There's been quite a bit of buzz lately around Microsoft's latest self-awakening to the fact that its business model is under attack, and faces potential irrelevance.
Every five years, it seems, Big Red has one of these panic attacks. So this latest one was right on schedule. (Hey, Microsoft ships something on time!)
Remember Panic Attack 2000? That resulted in the creation of .NET, the Web services standards-driven architecture, in which components built to run within a container could easily be shifted from a non-Windows platform.
A new report by Scott Berinato in CIO Magazine speculates that while .NET was met with boos, hisses, and rolled eyeballs when it was first disclosed, it has grown to something far bigger than Microsoft itself, or any other vendor. (The article provides a very good history of .NET.)
"After decades of holding customers captive inside the walls of proprietary software, Microsoft and its competitors are selling products such as .NET that help tear down those walls. Why? The answer is, the market made them do it."
Berinato goes on to observe that "the CIO's entire solar system is tilting on its axis, away from technology and toward services. The religion of technology is giving way to the agnosticism of development. And the foundation of the IT industry is shifting from vendors to integrators and services companies."
.NET, in turn, has evolved from marketing hype to a set of development tools and platforms that embrace Web services (with nuances), and enable a process and information flow between disparate systems. Surveys I have authored for Evans Data consistently find that .NET has been adopted by 65 to 75 percent of large enterprises. "What brought .NET to its current status... were forces outside of Microsoft's control," Berinato concludes. "CIOs' need to rein in out-of-control, heterogeneous environments in a low-cost way, the development of XML outside of any vendor's purview, the development of Web services standards as a reaction to the development of XML. The Internet."
Microsoft still has a firm hold on the client side of enterprise computing, and a fairly impressive presence in the server side. As my friend Al Gillen at IDC likes to say, Microsoft makes more revenue by the end of the first day in January than the entire Linux industry makes in a whole year. And Microsoft's revenues continue to grow at an impressive clip.
So, don't count Big Red out on all the Web 2.0 and SOA excitement. And let's wait to see what gets delivered as part of Microsoft's Panic Attack 2005 package (and follow-up Service Packs, of course). Because we know that Panic Attack 2000 did eventually deliver the goods.