Microsoft's Fusion trade show last week in Los Angeles was its annual gathering of partners, solutions providers, and independent software vendors. While the mood was generally upbeat, there were some things I saw that didn't bode well for the company. Here are a few highlights:
-- YAWS (Yet Another Windows Server). Given that half of its customers still haven't upgraded from NT to 2000, releasing .Net Server this year (or whenever) isn't going to convince these laggards to move forward. In many cases, NT is plenty capable enough for many companies to run their businesses on. Microsoft needs to do a better job with migration tools, prices (rebates on the small business server edition is a good start), and compelling reasons to move to .Net. And many solutions providers are still behind the curve on learning how to make the best use of .Net framework and services too.
-- Like it or not, SQL Server is now part of the base package for any VAR. As Microsoft builds more software and servers, it relies more and more on SQL to deliver key components and connectivity tissue. One exec admitted to us: "If a reseller isn't interested in SQL Server, we aren't interested in working with them. And we probably won't give you much attention, since our passions are around our own technologies." Those resellers who want to stick with the "O" software can go elsewhere, it seems.
-- Don't call us, use email. Microsoft heard from many attendees who were unhappy at not being able to get their phone calls returned to various company representatives. When I asked channel mavens what they were doing to fix this, they spoke about various email and web-based programs that would provide information to resellers and integrators. But I was left with the impression that using the telephone is technology that isn't really popular at the company, so don't expect anyone to call you back if you have a problem.
-- Rip and replace -- the new buzzphrase. Everywhere you went at the conference you heard this term. Generally, it was used by Microsoft execs to refer to someone else's products that needed upgrading. But I found that it really means ripping out Windows 9x/NT and replacing it with XP and .Net.
-- Our security means turning off our products. Microsoft's new "Secure by Design, by Default, and by Deployment" strategy is interesting in that for the first time the company will not install certain services when you buy the product. Security sinkholes IIS and VB Scripting are installed but they aren't turned on by default, something that many developers have been begging Redmond for years. And those pesky sample code applications -- long another source of hacker exploits -- also aren't installed. It is probably the first time I have heard of a vendor increasing security by NOT using their products.
If you want to read more about reactions to the Fusion show from my colleague Rich Cirillo, check out his column here:
As you can see, I am having a blast working for VAR Business. You can check out some of the articles I have written lately for the magazine on their web site, just search for my name. Those of you that are resellers or integrators and would like to offer your comments, please drop me a note via email and let me know your thoughts.