- Related Stories
Microsoft mixes software for business 'mashups'March 27, 2006
Microsoft: Office 2007 to be late, tooMarch 23, 2006
Vista debut hits a delayMarch 21, 2006
Gates looks to expand view beyond WindowsMarch 20, 2006
Windows Live offers Microsoft a quicker turnaroundMarch 14, 2006
Although Microsoft announced last week that Vista and Office 2007 would not land on new PCs for the holidays, the company on Sunday said it is largely on track to deliver new business software.
After a long week, and very little weekend, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates arrived in the Lone Star state for the Convergence 2006 trade show to offer an update on the software maker's least well-known unit, Microsoft Business Solutions.
Cobbled together from a series of acquisitions that began with Great Plains Software five years ago, Microsoft has quietly grown a unit that sells the same kinds of software as SAP and Oracle, but sells it mostly to midsize companies.
In an interview with CNET News.com, Gates discussed Vista challenges, where Microsoft is headed with MBS, and the company's broader move to offer hosted software. He was joined by Doug Burgum, the former Great Plains chief who is stepping away from running MBS day to day, but remains the unit's chairman.
Q: Windows has grown over time, and one of its strengths is that it works with all the hundreds of millions of Windows PCs out there. How do you take something that complex and make it so that it can be grown in an orderly fashion and shipped on a regular schedule? That's been a problem with Vista.
Gates: Architecture layering is a key part of that, and that's something we've put a huge investment into (for) Windows this time around. You know, even in the last year, as you've seen a lot of releases of Windows Media Player or Media Center or Tablet PC, we've been doing a lot of releases. The biggest one we did, of course, was the security release, XP SP 2, and if there's anything where the amount of work you see at the top versus the amount of work that's gone underneath, you have the highest ratio of security work. In XP SP 2 we tried to make sure there were no user-interface changes. There were a few things in the browser where you just had to think about add-ons that you didn't have to before, but other than that we were able to make it mostly invisible. You know, we have great technology to test for compatibility and how we change things to avoid breaking compatibility.
When does it get to a point where it's just too hard to add new features, such as a new file system like WinFS, into Windows?
Gates: We do a lot of architectural work in Windows every release, and probably more this release than any other. It all comes back to (this): You've got end users and developers, and if you make things too complex for either of those audiences, then you're not doing your job. And the idea that if you say, OK, to make our engineering easier let's have the file system here and this fancy file system here, but the user has to think, OK, I have these concepts up here, I can do rich query, standing query, notification query up here, down here I can't, I have limited properties and things; if you force them to learn both paradigms, it's bad. And so what we've been able to do in Vista is take the search enhanced file system and get a lot out of that. It's not the database-driven file system (WinFS) that we had in mind initially, but you get extremely high percentages of the things we had in mind by using the search-based file system.
Microsoft did a lot of work to combine the consumer and business versions of Windows into one code base with Windows XP, and most people find it a lot more stable. Some folks, after last week's decision to delay Vista, were saying maybe Microsoft should go back to having more releases for consumers and fewer for businesses. Do you have a sense of what it is that people want in the next version of Windows? Is it different for consumers than for businesses?
Gates: Businesses often move in waves where they'll upgrade many things at the same time: their own applications, Office, Windows. They like to roll things out in groups so that the business processes or user training, the support gets aligned around a whole stack of software. And so you have businesses that are very quick to get everything out and you'll have businesses that tend to lag in getting things out, and then you'll have other businesses, just because of the rhythm, they'll hit our cycles when they want to make changes or they'll be off our cycle. So sometimes they'll be very state-of-the-art and sometimes they'll be a few years behind.
3 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment