Microsoft's Latest Convergence Theory
ORLANDO, FLA. -- Microsoft President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer brought his characteristic passion and energy to the 9,500 attendees of Microsoft Convergence 2008 here yesterday, discussing his company's plans in relation to the Microsoft Dynamics line of business applications. While Microsoft has been in the business software game for about seven of its 28 years, by Ballmer's estimate, it's where he wants to be.
"The biggest decision I've made -- unless we close this Yahoo! deal -- the biggest decision I've made as CEO is pushing into the business applications area," Ballmer said. "It's one of the best decisions I've ever made, one of the most important decisions I've ever made, and the reason that brings us all here today."
Microsoft's planned acquisition of Yahoo!, a rival in search marketing and other Internet-based activities, was not a focus of the day's keynote address, despite its currency in the news. Ballmer couched his speech in terms of the needs of today's businesses, as Microsoft sees them. Ballmer cited growing complexity and globalization as the two biggest concerns of business, referring to a recent PWC study of 1,400 CEOs in 45 countries. Combined with worries of a coming recession, business leaders have to ask themselves a number of questions, Ballmer told the audience. "Do I retrench? Partly," Ballmer said. "But do I also innovate, do I push forward, do I look for new sources of revenue and new sources of opportunity, and I think the answer to all of those questions is yes."
Ballmer reinforced Microsoft's commitment to some of its core business-software design philosophies, notably role-tailored user interfaces and the expansion of business intelligence to each user's role. Building on Microsoft's goal of ubiquity in personal productivity applications, business users will appreciate the familiarity they find with team applications whether deployed on company servers or in one of Microsoft's hosted arrangements. Ballmer noted that while CRM may stand for customer relationship management, the increasingly broad options available in the technology meant it was re-emerging in various incarnations, managing relationships of all kinds -- a phenomenon he referred to as "xRM."
Customization of those deployments was another important facet of Ballmer's presentation, and led to perhaps one of the only true pieces of news to come out of this year's event thus far: Microsoft's expansion of its 20-year-plus partnership with EDS. The consultancy -- which boasts of already managing some three million desktops and more than 100,000 servers running Microsoft applications -- will sell, customize, and deploy Microsoft Dynamics CRM, training more than 300 new consultants by the end of the year to do so. The flagship deployment for this new agreement is with the Department of Works and Pensions, a government agency in the United Kingdom that EDS CEO Ron Rittenmeyer hailed as the world's largest and most complex government implementation of Microsoft applications.
Toward the end of his address, Ballmer repeated the question that is often on the lips of prospective customers: Why Microsoft? "We've been in this business now for about seven years, and I still get asked, 'Is Microsoft a serious player in business applications?' " Ballmer said. Before making the inevitable comparisons to other vendors, he pitched Microsoft Dynamics' merits in their own right: "We're going to bring raw innovation to these issues," he said. "We're going to bring integrated thinking about how ERP and CRM fit in the broader context of what people are trying to do with technology." Microsoft, he added, would approach business solutions "with the same kind of long-term approach and tenacity we bring to everything."
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