This week I had a chance to spend some time at the Build 2012 conference, Microsoft’s developer conference. Though I didn’t get a chance to attend the keynotes or any briefings, I spent time talking to Microsoft employees, developers and partners attending the event. I thought I will share my take on Microsoft’s platform strategy based on these interactions. However, please keep in mind that I was not briefed by Microsoft and, hence, I didn’t get a chance to hear their perspective on their platform strategy.
Having said that, I can confidently say that Microsoft has taken the first step towards offering a more cohesive platform strategy in the next year or two. Gone are those days when they were reluctant to push Windows Azure. On the other hand, they are now pushing the developers to try Azure first than anything else. Yes, they are still making their money on the legacy server software but I never saw the kind of push towards Azure which I noticed in this conference. After the initial stumble, they have got the cloud story sorted out with a mix of PaaS and IaaS offerings. With Windows 8, they are in a position to bridge desktop, web and mobile with a more unified and seamless experience. The next step for Microsoft is to get the developers see this convergence and offer a platform for them to build apps and services.
After a complete failure with Office 365 APIs earlier, Microsoft seems to have got their act together and now they are pushing the developers to take advantage of Office 365 (the person at the booth was not 100% sure on what APIs are available for Office 365 and I will dig into it later) and Sharepoint to build apps that they can sell on the upcoming (not sure of the launch date) marketplace. With this move, Microsoft has put together a coherent platform strategy and a place for developers to monetize their apps. They already have a “big data on cloud” strategy including their data market and the only missing component is the social component for the platform. With Yammer acquisition, I am sure they are on track to plug that hole.
The only aspect of their platform strategy that bothers me the most is Sharepoint. They still don’t have a cloud equivalent for Sharepoint. It is still a synonym for legacy software and, in fact, a pretty bad one. Before Sharepoint fanbois (girls) attack me on this statement, I want to make it clear that it did serve a purpose in the past but I think it is time for SharePoint to die and make way for a cloud native offering. From the way they are pushing SharePoint at their dev zone, I get a feeling that they have no plans to move towards a cloud native substitute. Unless they come out with a cloud offering to replace SharePoint, I will consider their platform strategy incomplete. I want to once again emphasize that this post is written without any briefing from the Microsoft side. I might have missed something. If you think I am missing something, please point it out in the comments section below or respond to @krishnan on Twitter.
Almost every vendor is moving towards the services based future with a coherent platform strategy. From IBM to Oracle to SAP to Salesforce to Google, vendors want a large share of enterprise platform market pie in the coming decade. Having had a successful run in the past on the enterprise platform segment, Microsoft is not going to grab popcorn and watch these vendors take the lead. The message from Build 2012 is that they are ready to compete hard for the developers attention. Even if it appears that they don’t have a compelling enough story, we have to admit that they have taken the first step towards a compelling story in the coming years. Build 2013 might offer us more clues on their strategy.