8 October 2003 Microsoft is planning a renewed assault on the enterprise applications market to coincide with its next major operating system release, code-named Longhorn, to be launched in 2005.
A slew of new product releases will be tied to the launch of Longhorn, from the Great Plains and Navision financial and enterprise applications for small and medium sized businesses, to a new version of Microsoft Office.
The idea is to tighten integration between the various packages, as well as with the Microsoft operating system family.
The plan has been dubbed Project Green. Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman describes it as a “very ambitious” project. “They’ve crafted a strategy to integrate the entire Microsoft stack, from back-end systems and operating systems to the Office applications,” he told Internet Week magazine.
The main feature of Project Green is the Business Framework, a piece of middleware for connecting Microsoft’s applications with its operating systems and providing services such as Object mapping, metadata descriptions and metadata services.
An overhaul of Microsoft’s enterprise applications line-up is sorely needed in order to rationalise the disparate — and sometimes confusing — range of enterprise applications currently on offer following an acquisition spree that took in a number of vendors.
These include US financial software supplier Great Plains, Danish enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software vendor Navision, ERP specialist Axapta and New Zealand’s Solomon Software.
At the same time, Microsoft is planning a number of new applications, including one called Demand Planner, which is intended to help companies plan production based on sales and other marketing information.
However, such an ambitious plan as Project Green also has its downsides. In particular, if Longhorn is delayed for any reason or is shipped containing a critical bug or security flaw, it could have a big impact on the rest of Microsoft’s software stack.
Microsoft Business Solutions can claim about a quarter of a million customers worldwide, serviced through a global network of 4,000 channel partners.
The products are intended for organisations with between 50 and 1,000 employees, with one exception — the Axapta ERP suite, which was acquired by Navision as a result of its earlier acquisition of rival Damgaard and which can scale to several thousand users.
However, Microsoft Business Solutions is not yet profitable, although the company has forecast an increase in sales of a third this year, from $567 million in fiscal 2003 to between $700 million and $750 million in the year to the end of June 2004.