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Survey Says: Web Infrastructure and the Last Big Microsoft OS

Microsoft's model may be on its way out.

Gartner released a number of predictions for 2007 on Wednesday with the biggest being that Vista will be Microsoft’s last major release of the Windows operating system.

Normally, I view such speculation with a healthy dose of skepticism but two things happened this week to make me think that maybe this prediction is more right than wrong.

The first was that in talks with a number of vendors this week, it became clear that web infrastructure is top priority next year. Increased activity online and rising adoption rates of web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA) will be the biggest growth area for vendors serving the datacenter. And the virtualization trend that’s poised to takeoff like a rocket? It will likely be fueled by the web infrastructure buildout to support more and more enterprise applications migrating to web-based services.

Linux and Open Source is the platform of choice for web services and SOA and, therefore, of web infrastructure.

Which brings me to my second point: the survey results released this week concerning customer support of the Microsoft – Novell alliance.

The survey was a poll of 200 enterprise executives with businesses of 500 PCs or more and the results aren’t incredibly important (80-90% of respondents would like software vendors to work well together. Hardly earth-shaking). That the survey was released at all is what’s interesting.

As a member of the press I see a great many vendor alliances and the vast majority never amount to much. Earlier this year, for example, Microsoft and Nortel announced an alliance designed to completely revolutionize enterprise communications and productivity forever. Once the hype died down — and it did quickly — it became pretty clear that little if anything would actually ship out of the partnership. But it made for great press.

Microsoft – Novell also made for great press and MSFT could have easily have let the buzz die down and gone on their merry way. But they didn’t. They’re doing surveys about how great OS vendor cooperation is. They’re keeping this alliance top of mind for a very good reason. They need to show how well they work with the platform that’s going to power the next generation of applications.

MSFT can see that the future of monolithic applications is rapidly coming to an end. Everyone may not be using Google Spreadsheets today but the fact that they even exist should be a concern for the company.

As we all know, Microsoft tends to storm into markets a bit late; see Internet Explorer, Office, the Zune media player. And when they do, the value proposition they present is usually tempered with a healthy dose of lock-in; binding the browser to the OS, closed document formats, DRM.

Software as a service, by contrast, is about openness and it will be difficult for MSFT to apply their unique brand of user loyalty to the next-generation of applications. That’s why they’re pushing so hard on this idea that they’re willing to cooperate with Linux, they can release Open Source software, that they can be your platform…

It sounds great. But ask any parole officer, old habits die hard.

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