Microsoft Playing Nicer with ISVs, Company Exec Says

The world's leading software vendor has reached out to mend relationships with other software makers as it makes its own applications more of a platform, a company exec tells a software industry conference.

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft execs say the company is working to polish its lackluster image with software partners as it increasingly views everything from its Office productivity suite to its business applications as a platform.

At a Wednesday session here at the Software & Information Industry Association of Americas Enterprise Software Summit 2004, Charles Fitzgerald, the general manager of Microsoft Corp.s platform strategy and partner group, was asked about the companys often shaky relationships with others in the software industry. He responded that the Redmond, Wash., company has made headway in reaching out to the industry.

"Youve seen a real shift in the focus of company and a mending of the fences in the industry," Fitzgerald said to the professional audience. The SIIA is one of the principal trade groups for commercial software developers. "Were proactively trying to bury the hatchets that are out there."

He cited as an example Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmers April appearance with Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Scott McNealy to announce their $1.6 billion settlement and technology partnership. The companies had been archenemies, with Sun having sued Microsoft twice and having been a vocal Microsoft critic.

On the technology side, Fitzgerald honed in on the companys moves to turn its applications into a platform on which other software vendors can build higher level software.

For example, Microsoft isnt just interested in selling the business applications in its Microsoft Business Solutions group to small and mid-sized business but to also making them a platform, Fitzgerald said. Those applications include its Great Plains enterprise resource planning suite, which was updated in March.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts effort, called Project Green, to unify the code base of its business applications.

Similarly with Office, the company has focused more on it serving not only as a set of applications but a platform. The move toward Web services has helped Microsoft in the transition, Fitzgerald said. For example, leading Web-based companies such as eBay Inc., Inc. and Inc. have tied into Office as a client into their services and servers.

"A high double-digit of transactions are no longer from a person pushing button on a Web page but from software talking to software," Fitzgerald said.

In January, for instance, released an Office Edition of its hosted CRM software in which users can access and update data using Word, Excel and Outlook as front ends.

Fitzgeralds discussion at the SIIA conference followed a panel about open-source software, and Fitzgerald took a few swipes at one of the most high-profile migrations from Windows to the Linux operating system. Last year, the City of Munich decided to migrate its 14,000 desktop and laptop computers to Linux and the suite, and Fitzgerald said the switchover is not going as smoothly as open-source advocates would hope.

During the open-source session, though, panelists said that the rise of open-source software is helping to reshape the entire software industry, and they tried to overcome perceptions that open source is about making software free.

Steve Gerdt, a program manager for IBMs open source strategy, said open source isnt a replacement for the commercial software model but a complement to it. While open-source software is helping to make more basic levels of the software stack more of a commodity, commercial software can play a role elsewhere.

"They will always co-exist," Gerdt said. "Dont view it as all or nothing."

The two-day SIIA Enterprise Software Summit, which was to end on Wednesday, featured executives from other leading software and technology vendors, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Oracle Corp. and Red Hat Inc., and focused on new ways that software is being delivered as a service.

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