Microsoft's strategy, by contrast, is focused and consistent, DelBene claimed, offering "full-fidelity viewing” across on-premise, Internet-based and mobile platforms. It was no surprise to hear DelBene playing Microsoft trump cards, like Office's ubiquity and Redmond's offering of both PC and cloud-based apps. But DelBene didn't give an inch on Microsoft's ability to compete and win in pure cloud deployments as well, with its Online Services and Office Web Applications.
"The hybrid world is a reality, but that's not our only point of differentiation," DelBene said. "We'll have a bunch of customers who will go purely online, and we have the best offering there. Other customers will stay on premises. The real challenge will be addressing customers in the in-between states… so we're giving them the flexibility to figure out which divisions they want to bring into the cloud and at what pace," he said.
In the on-premise realm, Microsoft has a lot riding on its planned May mega release of the 2010 versions of venerable products like SharePoint, Office and Exchange. The upgrades include improved support for global organizations with extranet connectivity in SharePoint. Business Intelligence features have been amped up in SharePoint 2010, and data visualization and analysis options improved in Excel. Outlook finally gains the familiar Office ribbon interface, highlighting formerly buried tools for ignoring and collapsing message threads that otherwise clog e-mail inboxes.
Microsoft is also releasing Office Communications Server 2010, advancing the company's ambition to break into voice-over-IP telephony by leveraging the popularity of Office and SharePoint. Slick voice response and recognition capabilities and integrations with calendaring and e-mail are aimed at knitting together a seamless collaboration experience. A new Social Connector feature adds personal profiles, expertise management capabilities and presence awareness.
"Many companies now support separate presence products, instant messaging and chat products, real-time collaboration products and VOIP and digital voice products, yet the collaboration scenarios totally cross over," DelBene observed. "We've taken the view that you should be able to move from one modality of communicating to another and that the notion of presence is central to the collaboration experience."