Microsoft: The next generation

Forget the DoJ breakup. If you want to figure out how Microsoft will morph over the next few years, the elusive NGWS is the real key

While all eyes are focused on the effects that a possible breakup of Microsoft might have on the company's future, few are contemplating the more immediate impact of the launch of the software giant's forthcoming services architecture, dubbed Next Generation Windows Services, or NGWS. If you believe Microsoft, NGWS is going to be big. Really big. Microsoft executives have likened the potential impact of the NGWS launch to Microsoft's 1995 Internet Strategy Day. They are publicly touting the NGWS rollout as a major inflection point for the company. NGWS will provide Microsoft's three-year-plus road map for its products and strategies across the board. Consequently, it is being masterminded by the top officials from the company's three major divisions -- Platforms Group vice presidents Jim Allchin and Paul Maritz, Business Productivity Group VP Bob Muglia, and Consumer Group VP Rick Belluzzo -- working in conjunction with Microsoft Chief Software Architect Bill Gates. Despite NGWS' promised cataclysmic significance (not to mention the fact that its unveiling is only about a month away), Microsoft's partners and customers claim they have absolutely no clue what NGWS is or how it will affect them. Analysts say they have not received any kind of prelaunch briefings. Even some Microsoft insiders are wondering aloud if NGWS has progressed beyond slideware. And Microsoft isn't commenting in any way on its super-secret plans. "We expect there will be things like megaservices and app hosting. But as far as delivering a unified strategy, (NGWS) is still a work in progress," said Summit Strategies analyst Dwight Davis. Despite the dearth of information, it is possible to piece together a fairly comprehensive picture of what NGWS is and how it will work, based on some of the recent speeches and demos Microsoft execs have delivered. NGWS was originally slated to debut this month at an event Microsoft christened Forum 2000. Then the date slipped to May. Now, it looks like Microsoft is shooting for June. NGWS is a framework -- something like IBM's now-defunct Systems Application Architecture -- not a product or set of products. It is the realisation of Microsoft's 2-year-old promise of turning software into a service. In the fall of 1998, Microsoft leaked to selected journalists a 14-page memo written by Gates to Microsoft's top managers. Gates outlined his ideas for automating software delivery via a service dubbed "Windows Tone," or WinTone. For a monthly or annual fee, users would receive software upgrades and store their data on the network via some type of hosting arrangement. "There aren't really going to be any new products connected with NGWS," said an official with a major Microsoft software and services partner, who requested anonymity. "There will be lots of rebranding and repackaging." Part II Windows DNA by another name? Part III Microsoft still PC-centric Microsoft will tell a judge today how it should be penalised for its anticompetitive behavior. So come and find out why Jesse thinks the government's plan will likely prevail. What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said.
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