From the Publisher

FRAMINGHAM (05/01/2000) - A reporter from a major news agency recently called me for comment on Microsoft Corp.'s move into the wireless and home entertainment businesses. "What are Microsoft's plans in these markets?" was the crux of his inquiry.

Having just come from the official launch of Windows 2000--an event Microsoft claims is the most important in the company's 24-year history--I got to thinking, why is Microsoft entering these markets when it should be focusing on convincing CIOs that Windows 2000 can make their lives easier? If there is any criteria for success in the technology market, it is focus, focus and more focus. I was becoming convinced that Microsoft, though it recently got Bill back as "chief software architect," was more in need of a chief marketing officer.

Yes, wireless is a huge opportunity. But consortiums such as European-based Symbian, backed by wireless giants Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Matsushita Electric Works, are calling the shots here. Few think Microsoft--and its partners Compaq and Hewlett-Packard--can seriously challenge Symbian's leadership as the wireless operating system standard. Mark my words: Microsoft is destined to spend millions of dollars to produce an offering that will be the OS/2 in this dynamically evolving market.

By looking around for any and all opportunities to place its bets, Microsoft seems to be implementing a 360-degree marketing strategy. There's nothing wrong with that...unless you are a CIO considering whether to commit to Windows 2000 as your de facto enterprise operating standard.

If I were a CIO, Microsoft's follow-up announcement to the wireless foray of X-Box, a product The New York Times called "a Windows PC masquerading as a video game console," would make me nervous. The internet appliance/home entertainment market is huge. Like wireless, it has well-established players--Sony, Nintendo, Sega--all of which are focused on one thing: video entertainment. Didn't Microsoft learn its lesson several years ago with Bob, its interface and organization software for home PC users? The Japanese will cream Microsoft in the home entertainment market, hands down.

Microsoft management had better start paying more attention to CIOs and what they are saying about Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, the release of Windows 2000 designed to run on enterprise servers. CIOs are not going to remove Unix, Linux or any other industrial-strength data center operating system any time soon and replace it with Windows 2000. As a result, Windows 2000 Datacenter is unlikely to become a volume business no matter how hard Steve Ballmer tries.

"Where do you want to go today?" is Microsoft's current marketing slogan. It is unclear to me whether they have a precise answer to that question as it pertains to CIOs and the enterprise. On May 4, Microsoft intends to shed light on that question with its "Next Generation Windows Services," what it calls "a new set of software, services and solutions for its customers built around the internet and Windows."

Look for it and ask yourself this question: Does this convince me that Microsoft really understands the needs of the men and women responsible for managing the next-generation enterprises? Or is it a marketing ploy? Depending on your answer, plan your enterprise's future with, or without, Windows 2000.

I'd love to hear what you think. Let me know at gbeach@cio.com.

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