Microsoft has a highly well integrated vision and it is one that resonated among the customers attending Convergence. Its weakness is that it relies on a broad and deep application and infrastructure stack that Microsoft is struggling to deliver, as illustrated by the most recent Vista and Office 2007 delays. Gates identifies five technology areas that are behind the development of role-based productivity across enterprise and desktop applications:
User Interface: First, the need to provide a familiar interface modelled on the specific role of the user, via new Vista-based user interfaces. The forthcoming Office interface, does away with hierarchical drop-down menus and introduces the concept of context-sensitive "ribbons" to navigate through processes, and transparent "glass panes" so users can see how they got to their current page without cluttering the screen with multiple windows.
Service Oriented Architecture: The second area of development focuses on delivering service-oriented applications. The applications are gradually moving towards the service-based .NET architecture, as part of Microsoft's overall goal to deliver a unified code base embracing currently disparate applications. Gates warned of some dangers, cautioning that SOA in the consumer world, delivered over the internet, has been over-simplified and can be lacking in the areas of security, reliability and scalability, so it was important to design SOA for a business-class environment.
Collaboration : This is an important component and here Windows SharePoint Services will provide the foundation to enable a transparent organization where employees, partners and suppliers can access data at all times in a secure manner. In practice Gates believes SOA and collaboration developments will be important in crossing the boundary between structured applications and human based communications, which is where business transactions go awry.
Business Intelligence : The fourth technology pillar is business intelligence and the need to make it available beyond the traditional group of specialists and here tools like the previously announced SQL Server Reporting Services are key enablers, allowing users to be automatically presented with information relevant to their role.
Composite Applications : Finally the ability to rapidly develop composite applications is driving design and will play an important role in spanning the boundaries between structured and unstructured data while also tying together formal processes with ad hoc workflow.
Microsoft is aiming to deliver tools that will enable software developers to rapidly compose and manage web service based composite applications, based around the Windows Communications Framework. Its approach is heavily role-based but that should not be taken to mean that it is just looking at superficial screen-based integration or presenting Office as an alternative to a portal; its integration strategy goes deep into the stack and across the applications. The vision is there - The key question is where and when would the delivery happen.
Category :MegaTrends, Emerging Trends