Microsoft Footprint Grows In Business Intelligence - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
06:40 PM

Microsoft Footprint Grows In Business Intelligence

Scorecard software is part of a broader strategy to recast the Office suite

Ask Jeff Raikes about Microsoft's most popular PC products, and the newly promoted president describes Office as an analysis tool, virtual telephone, and window to the Web. Everything, it seems, but the writing, math, and desktop-publishing tasks for which Word, Excel, and PowerPoint were originally designed.

That's because it's getting harder for Microsoft to eke growth out of its $11 billion Office franchise, used by nearly 500 million people. Software sales in Microsoft's information-worker division grew less than 3.5% last year, but Raikes says this year and next could get a boost from new server software and "premium editions" of products. Office competes in a $20 billion market today; within five years, the available market could double as Office branches into new areas, including data analysis, real-time messaging and IP phone calls, collaboration, and Internet-based applications.

Microsoft will redefine the productivity market to increase sales, Jeff Raikes says.

Microsoft will redefine the productivity market to increase sales, Jeff Raikes says.

"One way to grow a business is to redefine our market opportunity," says Raikes, who was promoted last month to president of a newly formed business group that combines Microsoft's office-worker products and ERP applications (now dubbed Dynamics) within one division, all part of a larger company reorganization. "You can be a smaller portion of a bigger market."

Business Scorecard Manager
Microsoft will demonstrate how it's moving its flagship productivity suite into new areas with the Nov. 1 arrival of a new business-intelligence server called Business Scorecard Manager. The product works with Microsoft's SharePoint portal server and number-crunching online analytical-processing tool to give PC users updated business-performance metrics in areas such as sales, investments, manufacturing, and quality.

Longer term, Microsoft plans to build into Excel and SharePoint Portal Server the ability to deliver live data from Oracle, SAP, and its Dynamics apps to the desktop; publish spreadsheets to the Web; and alert business managers when key numbers cross important thresholds. Those features are slated for Office 12, due in a year. The plans--along with the Nov. 7 release of a new version of SQL Server that boasts enhanced analysis capabilities--move Microsoft closer to its goal of putting data-analysis tools on every business PC.

"The potential is huge," IDC analyst Dan Vesset says of the prospect of workers being equipped with data-analysis tools. IDC puts the business-intelligence software market at $4.5 billion and growing 10% a year.

Microsoft will sell Business Scorecard Manager for a fraction of the price of analysis software from companies such as Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion Solutions, and SAS Institute, and its minimal-programming approach could save customers consulting costs as well. "Microsoft will do more than outgrow the market; Microsoft will transform the market," Raikes predicts. "Business intelligence is expensive, inconvenient, and hard to use."

Yet Microsoft has a new competitor of its own. Google Inc. disclosed plans earlier this month to distribute Sun Microsystems' no-cost OpenOffice applications. Asked whether that makes OpenOffice more of a threat to Microsoft, Raikes says, "Maybe." He downplays the suite as "an attempted clone" of Microsoft's outdated Office 97. "People who value productivity are willing to spend the few dollars it takes to stay up to date," Raikes says.

Yet besides fighting the tendency for businesses to stand pat with current versions of Office instead of upgrading, Raikes has to contend with expectations that software should arrive faster than every few years, as Office does. Microsoft plans to ship 15 products in the next year, and it won't wait until that cycle is done to release new Web features, Raikes says. "We have our attention on them right now."

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