Manifest Destiny

Microsoft to rewrite Great Plains' apps in two years in C#

Its a familiar scenario: Microsoft Corp. settles into an inauspicious market toehold as competitors pay no heed—only to wake a few years later to find themselves obscured by the Redmond, Wash., companys long shadow.

It happened with Windows. It happened with Office. Now, the plan is to make it happen with Great Plains Software Inc.s business applications. The software became part of Microsofts portfolio when it acquired Great Plains this year.

"All the business software in the world will be replaced," said Microsoft Vice President David Vaskevitch, the mastermind behind the acquisition. "It will be a 10-, 15-, even a 20-year process. You can rewrite SAP [AG], but it will be 10 times easier to rewrite Great Plains."

"We see this as a long-term mission, and its predicated on a platform shift," Vaskevitch said, referring to the Internet and specifically to Microsofts .Net Web services architecture.

Vaskevitch envisions Great Plains growing from a $250 million per year business into a $10 billion business in 10 years. Developers this week will get a glimpse of the particulars of that strategy as they converge on Fargo, N.D., for Great Plains annual developers conference.

Tom Brennan, vice president of marketing at, a Bedford, N.H., application service provider for Great Plains, Siebel Systems Inc. and Microsoft products, said there will be a learning curve with the .Net architecture. "Thats why were sending people to Fargo [this] week," Brennan said.

More details will come next spring, when the company unveils a road map for shipment of its applications, fully rewritten in Microsofts C# programming language. By July 2003, all those products are expected to be available, said David Coulombe, vice president of corporate strategy at Microsoft Great Plains.

This week, Great Plains will announce a small-business accounting package, code-named Blue but which will be called Small Business Manager upon its announcement. The product is designed for companies with one to 25 employees and will occupy a niche above Intuit Inc.s QuickBooks but below Great Plains e-enterprise products.

It will be priced at $1,500 for a single user and $4,000 for five users, said Doug Burgum, senior vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions and president of Microsoft Great Plains.

"The Small Business Manager will support XML [Extensible Markup Language] and will tightly interconnect into Office XP and bCentral Services," Coulombe said. It will work with the bCentral Customer Manager, an eCRM module of Microsofts bCentral application service. Coulombe said that it will work with BusinessDesk, a small- business portal that is slated to ship in June next year.

The initial BusinessDesk will incorporate Microsofts Digital Dashboard technology but will later be upgraded to work with Microsofts SharePoint Portal Server. BusinessDesk will support Universal Description, Discovery and Integration, XML Services, and HailStorm, Coulombe said.

The main benefit of .Net integration will be the ability of customers and suppliers to work more closely together. Much of this benefit will come from the use of BizTalk Server. However, the .Net capabilities will make it much easier to integrate applications with BizTalk, Coulombe said.

Additionally, the .Net-enabled applications will be available as services from bCentral, or, as in the case of Small Business Manager, they will enlarge their functionality by interoperating with bCentral services.

But perhaps most important to the long-term Great Plains .Net strategy are the developers gathering in Fargo this week. Just as ISVs made Windows dominant by providing every type of application imaginable, so, too, will developers of vertical applications—already a healthy community for Great Plains—serve as an army creating .Net applications for vertical industries.

"Its already a big ecosystem. This [.Net] should make it an even bigger ecosystem," ManagedOps.coms Brennan said.