In characterizing salesforce.com as a company that he sees as a Microsoft rival, one that that he looks at "intensely" to understand the keys to its success, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates once again appears to be making adjustments at the helm of his huge ship. This time, perhaps to the detriment of the shrink-wrap strategy on which Microsoft's fortunes were built, in the direction of delivering software as a service, often referred to as the Application Service Provider or "ASP" model. Unlike the company's last big fundamental architectural shift to both offer and better integrate its products into the Internet, one where all of Microsoft's forces had to be marshalled in order to turn the ship on a dime (OK, maybe it was a quarter), Microsoft may have done a better job of anticipating the demand for ASP-delivered software and planning for it than it did in anticipating the Internet revolution. According to a report by News.com's Ina Fried, Microsoft's thinking on this issue started nearly a decade ago and, over the years, the company has devoted more and more resources to realizing that vision.
All that said, while Microsoft has the luxury of cash as well as some experience in the area of running services (e.g.: various MSN services as well as Hotmail), the odds appear to be against large software companies when it comes to changing their