Microsoft: Fowl play is for partners

At a business-software conference, a Microsoft executive explains how partners fit into the company's grand scheme. Photos: 'Going up' in San Diego

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
2 min read
SAN DIEGO--Microsoft wants to create software that, say, a slaughterhouse can run its business on. But the world's largest software maker will leave the nitty-gritty of killing and cleaning the chickens to others.

That was how one Microsoft general manager broke down the division of labor between itself and the independent software companies that build on top of its products.

Microsoft is showing off its latest business application software at a company-sponsored conference here this week. The company's business solutions unit is working to add various roles, such as "plant manager" into its products, but it's counting on other independent software vendors, or ISVs, to tailor the software for specific niche markets.

For example, Microsoft needed help meeting the needs of chicken processor Maple Lodge Farms.

"How many chickens you have to kill to get 10 pounds of finished usable product is not something that (Microsoft's product team) is doing." said Mark Jensen, general manager of the Axapta product line. "That is something that our ISV community is doing."

Microsoft is trying to push the companies that sell its products to offer more tailored solutions for particular segments. This week, for example, the company announced a new "Industry Builder" effort for some large partners that will see Microsoft take on some of the support responsibility for offerings built around its products.

For now, Microsoft has about a dozen or so companies with niche products in the pipeline.

Old meets new
San Diego's St. James Hotel--where I'm staying while covering the conference--is a study in contrasts.

In many ways, the 1912 hotel in the posh Gaslamp District is a throwback to another era. Its elevator is original and takes a good few minutes to travel to the top of the 10-story hotel.

"When installed in 1913 the hotel's twin elevators were the 'fastest in the world'," reads a brass sign on the lifts, noting that people used to travel from all over Southern California to marvel at their speed. "Today, the elevators still run at the same speed. The world, on the other hand, seems to be moving a lot faster."

The hotel, which now bears the Ramada Inn and Suites name, has made some nods to modern convenience. In addition to a full lineup of cable channels, the hotel offers wireless Internet in the lobby. If only the elevators had the Wi-Fi.

The rooms also have Internet access, thanks to a rather arcane form of broadband. The hotel uses phone line networking, which sends a high-speed signal over the same line used to carry phone signals. The result is something that is better than dial-up, but not quite the same as a wired connection or strong Wi-Fi signal.