The ascension of Satya Nadella into the big captain’s chair at Microsoft seems to indicate a continuation of the status quo. Here’s a guy who’s a Microsoft insider, responsible for cloud strategy, and now saying he’ll focus on that and mobile.
Microsoft certainly has the resources to become even more competitive in those areas, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m looking at Computer Associates of the early 2000s all over again. CA made its money by acquiring software companies left and right (and selling a lot of it, even if the sales weren’t exactly recorded in the quarter they were made, but that’s a different column entirely).
If Microsoft is going to focus on cloud and mobile, it should really “help a customer out” but clarifying what it’s going to do with all this tangle of legacy software that may still be alive and useful, but clearly is no longer part of the company’s strategic goals.
One place Microsoft got it right was with InfoPath. That is not an endorsement of the decision to end-of-life the erstwhile forms server; it’s more an acknowledgement that Microsoft made a clear statement about its future. Let’s look at some other legacy technologies where that has decidedly NOT been the case:
1) Silverlight. Remember this? Microsoft was going to compete with Adobe Flash on its platform by offering a way for developers to create rich Internet applications. Both of those, though, fell out of popular favor by folks advocating the ability to provide these features without the need to fall back on plug-ins. In 2010, then-Server and Tools Division head Bob Muglia said HTML5 was the cross-platform choice for development, and Microsoft has built HTML5 into its Internet Explorer browser. But Silverlight lives on (version 5, released in 2011, is still available for download on the company’s website). Corporate VP Scott Guthrie tried to diffuse the fallout from Muglia’s remarks in late 2010 by saying “Silverlight has a future, and it’s a bright one.” It might have a future (although no updates in three years doesn’t bode well), but it’s top of mind for no one, and it’s not all that bright on top of a dusty shelf in a closet someplace. This should have been targeted for end of life years go.
2) Groove. The last version of this server was released in 2007, before it was renamed SharePoint Workspace 2010. Groove came to Microsoft in 2005 with the acquisition of Groove Networks, founded by Ray Ozzie, who went on to become CTO of Microsoft before leaving (voluntarily or otherwise) in 2010. Now, not even SharePoint Workspace is top of mind any longer, as the company tries to move the world onto its Office 365 platform, of which SharePoint is a feature. The company could never quite figure out what to do with the technology, and neither could the public.
3) Speaking of SharePoint… what is its fate? Microsoft seems hell-bent to take a US$2 billion business (so it’s been reported) and meld it into Office 365, with perhaps even the name “SharePoint” going away. This caused a huge hue and cry among the user populace, and the company backpedaled by clarifying that SharePoint Server on-premise was NOT going away. And it won’t, as the biggest on-premise users are the biggest companies, who write Microsoft the biggest checks.
4) Visual SourceSafe. Once a staple of the Microsoft developer arsenal, the company seems to have moved on from this source-code-management tool, even going so far as to embrace Git in Team Foundation Server. But Visual SourceSafe remains an option, though it shouldn’t for too much longer.
5) Visio. It would be incorrect to say that Microsoft’s tool for creating diagrams is obsolete, but it certainly has gone from a server of its own to be absorbed into SharePoint Insights, which itself has been absorbed into Office 365. With other, more modern diagramming and dashboarding tools available, will the Visio name go away as the product itself disappears into the cloud?