Microsoft Corp. may have bitten off more than it can chew with its Web services offerings. The company is now telling partners and customers that it may delay the rollout of the first batch of its .Net My Services to fine-tune the architecture and business model.
The initial set of 15 Microsoft-owned-and-operated XML-based My Services, which includes the .Net Alerts notification service, .Net Inbox and .Net Wallet, were released as a developer beta late last year, with a full release expected in the second half of this year.
But that rollout may be delayed as the Redmond, Wash., software maker refines the services to address user concerns on privacy, security, the use of data, lock-in and Microsofts perceived role as the gatekeeper of the Web services world. It is also battling to find an effective business model for those services, sources said.
"There is a marked strategy shift within Microsoft about the Passport single-sign-in authentication system that lets users access .Net My Services," said a Microsoft partner who has been briefed and spoke on condition of anonymity. "Microsoft is considering developing a new server software product that will allow businesses to host their own .Net My Services data internally. Microsoft has warned us of a possible delay in the rollout of the first set of services."
A developer who requested anonymity and is familiar with Microsofts plans said the company is also looking at how to incorporate its traditional revenue model of selling software into the business plan for .Net My Services. "That will revolve around selling server software to those customers or partners who want to host and manage the data generated by these services," he said.
Enterprise users such as Massimo Villinger, chief technology officer for Lockheed Martin Enterprise Information Systems, in Orlando, Fla., are among those voicing their concern, particularly about the security, privacy and treatment of data.
"I am, in general, encouraged by what I am hearing about changes and services targeted at the enterprise," Villinger said. "But we have to see the details, and those are still in flux. We have expressed our concerns to Microsoft, and they are taking a proactive stance in that regard."
Microsoft officials admit they face challenges with My Services. Eric Rudder, senior vice president for developer and platform evangelism at Microsoft, said the company is working to balance the schedule for My Services with the needs of its customers.
"Were figuring out what things we have to get right in Version 1 and how best to incorporate customer feedback," Rudder said. "One of the messages that came across clearly is that customers want to own their own data and that My Services can be run behind the firewall."
Microsoft will continue to work on federated versions of the system that gave individuals and corporations control over their data, he said.
Matt Rosoff, an analyst at research company Directions on Microsoft, in Kirkland, Wash., said there is a tectonic shift going on at Microsoft in terms of the business model and positioning of its .Net My Services offering.
"While Microsoft put together some good technology, they just didnt have enough senior people working on a viable business plan for it," Rosoff said.
"The greatest change will be that Microsoft will now no longer position itself as the sole or primary host of these services but will rather sell the technology within some sort of server product and allow ISPs and [application service providers] to host their own instances and also allow corporations to do it behind the firewall," he said. "It may also allow all these different instances of the services to federate with one another."
In addition, Microsoft will revert to its strategy of selling software, Rosoff said, but he added that it is unclear whether this would be a separate server product, be built into Windows .Net Server or integrated into a product such as Commerce Server. "I dont expect well see this until late this year when a clearer road map emerges," he said.
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