Microsoft Should Embrace Interoperability

Microsoft must fight the urge to let smoother integration among its own offerings throw up roadblocks to integration with others' products.

At Microsofts recent convergence customer conference, company officials fleshed out plans for "Project Green," the software vendors initiative for unifying its business applications around a single code base and service-oriented architecture.

According to Microsoft executives, Project Green is set to begin bearing fruit sometime between now and 2007 with user interface integration of the companys Great Plains, Axapta, Solomon and Navision suites. A second wave in 2008 is intended to integrate those products around a single code base.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts plans for Project Green.

Observers can be forgiven for looking with skepticism on Microsofts integration promises. Company officials have been talking of integrating the products for several years, even as release dates creep further into the future.

Despite the companys apparently dilatory attitude, Project Green is a key opportunity for Microsoft not only to take on the similarly conceived Project Fusion from Oracle and Business Process Platform from SAP in enterprise infrastructure software but also to cash in on sales of CRM and ERP software and services to SMBs (small and midsize businesses)—a market segment in which Microsoft can already capitalize on customer relationships through Windows and Office.

Indeed, Microsoft has hailed its plans to build Project Green components that are "seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Office," along with points of integration with SQL Server Reporting Services and SharePoint Portal Server. In addition, Project Greens second wave is set to follow the launch of the "Longhorn" release of Windows, and Microsoft has voiced plans to stress integration between Project Green and Longhorn.

Were all for synergy among a vendors products where it makes sense and benefits customers, but Microsoft must fight the urge—as its neglected to do in the past—to let smoother integration among its own offerings throw up roadblocks to integration with others products.

About a year ago, Microsoft and Sun made a show of declaring peace, with the two pledging to pursue interoperability—a topic on which Bill Gates issued a public memo last month. Gates wrote:

"But the solution that has proven consistently effective—and the one that yields the greatest success for developers today—is a strong commitment to interoperability. That means letting different kinds of applications and systems do what they do best, while agreeing on a common contract for how disparate systems can communicate to exchange data with one another."

If Microsoft can lessen migration, customization and integration hassles for the SMB segment, where Microsoft is currently strongest, the work can pay dividends up the customer chain, where the same issues plague enterprise users. We urge Microsoft to turn rhetoric into reality, to choose the road less traveled by: to seize the opportunity of Project Green to best serve its customers through interoperability as well as integration.

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