world. And it was pretty clear we could build those things, when I was at Microsoft, in 2002. But its now very clear that they will not ship at the earliest until late 2004 and probably later. Now what happened? Its not that the engineers are inept, its that they went and dumped a huge amount of consumer features into the mix that they needed to support things like the Exchange convergence and what have you because thats where the mass market was. The enterprise just wasnt mass market enough for them. So they made SQL Server focus much more on consumer features. Look at what theyre doing with WinFS and then Longhorn, the same thing. Next page: The A Team.

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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