Microsoft: cloud tomorrow, jam next year

Microsoft: cloud tomorrow, jam next year

Summary: If you ever wanted proof that Microsoft is still a conventional software vendor down to its bones, take a look at the release cycles it chooses for its big cloud announcements.

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If you ever wanted proof that Microsoft is still a conventional software vendor down to its bones, take a look at the release cycles it chooses for its big cloud announcements. Whereas real cloud vendors release working services in beta on the same day they announce them, Microsoft simply announces what it's going to do a year or two off in the future. Has it learnt nothing in three years of promising a new 'live era' of software?

At the time of the launch of Microsoft's cloud platform, Windows Azure, Ray Ozzie confessed that "the maturity of the things that we’ve got on them as this point in time is limited. It will be a different story a year from now. But I wouldn't want to hold it for another year. So, we’re getting in the game." There's a lot still to do. It's early stage, no one knows if it will pay, and anyway. do you trust Microsoft?

But while Azure is bad, the planned Office-on-the-Web offering, Office Web Applications, is far worse — even more so now that the truth has emerged about its internal-only 'technology preview': "It's currently being used by fewer than 1,000 Microsoft employees, as part of a test that started last month and is slated to go through February," CNet's Ina Fried revealed on Friday. "Consumers won't be able to try a test version of the products until sometime next year". Mary Jo Foley reckons the production release will come sometime in 2010.

When the product was announced at the end of October, Microsoft director of communications Janice Kapner told me that customer expectations were shifting and the company was working "to respond to customer need." It needs to work faster. These long-term lead-times do nothing to inspire confidence.

At a blogger roundtable following last month's Online Services launch of Microsoft-hosted Exchange and Sharepoint, it emerged that one large customer has asked for a 10-year contract to assure Microsoft's commitment to continuing to provide the service. "A lot of customers are concerned we're experimenting and we'll just kill this," affirmed a senior member of the Microsoft Online team. "We need to do a better job of communicating this. We see this as the future of the company."

Topics: IT Employment, Browser, CXO, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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10 comments
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  • It's evident on the other end of the product lifecycle also.

    In addition to longer than necessary lead-times into product launches, another bad taste to leave in the SaaS/on-demand world is on the other end of the product lifecycle. This is evident in Microsoft's recent discontinuation of the Connected Services Framework, leaving participating telcos who thought the CSF was going to make them cloud providers in a lurch (it's speculated that this was to pave to the way for Azure). In the services world it's a bad idea to completely pull the plug on an offering if it can at all be avoided. In the case of the CSF, I can only imagine that it's cancellation and subsequent yank from the market dampened the eagerness of telcos to bank on future Microsoft cloud solutions.
    mammerman
  • Meaningful conjectures please, Phil

    "But while Azure is bad, the planned Office-on-the-Web
    offering, Office Web Applications, is far worse"

    Using this statement along with complaining that M$ is
    taking too deliver working SaaS in conjunction with
    Azure does nearly nothing to create a meaningful
    argument, Phil.
    jjworleyeoe
    • Worse delay. Quality, who knows?

      I should have expressed myself better - I meant Web Office is even worse in terms of the gap between announcement and something actually appearing in public. No one can know what its features, capabilities and quality are because no one outside of Microsoft will get the chance to even get a preview before next February, and the production version is 18 months plus in the future.

      Compare that to technology previews from companies like Google and Salesforce.com, which are usually available within a month or two and often on the day of announcement.
      phil wainewright
  • Agreed

    he did even try to tell why it is bad. some people say it is bad, or you think it bad. gota give us a little explanation.

    it is obvious that Azure anouncement was to send the world a message: stop trying anywhere, we will give you one that need least effort to move to. regardless it comes out in two years or five years. before microsoft start doing it, cloud computing does not exist. you think what amazon does is cloud computing? don't forget, amazon is just a book seller. they just trying to do ISP business, that's all.
    jk_10
  • RE: Microsoft: cloud tomorrow, jam next year

    Forget M$oft! We just need Google to keep up the
    great innovation like with Google Docs etc.
    rm6565
  • Exactly, people with jobs in big companies do not work hard

    It is really hard work to create a product. It is even harder work to get the various connecting software to work as advertised.

    Drive by the Microsoft campus. How many office lights are on at midnight?

    Same thing at IBM. I would come in at 5:00 AM, the same guys 4 or 5 office lights were on. At 9:00 PM when I left, there were 2 or 3 office light on.

    The parking lot started filling up at 9:00 AM and started emptying at 4:00 PM.

    Avoiding work was the number 1 priority.
    arrowrod
  • RE: Microsoft: cloud tomorrow, jam next year

    I really don't understand where you are coming from, Phil. Having been involved in the rollout of software in a very large organisation, I appreciate all the advance warning I can get, as it allows us to plan things well. The alternative you seem to prefer is for vendors such as Microsoft to keep everything secret until release day - this would mean our transition would be delayed by another 6 months or so. Are you really advocating this kind of approach? Or are you suggesting that Microsoft are just playing games with its customers - if so, I don't see the value in it for them. Sure, they often take longer than first thought to get things right - if they kept quiet, we wowuld never know that, would we?
    Sorry, I am quite happy with these early announcements, and I believe you need to put yourself in the shoes of a multi-million dollar company, to get a better perspective.
    saalbach1
  • Compare with Force.com!

    Phil,

    You are absolutely right. As an angel-funded start-up PaaS | SaaS player, morphing out of a sales consulting firm, we are abandoning our 8 years of Microsoft .NET know-how in favour of Force.com and the Apex, Visualforce and SOQL tools. We are doing this for one simple reason: Force.com exists and Microsoft will never match its price advantage or Salesforce.com's single-minded focus on PaaS and SaaS.

    I read the PR on Ray Ozzie in Wired this month: get a corporate guy to take his tie off and suddenly he's in tune with Silicon Valley! The real problem at Microsoft is that they have too much cash and not enough fear of job losses at the top to do anything about the bloat and ineffectiveness of their business. It feels like IBM in the late-1980s, clinging on to the past and only changing (a bit) when they nearly went bust in the early-1990s. Azure is pure vapour in the cloud!
    XceliantBear
  • RE: Microsoft: cloud tomorrow, jam next year

    -
    kayvaan
  • RE: Microsoft: cloud tomorrow, jam next year

    larger customers need a lot longer lead time to prepare for implementing new products/versions. MS has a huge enterprise customer base and large enterprise customers want 2-3 year roadmaps. not saying that vaporware is justified, but it may be partially catering to large customers and their slower sales cycles.
    kayvaan