Microsoft's Smarter Hospitality initiative provides an integrated technology infrastructure that combines the vendor's operating system, server software, .Net Web services architecture, and digital-media technologies.
Twenty-five vendors, including Intel, NCR, and Unisys, have committed to developing hospitality-focused products and services built on the .Net platform, or to align their existing hospitality offerings with the initiative. The goal is to give hotels more complete pictures of their guests so they can make quicker business decisions, help them make better use of mobile technologies, and leverage the devices that guests bring with them. One example is to provide technologies that let guests check into hotels using mobile devices. Microsoft's move could create competition for IBM, which has built a strong business supplying technologies to the travel industry.
Microsoft's hospitality initiative is welcome news to the industry, says Glenn Bonner, CIO of Las Vegas-based casino resort operator MGM Mirage. Bonner says Microsoft technologies for hoteliers have taken a backseat to work in the retail sector. "Most of the CIOs that I've worked with had been somewhat disconcerted that Microsoft didn't have an organized plan for the hospitality industry," he says. "This looks like a renewed commitment by Microsoft."
Many hoteliers have made significant investments in Microsoft technologies that they'd like to see pay off in a more cohesive integration of hotel systems. Still, other hoteliers haven't yet committed to a proprietary platform like Microsoft, and are considering a shift to Linux or some other open-source variant in an effort to pare costs. Cost factors are among the reasons hospitality CIOs have asked Microsoft to make a greater commitment to the industry, Bonner says. "Hotels certainly want to see Microsoft get more involved," he says.
The industry may be in a better position to spend money on technologies next year: Bonner says many hoteliers have recovered from the slump following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, and are posting record per-room revenue.