By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2003-09-08 Print this article Print

: Whats on Tap"> Microsofts MBS (Microsoft Business Solutions) group intends to redesign its enterprise software lines to ease integration under an effort dubbed Project Green. However, the project will be based on Microsofts .Net platform and is timed to be released with "Longhorn," an upgrade of Windows built on .Net. Longhorns due date slipped from 2004 to 2005, and now Microsoft is not committing to a delivery date.

Still, MBS executives said they dont believe Microsoft will lose a competitive edge if Project Green slips.

"One of the fundamental motivations to build the next-generation code base is we believe the current set of technology is not yet up to par," said Satya Nadella, MBS corporate vice president. "Thats not just a statement of our products but a statement about the industry in general. We believe there is a customization framework that allows multiple parties to come together, and we are investing heavily on that."

Customers, for their part, are unsure of the transition.

"Well, it makes you nervous. It will be a change, but change is good," said Great Plains user Cindy Highbarger, the controller at Mid-Continent Instruments, in Wichita, Kan. "My understanding is theres still going to be several years overlap [with products], but Microsofts focus will be on the new package. We want to make sure our programmers learn the new [.Net] language, but we dont know what it is yet."

If Microsoft is going to succeed in wooing and keeping SMB customers, it is going to have to make customers such as Brian Nay happy. Nay, executive director of Information Systems and Technology at Stampin Up Inc., likes that he can run his IT shop cost-effectively on Microsoft technologies.

But licensing decisions Microsoft has made in the past year or two have cost his company, Nay said. For example, with Windows XP, Nay said, he was pressured to upgrade before a specified time, which he did with a significant effort. "We were enticed prematurely to act," said Nay, who is concerned that the same thing will happen with .Net.

"This is usually how it works: [Product support] is gradual until they pull the plug and say, Were not going to support that old thing anymore, and youre pretty much forced to stay with the program," said Nay. "Youve worked hard, and the carpet gets pulled out from underneath you. Thats frustrating. But you have to temper that with advances in technology."


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