The anything-but-Microsoft industry scrambles to free up IT dollars and locate competitive advantage.
This desktop savings scenario also has a major dividend with regard to competing with MBS. One of the big problems with Axapta, Great Plains, and Navision is the mass of conflicting code in the three products, the result of a ten-plus year history of acquisitions by Great Plains and Navision that has rolled up a broad range of different products and technologies. All these products have in general been closely associated with Windows (or DOS) and, to a lesser extent, SQL Server. But their association with the rest of the massive systems software stack at Microsoft has been haphazard at best.
The benefits of making all this software work together, from a single code base intimately tied to Windows, will be a hard combination for the competition to fight, when and if Green and Longhorn succeed in their goal. Linux may be the only way to blunt the threat, which is why Microsoft is fighting so hard to keep its advantage from slipping away. Hints of a dark future to come for Microsoft heralded recently from the Brazilian government, which chose to publicly support the use of Linux alternatives as a matter of technological survival. Other governments, such as the city of Munich, Germany, have also embraced open source alternatives. The Linux juggernaut has begun to take off.
Microsoft Strikes Back
But the jig is hardly up for Microsoft. For one, desktop Linux can't deliver the level of Windows compatibility that it needs to truly compete, particularly with respect to Office. Yet. And ally-by-proxy, The SCO Group, is trying to put an end to the Linux cost advantage by claiming copyright (and therefore license revenue) rights over portions of the Linux code base. (Interestingly, one of SCO's main Unix licensees turns out to be Microsoft, which according to Microsoft-Watch's Mary Jo Foley, paid SCO at least $8 million in Unix license fees last fall.) And of course, the advantage of a desktop to server to applications code base unified the Microsoft way is real. Customers need to reduce their integration and implementation costs, and if Microsoft's product plans can really deliver, the result will be a powerful incentive to sign up with MBS.
The next two years will be critical. MBS's current plans for Green and Longhorn show a 2006 delivery date, by which time Office compatibility issues in Linux may well be resolved. Locked-in to Microsoft might not be a bad idea for many customers. But a lot of Microsoft competitors think Linux might be the best way to save their market share and boost revenues at the same time. It's a combination no one can afford to ignore.
Joshua Greenbaum [firstname.lastname@example.org]
is a principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting. He researches enterprise apps and e-business.
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