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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.
Gregg Rosenberg, CEO of RICIS, an e-mail specialist in Tinley Park, Ill., said there are solid open-source business applications such as SugarCRM. The exception? "I don't see any rock-solid accounting applications out there for Linux, but that will change," he said.

Demand for interoperable applications and services is driven by fear of vendor lock-in, hype around Web 2.0 and mashups, and what many call pricey Microsoft upgrades. Mashups are Web-enabled applications that combine user-defined services on one screen.

George Brown, president of Database Solutions, Cherry Hill, N.J., said the alternate stack is an issue for Microsoft. "It's a threat because some people don't want all their eggs in a Microsoft basket."

Solution providers can make money by ensuring alternative offerings adhere to true Web standards—whether they are open-source products running on-premise or as app or stack services running in the cloud. As long as VARs protect their customers this way, applications or infrastructure pieces can be swapped out at any given time.

Other solution providers say that the promise of Microsoft's integrated stack is very attractive, while conceding this very integration poses problems. For example, the upcoming Windows Vista and Longhorn releases will not support SQL Server 2005 code previous to the upcoming Service Pack 2 release. Even free forced upgrades can be disruptive.

Still, Brown said much of the anti-Microsoft sentiment is just that and nothing more. "People have to look at cost and functionality and flexibility, and I'm not sure that Salesforce.com and others offer what Microsoft does."

Dan Linstedt, a Denver-based business intelligence consultant, goes further: "The Microsoft puzzle pieces fit together nicely—usually with a little tweaking. Multivendor stacks [mean that] the vendors will continuously fight over revenue streams. At the end of the day, one vendor doesn't care if the others in the stacked solution make money."

And for all its glitz, Google has done little to calm fears that it does not know—or care about—channel partners. Microsoft was built on a partner model and has pledged to stay channel-focused. Google has made no such promises.

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