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Analysis: Businesses Don't Need Microsoft Software

Alternatives to Microsoft business software are available, including operating systems, CRM, e-mail, and even word processors. Google's new Web-based business software provides even more options.

Imagine a world without Microsoft software. Impossible? Not according to solution providers who say a soup-to-nuts, non-Microsoft stack is here.

We're not just talking about the LAMP infrastructure stack. (LAMP is the Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, Perl or Python—pick one—combo.)

For example, Internet search kingpin Google confirmed last week it is testing a small-business bundle of its e-mail, calendaring, instant-messaging and Web-page creation services. Users of the new Google Apps For Your Domain will operate under their own domain name, but their e-mail, to-do lists and schedule will run in the Google cloud. A paid version will be available by year's end.

This Web services bundle will compete with Microsoft Office Live, currently under development.

Google is the linchpin in this latest anti-Microsoft movement, as ISVs—especially sales-force automation or CRM players offering marketing and lead-tracking functions—look to the search company to fill in capabilities they need but don't want to develop.

"Why create your own search and ad engine if you're Salesforce.com or NetSuite?" said Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. "So who do you go to? The market leader who is also an SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] provider or to Microsoft? But why pay a competitor who's trying to kill you?"

Google, with its Linux-based infrastructure, is not seen as a rival to the apps players. At least not yet.

Last week, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff spent nearly as much time touting Google's Writely app and spreadsheet offering as he did talking up Salesforce.com's new Google AdWords integration. Salesforce.com rival NetSuite likewise feted new Google AdWords tie-ins to its hosted marketing and CRM modules. VARs can use those linkages to help customers reap rewards of paid Internet searches and track the results from their dashboards.

Benioff said VARs should stick with the alternative stack and fast-delivering on-demand model.

"That's fantastic news for ISVs, VARs and integrators who want to focus their energy and creativity on customer success, not the drudgery of break-fix-patch-upgrade with client/server," he said. "The [Microsoft] stack is stuck. Worst of all, the stack has stuck it to the customer."

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