News.com on Microsoft’s .Net My Services — This is an interesting article. It talks about the prevailing internal confusion about the future path for Microsoft’s web services initiatives. Two points are especially worth thinking about:
[A] Microsoft plan under development two years ago to launch Web-based business productivity tools, code-named Netdocs, was “blown up,” or discontinued, because Microsoft executives didn’t think the technology plan was viable.
Netdocs was expected to be an integrated business application including e-mail, personal information management, document-authoring tools, digital media management and instant messaging. Microsoft planned to make Netdocs available only as a hosted service over the Internet, not as software that could be purchased separately or pre-loaded onto a machine.
The plan competed squarely with Microsoft’s Office business software, which makes up more than a third of the software giant’s overall revenue.
The idea seems right to me, but it is targeted at the wrong users. It should be focused on the new users — they are less savvy than the ones who have been using computers. They need a simpler, more integrated working environment. The way NetDocs should have worked is to have it run off a LAN server, not the Internet.
But then that’s the domain of MS Office (on the desktop). This is the Innovator’s Dilemma. There is a great profit machine which Microsoft is not willing to disrupt.
The second point:
Microsoft plans to introduce software that big companies can use to set up instant messaging and internal communications over internal networks instead of the Internet. “An example would be that within Microsoft, if I wanted to talk with someone through a video, say, on the PC, or in an instant message conversation, I wouldn’t have to go to the Internet,” [Allchin] said.
The thinking here is along the right track. But it will work best in the context of emerging markets where bandwidth is a huge problem still. These markets are state-of-the-art when it comes to LANs, but many years behind when it comes to WANs. So, it makes sense to (a) think of running apps on the LAN (b) provide information replicated across locations in nearreal-time, rather than real-time.