Microsoft Downplays Threat To Tools Partners

Microsoft, which is focusing on making Visual Studio 2005 a collaborative development environment, expects to make it available during the first half of next year, said Eric Rudder, senior vice president of Server and Tools.

Microsoft will release Visual Studio 2005 in several SKUs targeted at developers playing different roles in the application lifecycle, he said. The SKUs will include Team Test, Team Developer, Team System, Team Architect and Team Foundations editions.

Microsoft currently partners with third-party vendors such as IBM Rational, Mercury Interactive and Borland to provide different functionality for testing, modeling and other capabilities that will show up in these various editions, Rudder said.

Though those companies now will find themselves competing with Microsoft in some areas, Microsoft will continue to partner strongly with them and provide them with source code and other technologies to integrate their tools with Visual Studio, he said.

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"We will continue to work with partners to make sure best tools are available for .NET," Rudder said in his presentation at the Microsoft financial analyst meeting in Redmond, Wash., on Thursday. "You will see companies like Rational and Mercury competing with us but also working [with us] through the VSIP (Visual Studio Industry Partner) program. We expect the opportunities for tools ISVs to be even greater."

Though Microsoft is painting a rosy picture, others in the industry don't see it that way. Melinda-Carol Ballou, a META Group analyst, said that as Microsoft rolls out new application lifecycle management functionality in Visual Studio, it will increasingly "bump up" against its partners. "Third-party partners are having to deal with the huge shadow of Microsoft," she said.

One analyst attending the conference Thursday also noted that the competition between Microsoft and longtime partner Rational is really beginning to heat up now that IBM owns the onetime standalone tools vendor. IBM completed the acquisition of Rational in February 2003.

Indeed, last week at the IBM Rational Software Development User Conference, IBM Rational General Manager admitted that the partnership between Microsoft and IBM Rational has cooled slightly since IBM took over Rational. While the two remain close technology-sharing partners, co-marketing has dwindled and co-selling opportunities have all but disappeared, he said.