This is happening across a number of divisions of the company. In the past couple of months alone, weve seen Microsoft:
- Delay by a year the release of the next major version of its Axapta ERP product;
- Eliminate all together the interim version of Exchange Server, known as Exchange Edge Services, that was due to ship in 2005;
- Push back the launch of Microsofts next major Microsoft CRM release by several months, rather than deliver it earlier this year and update it with another new version next year.
In all of these cases, Microsoft said that it is pushing back, consolidating and outright killing-off slated new releases as a result of customer and partner feedback.
Lets lower our Evil Empire FUD filters (just for a New York minute) and assume that Microsoft is actually listening to its core constituencies and isnt just using customer-input as an excuse for ship dates becoming "slip dates."
Say customers and partners actually are advising Microsoft that they cant afford (budgetwise, deployment-time-wise, and trainingwise) to keep rolling out new releases of mission-critical apps every couple of years. Instead of frequent incremental releases, theyd prefer the occasional, big-kahuna code drop— so long as it doesnt break their existing apps, mind you.
They want Microsoft to slow down because its been moving too fast. And they want to make each release last….
If this really is whats happening out there, Microsoft execs mustnt be feeling too groovy. In fact, they must be getting pretty jittery.
How can you prove you are innovating if you are being requested by your users to delay shipping new product releases so that customers dont get left behind? And even more importantly, if you are Microsoft, how can you keep making money? If your customers arent keen on moving to a software-licensing subscription model (as is the case with Microsofts Software Assurance program, based on renewal data), how are you going to keep your business growing when you arent churning out new, shiny, must-have products at a rapid clip?
The way I see it, Microsoft still has a few options in this new, customer-centric world order.