Microsoft (MSFT) said September 30 that it had introduced â€œOnlineâ€ services and â€œLiveâ€ services to â€œdeliver connected computing options for people and businesses.â€ I found the announcement one of the most confusing I ever received from a software supplier, from the odd Sunday timing, to the stark bifurcation the announcement made between â€œLiveâ€ and â€œOnline,â€ to the sentence after the explanation of why a hard difference between Live and Online was important, which used both terms (â€œOffice Live Workspace is among the first entries in the new wave of online servicesâ€). If Online services are something different than Live services, which is Workspace?
In the annual Research 2.0 review, I gave Microsoft high marks for understanding that people are people, whether or not they are in their personal or professional roles at one instant in time. The future for IT-enabled service providers is one of a single compute structure that supports us all as our roles change during the dayâ€”from looking for directions on the way to work, to our roles at work (be they individual contributor or manager), to paying the bills at home, to looking for entertainment before leaving work, to shopping online (hopefully not while working), and so forth. The principle applies over longer time periods as well. Scratch my favorable analysis.
In a Q&A session provided by Microsoft, where it both asks and answers the questions, I think I learned some of the reasons for this mixed message:
â€¢ The left hand at Microsoft does not know what the right hand is doing. This is a Business-division-only announcement, perhaps not even discussed with others in the company. Either it is all about company politics or top management does not really understand the importance of Software as a Service (SaaS) as well as I thought.
â€¢ The Microsoft PR people had an inch of space left on the press release. So just for good measure, Microsoft announced Dynamics CRM for the umpteenth time.
â€¢ Some of Microsoftâ€™s product managers wondered what â€œscaleâ€ meant in enterprise computing. They therefore announced that â€œparticipatingâ€¦ high-scale environments where students, faculty, staff and alumni (in select universities and school districts) have unique requirements that blend digital work with digital lifeâ€ can participate in a trial to see if they can figure out any thing useful to do with Exchange. Scale refers to a degree of pedigree, right; as in select universities and school districts are not pedestrian riff-raff universities and down-scale school districts? Couldnâ€™t the Education group afford a separate press release?
â€¢ With the retirement of Doug Burghum from Microsoft, there is no one in top management who was involved in marketing to enterprises in the 1990s. Therefore Microsoft didnâ€™t know that the following wording purporting to understand newness has been used once or twice before: â€œâ€¦ this new generation of solutions can break through the boundaries between the isolated islands of information within many organizations, while also enabling people to connect easily and securely with partners and customersâ€¦â€ Talk about old news. Do I need an Online service or a Live service to get voted off these â€œislands of information?â€
Oh well, with Microsoft it has always been two steps forward, one step back. This announcement was a step backwards.