In the 1960s, a Roy Lichtenstein-like poster showed a tearful young woman with the caption, “I can’t believe I forgot to have children.” Perhaps Microsoft’s slogan for its four accounting titles should be, “I can’t believe we forgot to market our products.”
Earlier this month, Doug Burgum, the president of Microsoft Business Solutions, testified at the trial regarding Oracle’s attempted takeover of PeopleSoft. He noted that MBS has delayed Project Green—its much-vaunted next-generation package that is designed to give a common interface to Great Plains, Solomon, Navision, and Axapta. Programming talent is being taken away from Green to beef up the four applications.
It’s a very good decision. Project Green, originally called the NextGen product, has been around a long time, from the days before Microsoft purchased Great Plains. As one wag put it, “It’s been three years away for the last three years.” In fact, the 2000 Great Plains annual report, filed in August 2000 has a section about the next generation product.
After Great Plains purchased Solomon, Vern Strong, one of the Solomon founders, gave the technology direction keynote at the Stampede reseller conference, leading me to believe Solomon was writing NextGen. Then, after Microsoft bought Navision, the name Project Green was imposed on a team that seemed to be lead by the Danes, leading me to believe the project had shifted. Now, it’s shifting again into a slower gear.
Why is the delay a good decision? With Green, MBS has been promoting a product that isn’t on the market and wasn’t likely to hit in a usable version until 2007 or 2008. It wasn’t a healthy situation.
Veterans of the early days of the PC industry may remember how Osborne Computer, one of leaders, sank itself by announcing an upcoming product. Customers stopped buying the existing line to wait for the new version and sales tanked. Early talk about Green put MBS into a similar position—although nowhere near as dire—as Microsoft managed to create good, old-fashioned fear, uncertainty, and doubt about its own product line. Best resellers used this self-generated FUD to win deals. With Project Green, MBS took its eye off the market. There were no product press releases about accounting software at the Worldwide Reseller Conference in October. It’s hard to remember the last time MBS had a product press tour. As the first paragraph of this article suggests, Microsoft stopped talking about the products that are actually on the market. With news about all four lines this month, it’s talking about them again.
MBS resellers should benefit, though how much remains to be seen since, despite the glowing projections by MBS, the accounting market place is still saturated. As one VAR put it, “We sell everything besides accounting, things like human resources, vertical markets.”
So far, the move looks popular with MBS resellers. One top MBS reseller said it has been lobbying for this decision for the reasons stated in this article.
It’s back to business, the right way, for the company we all thought would roll over the competition.
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