DENVER--Integration and Microsoft
may be dirty words in the halls of government, but not here.
Executives from the software giant continued to hint
today that previously separate client and server system-based software
packages will become increasingly close in the coming years, the latest
sign that the company intends to plow ahead in its bid to conquer new markets.
The company's colossal success with its accompanying Office suite of
client-side applications, such as Word and PowerPoint, belies the fact that
Microsoft has yet to make a serious dent with its accompanying BackOffice
suite of software.
Though news of a friendlier relationship between Office, long a Redmond
cash cow, and BackOffice, an emerging threat in the server-side application
market, is hardly a news flash given previous pronouncements, the extent to
which Microsoft executives said they will hinge their corporate application
strategy on the two software suites was striking.
"Office and BackOffice together are becoming a platform in and of itself,"
said Brian Valentine, general manager of Microsoft's applications and tools
group, during a speech to developers today.
BackOffice continues to gain momentum largely as a result of the popularity
of Windows NT, a client and server-based operating system intended for
corporations. Version 4.5 of BackOffice is currently being readied for
release as an interim upgrade before the company launches an all-out
assault with another release due soon after the shipment of version 5.0 of
NT, now expected in the second half of next year.
Recently crowned president Steve Ballmer has stressed a so-called
solutions-oriented approach to selling the company's software to
corporations, tailoring its applications for different markets. Yet
Microsoft remains relatively inexperienced in providing back-end software
for companies. And, according to some, its "Windows everywhere" bent could
rankle potential customers who have a variety of choices for server
software, including options from the likes of IBM and Oracle.
"Corporations are increasingly getting the sense that Microsoft is building
an environment that can lock them in," noted Dwight Davis, analyst with
technology consultants Summit
Strategies. "The more Microsoft facilitates the connection between
Office and BackOffice, the harder it gets to break out of that linkage."
Valentine stressed forthcoming collaborative technologies that will emerge
with the release of the Office 2000 upgrade. He also noted that integration
between elements of Microsoft's client and server software was inevitable,
highlighting the potential to share information using Web technologies. He
also demonstrated a universal messaging technology for Exchange that will
allow a user to access his email via a telephone.
Of course, the company's software plans continue to co-exist with the
ongoing legal case brought by numerous states and federal regulators that
hinges on Microsoft's strategy to integrate its browsing software into its
Windows operating system.