MBS' Burgum Gives Green The Go

Project Green

Doug Burgum, the Microsoft senior vice president in charge of business applications, said the goal of a single, converged code-base for ERP -- instead of the four the company now fields -- will happen. But that unified code won't appear until after 2008.

In the meantime, the company has pledged to update the current Great Plains, Axapta, Navision, and Solomon packages over the next several years. It also raised the life cycle support for the most-current versions of all those products to five years from three.

As expected, Burgum outlined a broad-stroke strategy to converge the lines over time. "Wave one" will bring similar, role-based "user experiences" to all the offerings, as well as integration with SharePoint and Web services by 2006. In theory the SharePoint integration would let users of all the products utilize the same reusable Web Parts.

Analysts and other observers have said it is too expensive and redundant for Microsoft to indefinitely support R&D on four separate product lines with many overlapping features and functions. Financial analysts said Microsoft now expects MBS to become profitable in 2007. The Redmond, Wash., company previously had forecast profitability in 2006.

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The first fruits of that effort will begin to surface in Great Plains 8.5, due this fall, and Axapta 3.0 next year, other Microsoft executives told CRN.

Wave two will incorporate modular process configuration, enhanced Visual Studio.Net tools, and process libraries. It is due in "2008+", according to Burgum's slides.

The converged code base will come "after wave two" Burgum told reporters and analysts after his speech.

"Green is very much alive and is surfacing [now] in two waves of innovation. The end point, the vision has not changed .research showed that customers wanted us to rethink how to get there," he said.

He also said delays of internal ship dates of key foundations such as the Longhorn version of Windows, also affected the decision. The new plan, he said, is "better for partners and better for customers," Burgum said. Customers want to be secure in the life-span of their current products, and partners need to be able to sell what they are already selling.

Several solution providers have said they prefer a more evolutionary approach that will enable them to keep selling the current lineups until the next-generation is ready.

The roadmap further out calls for Navision 6, Great Plains 9, and Solomon 7 in the second half of 2006, Burgum told some 5,000 MBS customers and partners at Convergence 2005 in San Diego. He also pledged, less specifically, Navision 5+, Great Plains 9+, Axapta 4+, and Solomon 7+ and beyond.

Burgum also said that while the company would have liked to have seen faster growth, it is happy with the current MBS growth rates. The lack of profitability thus far is not an issue, he said.

"We don't have a profitability problem. We would have a profitability problem if we were trying to be profitable and weren't. We are investing in the future," he said.

Microsoft is betting that the small and midmarket companies it is targeting are a richer vein to tap than already-saturated Fortune 500-type accounts. The fact that Oracle, SAP and IBM are also now targeting such companies validates that theory.