Microsoft Rattles Some BI Cages

Oct 25, 2005 (02:10 PM EDT)

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Never mind that Business Objects, Cognos, Hyperion Solutions and others are allied with Microsoft on the operating systems front. The giant from Redmond wants their business on the applications end.Microsoft this week divulged more details about its "Maestro" scorecarding server, which is designed to work with SQL Server. The product, due in November, will bring business intelligence to everyday information workers, Microsoft says. The company's larger strategy is to expand growth opportunities for its Office product. A big, big part of that growth, Microsoft hopes, will come from organizations that want to perform BI analysis from within a tried and true (sort of) Microsoft environment.

The stand-alone BI vendors, such as Business Objects, won't hear of it. "This is our market, and Business Objects is orders of magnitude larger, even on Microsoft's own platform," the software company told Business Intelligence Pipeline. "Customers want access to all their data, something Microsoft will always struggle with."

Business Objects and others wouldn't feel compelled to speak up about their relative strengths in the market if they didn't see Microsoft as a threat, at least in the long term. One advantage the traditional vendors have is that they've already been talking about spreading BI out to everyday workers for a long time now. They even have a name for it: operational BI.

On the other hand, I have a friend who owns a software firm that does contract development work for the defense industry and other companies. He said to me just yesterday, "Think about it, Ted: Microsoft never loses. In every competitive battle, they win."

We'll see how that pans out when it comes to business intelligence. This much I know, though: The BI landscape has begun to shift fundamentally, and the analytics vendors have got to shape their competitive strategies in ways that specifically address the threat from Microsoft. Either that, or they'll end up like so many Netscapes.