Global CIO: Five Big Questions For Microsoft

A Microsoft exec shares some huge company numbers but those digits spark deeper questions about the company's direction.
**In 2005, Shaw notes, Microsoft rival Linux had a server market share of 24%. That same magazine article (BusinessWeek) projected that within just 24 months, Linux's server market share would climb from 24% to 33%. But a funny thing happened on the way to parity, Shaw notes, as that surge never materialized and in fact the actual Linux server market share for Q4 2009 had slumped to 21.2%.

**Taking a dig at another rival that loves to skewer Microsoft as being old-fashioned and wholly unsuited to compete in the cloud, Shaw offered the following comparison:

"9 Number of years it took to reach 1 million paid user milestone

"6 Number of years it took Microsoft Dynamics CRM to reach 1 million paid user milestone

"100% Percent chance that CEO will mention Microsoft in speech, panel, interview, or blog post."

And for the last full fiscal years available for all three companies, Microsoft's net income almost matched the combined net incomes of rivals Apple and Google. For Apple, net income for the fiscal year ending September 2009 was $8.2 billion; for Google, net income for the fiscal year ending December 2009 was $6.5 billion; and for Microsoft, net income for the fiscal year ending June 2009 was $14.5 billion.

Shaw has lots of other intriguing numbers in his post, and while some might tilt toward the defensive (projected unit sales in 2010: 7.1 million iPads versus 58 million netbooks), overall it's an unquestionably subjective but nevertheless compelling set of perspectives on a company that's become something of the industry whipping boy.

For myself, the Microsoft numbers I'm interested in have to do with the enterprise, and in that regard I was surprised that while Shaw's detailed list of numbers included an impressive comparison of total number of Xbox Live subscribers (23 million) to total number of subscribers to largest 25 US daily newspapers (16 million), there was no listing of any fancy numbers relating to one of Microsoft's most-strategic enterprise products: SQL Server.

So I asked Shaw about that, and will be turning to the specific subject of how SQL's doing early next week.

In the meantime, here are five questions I'd like to see Microsoft's next round of big numbers address:

1) Oracle is Microsoft's enemy, and SAP could be an ally—however, that'll be tougher as SAP's Business ByDesign is rolled out and the two companies start to compete in the online apps business. QUESTION: While Microsoft and SAP have played some footsy about becoming strategic partners, how many enterprise clients are now running their businesses around that collaboration? And 12 months from now, what should that number be?

2) SQL Server's market share is holding up nicely, but there's a surging trend in the marketplace for dedicated big-data appliances. Oracle and IBM and HP and SAP and SAS and EMC/Greenplum are all jumping in, joining Teradata and Netezza and a few others. QUESTION: What's Microsoft's plan here?

3) In November 2009, Microsoft Azure had zero paying customers. As of last month, it had 10,000, according to Shaw's blog. QUESTIONS: Where'd they come from? What type of applications are they running? What's the business model for Microsoft? What reasons can Microsoft give to CIOs wondering if Microsoft's a serious cloud player?

4) Very impressive numbers above for Windows 7. But while notebooks and netbooks aren't becoming extinct, the market move to mobility and smartphones is incredibly strong. QUESTION: What's Microsoft's play in enterprise mobility? As a platform company, what's Microsoft doing to get enterprise data and apps into the hands of mobile professionals?

5) Lots of interest these days in in-memory technology from SAP, IBM, Tibco and others as a method for delivering real-time analytical capabilities and decision-making to businesses. QUESTION: What's Microsoft's play in the unfolding real-time effort?

I look forward to seeing some big answers and perhaps even some big numbers from Microsoft on these questions and to sharing those answers and related analysis with you.

*As for the originator of "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics," it was neither Twain nor Disraeli.


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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

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