At the Software 2007 conference in Santa Clara, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer paced across the stage explaining Microsoft's software + services platform strategy to the crowd of IT execs and software vendors and promoting the business value of Office Business Applications (OBAs), which uses Office as a front end for line of business applications, such as ERP.
A large gap exists between the data center and desktop, he said, including a white space in the area of exceptions, analysis, teamwork and collaboration. "The great expectation is that the white space gaps will be bridged and interoperability established," Ballmer said.
He also cited healthy competition between Microsoft and saleforce.com. "Marc [Benioff, salesforce.com CEO] has high rhetoric ways of expression," he said, referring to Benioff's frequent jabs at Microsoft, but the customers want to have integrated software and services from the two companies.
"We see a real opportunity for business solutions to marry software and services with popular Office applications that run on the desktop," Ballmer said, "and to manage the world of structured processes with unstructured collaboration at the desktop."
OBA is not a new concept, although with Office 2007 the platform is a more capable compositing platform than the previous generation. The company has been touting the OBA capabilities, such as using Outlook as a front end for CRM, for the last few years. The most high profile OBA is the Microsoft/SAP Duet, which integrates Office as a front end with SAP business processes.
In addition, Microsoft is integrating its Dynamics ERP and CRM products with the Office system. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced Office Business Applications Reference Application Pack for Loan Origination Systems and has one for supply chain management. This week Microsoft introduced a reference architecture for a price management OBA, and at Oracle's Collaborate 2007 user group conference last month, Microsoft launched a contest to entice developers to integrate Office 2007 with rival Oracle's back end applications.
OBAs are basically elements, such as workflows, data connections, report, schemas and documents, build into composite applications using Office, including SharePoint and InfoPath.
Building an OBA for supply chain management (From Microsoft)
In his keynote, Ballmer featured Dassault Systèmes, which demoed a lifecycle management prototype OBA for Dassault Aviation built on the Office 2007. It was an impressive demo of a composite application that used SharePoint Server 2007 and Communications Server 2007. Microsoft officials said that 120 enterprise customers, such as Elite Model Management, Banco de Venezuela and Scripps Research Institute, are using OBAs based on Office 2007.
From a business perspective, Ballmer said Microsoft's goals are to drive deployments of existing licenses, increase upgrades to new versions and to sell more seats in enterprise accounts.
After the keynote, Ballmer took questions from conference host M.R. Rangaswami. Regarding Duet, Ballmer said that he met with SAP CEO Henning Kagermann ten days ago and offered Duet hadn't made as much progress as desired given the time invested.
On the other hand, he was bullish on Vista, as might be expected. "The range and amount of innovation and the speed of cusotmer embrace of Vista is in a class by itself," Ballmer said, comparing it to previous major releases of Windows.
Rangaswami asked Ballmer if he were willing to spend $40 to $50 billion to acquire a company, referencing the apparently erroneous recent rumors about Microsoft acquiring Yahoo. He gave the 'we will do what is right for us strategically' answer, and then said that Microsoft was well served by smaller acquisitions but open to doing larger ones. In other words, no comment but anything is conceivable if it makes sense.
Asked what would be the most exciting development this year, Ballmer said, "The most signifcant work we are doing is around .NET with Silverlight and Silverlight extended. If you are trying to build very rich software plus services, Web style applications, I guarantee incredible stuff is coming this year."
He reiterated his twitch cycle theory--thinking about products development cycles that merit 3 to 6 month cycles, 1 to 1.5 years and long cycle innovation (such as the Window operating system) that require more effort, testing and a comprehensive approach.
He also reiterated that Microsoft's DNA is to be number one in everything it does, eventually. "We are guys with a reasonable amount of patience...we are persistent...and we keep coming, and coming and coming." So it goes...