Does Microsoft Have Designs on Vertical Markets?

The question arises again and again: Does Microsoft intend to field vertical-software solutions? Redmond's answer: Not exactly.

Ask Microsoft Corp. if the company has plans to get into the vertical-application space—by selling healthcare software or pharmaceutical applications, for example—and the companys pat answer is only via its software and reseller partners. But the real answer is much more complicated.

Microsoft Business Solutions, Microsofts small/midsize business division, is adding more layers to its software stack upon which it is encouraging independent software vendor (ISV), system-integration and reseller partners to build.

Traditionally, Microsoft has encouraged partners to build their solutions on top of Windows. Last year, Microsoft one-upped this proposition, by publicly encouraging its partners to build their vertical applications on top of not just Windows, but also other Microsoft technologies, such as its MS CRM and Microsoft Business Framework layers.

Now, Microsoft is adding yet more of its own technologies to the stack atop which it is suggesting its partners build. It is suggesting that ISVs and other channel partners use Microsoft Business Solutions bill-of-materials, project-accounting, payment-processing, core transaction-processing and EDI distribution modules from its Great Plains, Navision and Axapta products as the foundation for their own products. Microsoft officials are advocating that partners either embed these Microsoft modules right into their own vertical products or customize their applications in a way so that they only work atop these Microsoft modules.

Microsoft is calling this new layer of technology its "industry-enabling layer."


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