Microsoft: Whats in Store for 2004?

Microsoft can be predictable in some areas, but inscrutable in others. Here are our best guesses as to what to expect from the Redmondiands in the coming year.

Before kicking off my 2004 predictions column, Id like to offer a quick self-critique. After reviewing my predictions from last year, Id say (to be generous) that your all-seeing Microsoft Watcher achieved a barely 50/50 accuracy rate.

This year, while I am admittedly going out on a few precarious limbs, I vow to do better.


Read the First Microsoft Watch Predictions Column Here.

But back to 2003 for a moment. Like most, if not all, of my colleagues, I underestimated last January just how late Longhorn will be. No Longhorn betas hit in 2003, as I had expected; instead, they are currently expected to begin dribbling out in the latter half of 2004. To Microsofts credit, the company did distribute an alpha (a k a "technical preview") of Longhorn client in October, 2003.

I was dead-on, however, in my year-ago claim that Microsoft would push back the next-to-impossible 2003 target for "Yukon," the next version of SQL Server, and "Whidbey," the next version of the Visual Studio tool suite. Last January, Microsoft was still claiming these two wares would ship by the end of 2003. (More on Yukon and Whidbey, later in this column.) I wasnt far off the mark, either, regarding my predictions on MSN making continued gains on AOL, as a result of AOLs own inteptness, more than anything else. (In fact, by year-end 2003, the MSN business unit was actually in the black.)

I also was prescient, re: the lackluster reception for corporate instant messaging and the Tablet PC. Neither proved nearly as big as Microsoft had hoped during the past year.

But, wow, was I wrong when it came to rights management. Not only did Microsoft manage to get its rights-management server out the door in 2003 (I had predicted 2004), it also did so with almost no public backlash. "Microsofts myriad DRM efforts will come to be as reviled as Windows Product Activation feature," I predicted a year ago. Nope. The bulk of users out there dont seem to fear Microsofts rights-management solutions in the least.

With my mixed 2003 scorecard in mind, let me lurch precariously into my second annual batch of Microsoft Watch predictions.


To read Mary Jo Foleys predictions,

click here.