Microsoft Does Developers Like Nobodys Business

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2007-07-11

Microsoft Does Developers Like Nobodys Business

At its Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft has launched and enhanced a series of initiatives to help ISVs (independent software vendors) do more with Microsoft technology.

One of these efforts is around Office Business Applications, also known as OBAs. Microsoft launched its OBA OnRamp Program at the show. Microsoft defines OBA as a new breed of application that combines the familiar and ubiquitous Microsoft Office system with line-of-business applications including enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) and uses Office as a development platform.

Microsoft has long since been the gold standard for developer support—certainly for individual developers, with the MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network), but also for ISVs, as so many companies have based their existence on Microsoft technology.

The OBA OnRamp Program includes technical resources, marketing assistance and sales acceleration for partners. And Microsoft distributed 10,000 OBA Quickstart Kits to 10,000 attendees at its Worldwide Partner Conference. The content of the kit is divided into "business ready," "developer ready" and "partner ready" DVDs and includes case studies, tutorials, demos, white papers and sample code.

To read about Microsofts dip into the channel, click here.

Daz Wilkin, a program manager in the Platform Strategy Group at Microsoft, said the OBA OnRamp Program is about Microsoft enabling its partner ecosystem to extend and develop new solutions that leverage a key component of the Microsoft application platform: Office.

"The OBA OnRamp Program is the formalization of all the learning and training to facilitate partners for building OBAs," Wilkin said. "This is Microsofts effort to help its partner community build better applications based on Office."

"This is not a numbers game. Were making our existing ecosystem more empowered by giving them better tools," Wilkin said. "As a byproduct, this will help to bring more partners in, and they can extend solutions to the Office system."

Today, there are hundreds of ISVs building and deploying OBAs. And more than 50 partners have already enrolled in the OBA OnRamp program, Microsoft said.

Allen Emerick, director of Applications & Integration at Skanska USA Building, said Skanskas U.S. operation, which has worldwide headquarters in Solna, Sweden, uses OBAs.

Read here about how Ballmer urged its partners to embrace SAAS.

"Were always trying to do more with less and to simplify the user experience," Emerick said of why his unit pursued the OBA approach. "We saw tremendous value between Office and SharePoint and also, moving forward, with PerformancePoint."

Wilkin said he sees Microsoft software running on the client, "and we acknowledge a lot of change on the back end—a move to more SOA (service oriented architecture), modeling and Software plus Services."

Citing the Skanska example, Wilkin said OBAs enable companies to better exploit the expertise of their knowledge workers to create powerful applications customized for the business. "Its the next step in the software-as-a-service story in the enterprise," he said.

In any event, the OBA OnRamp program is just one of many programs Microsoft has for ISVs.

Next page: IBM is not far behind.

IBM Not Far Behind

As I said, I believe Microsoft is the gold standard for developer programs and support for its ISVs.

But IBM is not far behind, In fact, if you ask IDC, IBM is the industry leader for ISV programs across the areas of marketing, technical, and sales support. IDC made that finding in an independent study conducted at the end of last year.

The report found that IBM achieved the highest overall score, followed by Microsoft, SAP, Oracle and HP.

According to the report, "This is a reflection of the breadth of IBMs offerings for ISVs across the categories and subcategories that are most important to ISVs." IDC also gave IBM high marks in three subcategories: marketing tools, technical tools, and product certification.

Chris Wong, vice president of marketing and strategy, IBM ISV and Developer Relations said, "the real change for IBM came four or five years ago when we made the strategic decision to get out of the applications business. That caused us to take a good look at our partners and building an ecosystem for ISVs. We had to explode out capabilities to recruit and enable thousands of ISVs and to grow that ecosystem."

Wong said IBMs position of not competing with its ISV partners in the applications space resonated with them. Another plus for IBM is its focus on open standards and support for open source technologies, Wong said.

Meanwhile, to tap developer interest at the individual level, IBM beefed up its DeveloperWorks program and Web site.

"A main differentiator between us and Microsoft is in the kind of resources we are giving to our developers and the focus of that content," an IBM spokeswoman said. Microsoft takes the proprietary approach and trains its developers on Microsoft technology—locking them in to a .Net world. IBM DeveloperWorks focus is to arm IT professionals with open technology and train them on industry skills (SOA, Web 2.0, Java, etc.) so they can be competitive and well-rounded professionals."

To read about Microsofts Software Plus Services pitch to its partners, click here.

Well, theres definitely something to be said for that. DeveloperWorks features a ton of good developer information.

But byte for byte, my vote goes to Microsoft for its longstanding history of reaching out to and interacting with developers. I know there will objectors who will raise the issue about the company withholding key APIs when dealing with some ISVs. But whenever Id report on developer programs, nearly any vendor in question would comment that their program was "like MSDN" or "like Microsofts" Or theyd brag that their new executive in charge of developer relations had formerly worked at MSDN or helped foster the Microsoft developer community. Nobodys saying those things about IBM—maybe about Borland in their heyday, but not about IBM.

But its a new day and theres a new generation of companies and developers and of rules.

eBay ranked as having the best developer program among so-called Web 2.0 companies, according to a recent survey of developers. Evans Data, of Santa Cruz, Calif., reported the findings of its Developers Choice: Web 2.0 Developer Programs survey on June 6. In the survey, which included nearly 400 developers, eBay ranked first against Amazon, Google, MSN, PayPal and Yahoo.

However, Microsoft fared well in this survey as well.

In the Evans survey, Google tied with MSN for having the best tools. Developers mentioned Microsofts overall commitment to developers, as well as Googles tools for search, collaboration and publishing, and geospatial mapping, Evans officials said. Developers also cited Microsofts strength in Web services as a plus.

Are there any Web 2.0 lessons Microsoft should apply to its developer program? Who do you think has the best developer and ISV programs?

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