The Tech-Ed Curriculum

Microsoft is even more than before in the position of needing to ante up

As developers converge in Atlanta for this weeks Microsoft TechEd conference, Microsoft should seize the opportunity to set an agenda thats good for the future of enterprise IT. The following are our suggestions. First, Microsoft must condense some reality from the vapor of its .Net marketecture by moving decisively toward the long-awaited release of a developer tool suite, Visual Studio.Net, that is expected to deliver on the admirable potential of .Nets new programming model. With Suns surprising declarations at the recent JavaOne conference of its new service-oriented features and developer productivity enhancements for the Java platform, Microsoft needs to ante up.

Second, Microsoft should commit clearly to the services-oriented shift of its software focus: a shift that Microsoft itself has long been urging on smaller developers. Microsoft officials have been talking for more than a year about a services-based, programmable Web, but at the same time, the company has been practicing business-as-usual packaging of CDs—not to mention selling software upgrades that seem more aimed at meeting Microsoft revenue goals than at solving any actual enterprise problems.

Microsofts acquisition of Great Plains may give Redmond an opportunity to demonstrate in a few years the sale-of-services model for enterprise software, but it appears that in Great Plains, Microsoft had to buy a commitment that it was unable to attract on the merits of its technology and vision. Unless independent developers start betting with their own money, IT buyers are unlikely to believe in what theyre being promised.

Third, Microsoft should renounce any future "embrace and extend" attacks on open standards. There are some positive signs from Redmond regarding technologies such as XML (Extensible Markup Language); Universal Description, Discovery and Integration; and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), and the developers at TechEd need to see more of the same. We have previously noted with approval, not to mention relief, the vigorous participation of other major technology providers in the refinement of SOAP and of other XML-based technologies—any of which might have become Microsoft lock-in strategies if ignored for too long by IBM and Sun. There is a crucial distinction between defining the dominant platform, a role that Microsoft has earned, and using that role to constrain the hybrid vigor of a market that combines the talents of many brilliant development organizations.

These recommendations are not outlandish but are in line with Microsoft promises. Now Microsoft must deliver. The TechEd faithful deserve no less.