With all the Microsoft-related noise around, ISVs are being lulled into a false sense of security that government scrutiny will somehow affect the company's business. But, as many corporate customers are aware, Microsoft is very much in action on other fronts.
It's difficult for anyone to talk about Microsoft today without US Department of Justice or US Senate investigations being mentioned. Indeed, recently Microsoft cranked this noise up a notch by suggesting that the economy is at stake.
The various investigations make great press, video clips, and interview topics, but Microsoft is still conducting most business as usual. First, consider the controversial Windows 98: you'd have to be comatose not to know that Microsoft is pulling out all stops to get Windows 98 out. The code is ready. Plans are made. The company doesn't want the Government slowing this rollout down.
The parts of Microsoft not caught up in the investigations are in hyperdrive to ensure sufficient alternate revenue sources should Windows 98 be delayed. The media hype and noise about Bill Gates' efforts to divert government regulators have simply outshone these other efforts.
When the smoke clears
Many Microsoft competitors have concluded that the company is so distracted by government investigations that it isn't doing anything else. But the rest of Microsoft is churning away. When this government smoke finally clears, these competitors may find that Microsoft has taken their lunch.
Look at Lotus. It seems the company has dismissed Exchange as a serious competitor for Notes. It has yet to produce a reliable MS-Mail-to-Notes converter. (Yes, there are still customers using MS-Mail.) This leaves a clear path to Exchange for that installed base. And Microsoft is converting that market. Frankly, it should - it's Microsoft's product.
But, Lotus' conviction to upgrade cc:Mail users to Notes doesn't match Microsoft's. Lotus has botched what should have been a simple upgrade, leaving that installed base to easily be cherry-picked by Microsoft (and Novell). I would be surprised to see Lotus retaining more than 50 per cent of the cc:Mail installed base.
Late to the party
This lack of competitive focus extends to Notes. Notes 5.0 was originally promised for the end of 1997, but the company recently revised that promise to the second half of 1998. Now, seemingly lacking a sense of urgency, it appears this version may ship late in the year. I would not be surprised to see it slip into early next year. That's too bad.
The lack of focus is showing in the marketplace. In the first quarter of 1998, for the first time, Exchange shipped more seats than Notes (3.05 million vs 2.7 million). Exchange's workflow enhancements this summer will further entice cc:Mail converts. Toss in Microsoft's acquisition of Mesa; Notes is facing a challenging 1998. Lotus isn't alone. Netscape has declared victory on its remaining offerings.
Novell finds itself in a comfortable situation with NetWare 5.0 and NDS. But Microsoft sales people are aggressively selling NT and BackOffice to prepare for their (eventual) NT 5.0 onslaught. Although one can't help but wonder if the success of the US economy is tied to Windows 98's release, what will NT 5.0 do - create world peace?
So below the antitrust noise, Microsoft is aggressively continuing its business. Key products such as NetShow 3.0, Terminal Server (aka Hydra), and SQL Server 7.0 are on track to make aggressive moves into corporate America.
Mark Tebbe is president of Lante Corp, a consulting and integration company in Chicago that serves clients worldwide, including several high-tech companies. Send e-mail to Mtebbe@lante.com