Since When Is Integration Innovative?

Microsoft's newest buzzword is 'integrated innovation.' Sun Microsystems is espousing a similar strategy. But is it good for customers?

Thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice antitrust case against Microsoft, bundling has been relegated to four-letter-word status in Microsoft land. Execs with the software giant are careful to avoid speaking of Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player or Internet Information Server as separate technologies that just so happen to be "bundled" into Windows. Nope. They are inextricable Windows components, according to Microsoft.

After "bundling" was banned in Redmond, Microsoft launched its "Better Together" campaign. And these days weve got Better Togethers successor: "Integrated Innovation."

Integrated innovation is shorthand for platform. Microsoft seems to be using it to refer to a stack of related technologies — such as Windows Server 2003, Automated Deployment Services, Rights Management Services. It also seemingly applies to cross platform integration — i.e., the integration between Windows Server System and Office System.

Integrated innovations got a nice ring to it. Even Microsoft archrival Sun Microsystems is extolling the benefits of an integrated software stack, with its Project Orion, a k a "Java Enterprise System" family.

The problem? You could argue that by integrating software, you are freeing up your customers time to innovate on top of the base stack. (Indeed, I already have heard a Sun official make this case). But tying your products together so as to lessen customer choice is not innovative.

To read more about the pitfalls of "integrated innovation," go to Microsoft Watch.