Microsoft Launches Aggressive Business Intelligence Initiative

Microsoft officially staked a claim in the burgeoning business intelligence market at its first-ever conference devoted to the niche, Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference 2007, taking place in Seattle this week.

Conference keynoter Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s business division, ticked off the strides Redmond has taken thus far in preparation for its push into BI: It has expanded relationships with Accenture, Capgemini and Tata Consultancy Services — three of the top BI consultancies; it has acquired SoftArtisans’ OfficeWriter for managed report authoring in Microsoft Office; and it has developed a road map for its forthcoming BI platform stack, code-named “Katmai,” which it plans to deliver in 2008.

“Microsoft is charting a course to transform the BI marketplace as we know it,” Raikes said. “By fundamentally changing the economic model for BI and delivering unprecedented ease of use, we’re enabling the broadest deployment of BI possible, so employees can better contribute to a company’s overall business performance.”

Leveraging Windows 2000

Microsoft is now in a position to leverage its watershed products — Windows 2000 Server and Client — for maximum advantage, and the market is ready, said Laura DiDio, a senior analyst at Yankee Group.

“Seven years after the introduction of Windows, we are seeing the fruition of a lot of promises — granular management, ubiquitous connectivity, remote access and business intelligence — all these 21st century ‘anywhere’ type functions accessible from a variety of devices,” she told CRM Buyer.

Microsoft is taking a run at BI because it recognizes the market opportunity, DiDio continued. “Raikes did not specifically mention the two biggest players by name — Oracle and IBM — but he did say that the current offerings have not fulfilled market demand.”

Indeed, BI has been a notoriously difficult application for companies to leverage. Oftentimes, it is mandated by the CEO and implemented with little training or other support, DiDio pointed out.

Microsoft intends to use Office 2007, which already has some elements of BI, to leverage its vision of the application, said DiDio. “What they are trying to do is commoditize BI tools and capabilities so they are easily digested by the masses.”

Katmai Is Key

Katmai will be the glue holding Microsoft’s BI initiative — the acquisition, the partnerships and the functionality — together. Scheduled for delivery in 2008, Katmai’s focus appears to be on a tighter integration environment with Microsoft Visual Studio and .Net Framework. Microsoft will be releasing further details about Katmai during the conference.

Microsoft cannot afford to delay on execution of its strategy if it wants to carve out a significant niche in this space, DiDio noted. Given the time line, either Microsoft will have to release Katmai without OfficeWriter — perhaps it would be released in a service pack the following year — or it will have to delay Katmai, which would be a serious blow to its ambitious plans for this space.

“Let’s not forget that there is also Business Objects and Cognos in this space,” DiDio remarked, “and they won’t roll over and play dead for Microsoft.”

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