Microsoft's 2010 Software 'Most Complicated Lock-in Decision in Years'

Microsoft is pushing its weight around in 2010 by offering numerous tools that used to be provided only by third-party vendors, and embracing the virtualization and software-as-a-service delivery models, analysts said.

By Jon Brodkin
Thu, July 29, 2010

Network WorldMicrosoft's 2010 software suites present "the most complicated lock-in decision in years," and many customers will be justified in sticking with the 2007 versions of Office, Exchange and SharePoint, Burton Group analysts said this week at the Catalyst conference.

Microsoft (MSFT) is pushing its weight around in 2010 by offering numerous tools that used to be provided only by third-party vendors, and embracing the virtualization and software-as-a-service delivery models, analysts said.

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"Microsoft wants more of your money," said Burton Group analyst Guy Creese. "This is going to be a pretty complicated decision, one that may lead to lock-in. … If you go forward with all of the 2010 products you will be a Microsoft shop for the foreseeable future because the offering is so monolithic."

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That's not to say being a Microsoft shop is a bad thing, but the lock-in aspect should be considered before any deployment, he said.

For companies running the 2003 versions of Microsoft software, upgrading to 2010 will be a relatively easy decision. But companies on 2007 may find that the benefits in the 2010 products, which in some cases are minimal, do not justify the time and expense required to upgrade.

The decision three years ago to upgrade from 2003 to 2007 was simple, essentially involving just a few pieces of software and some third-party add-ons, Creese said. But now the product lineup includes new pieces like the FAST Search Server, telephony, and picture and video editing.

And the decision to upgrade includes not only installing client software but also potentially virtualization and cloud services such as Office Web Apps. While Google is luring enterprises with Web-based software only, Microsoft is pushing three delivery models in on-premise software, virtual machines, and software-as-a-service.

"We do not believe Google's (GOOG) pronouncement that software-as-a-service is the way of the future, that the world will ultimately be in the cloud only. That's too limiting," Creese said.

Most enterprises will go for a mix of the delivery models, he said. The good news with Microsoft is that customers can get everything from one vendor and the tools all fit together. But that doesn't make upgrading to 2010 an automatic decision. Burton Group analysts offered several issues to think about before deciding whether to upgrade.

When it comes to Exchange 2010, enterprises should upgrade if they haven't already optimized their 2007 Exchange deployment, if they are aiming to lower e-mail costs, and if they will likely run a combination of on-premise and SaaS software. Enterprises should not upgrade to Exchange 2010 if they have already gone through the trouble of optimizing their 2007 software and if they believe a transition would be too expensive.

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