Microsoft's Google killer strategy: Finally on the way?

Company's been considering ways to move its software business into "the cloud." Leaks suggest that Microsoft's getting close to an announcement.

With Google beefing up its app business, we've been wondering when Microsoft would respond. We've been reporting on Microsoft's intention to support a mix of Web-based services and on-premise software. Now Nick Carrhas word that the news may come down quite soon.

"The new strategy will, I'm told, lay out a roadmap of moves across three major areas: the transformation of the company's portfolio of enterprise applications to a web-services architecture, the launch of web versions of its major PC applications, and the continued expansion of its data center network. I expect that all these announcements will reflect Microsoft's focus on what it calls "software plus services" - the tying of web apps to traditional installed apps - but they nevertheless promise to mark the start of a new era for the company that has dominated the PC age."

It's about time. In the last couple of years, Microsoft has moved in fits and starts toward embracing cloud computing. That's been a pet project of Ray Ozzie, who has increasingly imposed his vision for corporate computing on Microsoft since taking over the role from Bill Gates as chief tech visionary. It's been a slog. Ozzie has had to fight one turf battle after another to convince the apparatchiks that this is the way to ensure the company's survival in an increasingly Web-centric world. But however slowly, he has been making progress.

The snickering in the peanut gallery has already begun. The argument is that Microsoft is too weighted down by its legacy history to effectively pull off this sort of ambitious transformation. Well, little surprise there. The burden of proof is on Microsoft, especially when you consider the so-so success of its software-as-a-service strategy. But let's keep a sense of perspective. Microsoft is keenly aware of the technology transformation taking place outside its corporate doors. Now it's a question of execution.

Here's what Ballmer recent said in an interview with

"We can have service-based offerings that essentially line up with our information worker infrastructure products--Exchange and SharePoint, Office Communications Server--if we have instances that sort of line up to what people do, development and deployment applications, database applications, etc. That is more value. We can help people reduce management costs, deployment costs, operations costs, data center costs...Somehow, if we can help our customers avoid cost and complexity that they have and give them all the value we give them today, there ought to be a trade in there where we get to make a little bit more money and our customers get a lot more value...."

"Well, in the enterprise, I think the stuff that we might expect to see actually move most quickly is probably some aspects of the desktop infrastructure, for lack of a better term. We've announced some customers--I don't know who's public and who's not public, though. But we've announced some customers for our Microsoft online offerings for Exchange, for Office Communications Server, for SharePoint, and I certainly show a lot of demand there. That's probably where the offer is clearest and the demand is highest.

Somebody might say, well, what about CRM? You see some (CRM), but you see it more in pockets. You see it more departmentally. It's not quite the same, enterprise-driven demand that we're seeing for some of the information worker productivity infrastructure."

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