SEATTLE--Doing their best to counter criticism ranging from technology to business practices, Microsoft executives insisted today that its Windows development plans were on track and fired back at industry rivals and government regulators.
As previously reported, Microsoft said that it would rename its Internet portal, dubbed Start, MSN.com. The company also demonstrated the product.
At its annual conference for financial analysts here, Microsoft outlined the products expected to fuel the most growth. The forthcoming release of Windows NT 5.0, due to hit the market in mid-1999, will be the prime driver of that development over the next several years--or, as senior executive Paul Maritz put it, "the largest, most important Windows release yet."
"Every business should have a plan to deploy 5.0 at some point," Maritz, Microsoft's vice president of platforms and applications, said of NT.
Market share for the current generation of NT workstations stands at 15 percent, a figure that is "on track" for the company, said Jeff Raikes, vice president for sales and support. What's more, NT server sales are outstripping all versions of Novell's NetWare, as well as Unix.
"We are eliminating the fallacy that Windows NT Workstation is not up to the task," Raikes said. Noting that NT Server sales had risen 68 percent in the last year, he added: "I'll be disappointed if we don't get another five to eight points" of share growth in the coming year, Raikes said.
Maritz also trumpeted the growth of other high-end products, such as Exchange, an email application that is outselling Lotus Development's Notes, and Microsoft's SQL Server database, which the company said was making serious inroads into Oracle's now-dominant products.
Newly crowned Microsoft president Steve Ballmer said the company plans to increase spending by nearly $200 million on technical support, senior information technology consultants for enterprise accounts, customer feedback, and other efforts.
The executives also used the morning to take jabs at Justice Department officials for filing a broad antitrust lawsuit against the company and continuing to investigate its business dealings, including allegations that it has tried to push Apple Computer out of the multimedia market.
Raikes displayed a tongue-in-cheek video spoof on Men in Black by rapper and actor Will Smith, in which he and other executives, dressed in black suits, promised "never to surrender."
Raikes also made sport of competitor Sun Microsystems for touting the so-called network computer as a serious threat to Microsoft's hegemony in April 1997. More than a year later, he said, companies such as Federal Express, which had been looking to use scaled-down machines, have opted for Microsoft's Terminal Server instead. Despite promotions that the network computer would be a low-cost solution to corporations, Sun failed to develop a series of standards to make the product widely used, Raikes explained.
"There were a lot of other customers that saw these problems and moved away," he said, adding that customers frequently complained of Sun's "lack of focus."
Maritz also walked analysts through lengthy demonstrations of NT 5.0, Office 2000--the successor to its current Office 97 software suite--and other products. He said the company would release a new beta version of NT 5.0 within weeks.
He noted that despite "a lot of noise" in the press about problems with Windows 98, a survey revealed that nine out of ten buyers are satisfied with the product and that the company is getting only half as many calls to its support line for Windows 98 than it received for Windows 95.