Microsoft Really Blew It With These 9 Enterprise Products

Steve Ballmer facepalm

Photo: AP

Microsoft has been in business 37 years and for most of that time, had a very strict “let’s build it here” culture.You can’t have that attitude without a few flops.

And Microsoft has had its share.

When most people think about Microsoft’s stupidest ideas they name dorky consumer ideas like the Microsoft Bob operating system, Clippy the annoying wiggling paperclip, or the ill-fated Zune MP3 player.

But Microsoft’s bread and butter is its enterprise business. And it’s definitely preached some ideas to these folks that left them scratching their heads.

The Web doesn't care about Microsoft.

To understand why Microsoft has been hostile to open source software over the years, look at its Web server, Internet Information Services (IIS).

Microsoft includes a free Web server with its Windows Server operating system, but even still, most Web sites use the free open source Web server from the Apache Foundation. Some 65% of the world's web servers use Apache, compared to about 14% using IIS.

And that means that people aren't compelled to buy Windows licenses for their Web sites. They can use Linux instead.

CardSpace didn't become your Web identity.

There was a time when Microsoft was the leading visionary in something called Identity Management and CardSpace was supposed to protect people from online identity theft.

Launched with much fanfare in 2005 as InfoCard, later renamed Windows CardSpace, it was killed a little over a year ago. No one was using it and for good reason. Microsoft had made it too complicated. Plus, due to internal politics, for a long time it didn't connect to anything anyway.

It was the baby of Microsoft's Kim Cameron, who was applauded as a genius back in the day for a theory of online identity known as The Laws of Identity. Cameron left Microsoft last year, shortly after the death of CardSpace.

Microsoft didn't give up. It moved on to a technology called U-Prove that it acquired. As for U-Prove ... see next slide ...

U-Prove didn't become your online identity, either.

After CardSpace failed, Microsoft focused on U-Prove created by respected cryptologist Dr. Stefan Brands. Microsoft bought Brands' company, Credentica, in 2008.

In 2010, Microsoft released U-Prove under Microsoft's own form of open source (which is basically a promise not to sue anyone who uses the the source code).

About a year ago, U-Prove was part of a pilot program to give students in Sweden and Greece an online identity card. And nothing much has happened for U-Prove since.

Enterprises didn't stream tons of video with Windows Media Server.

In the early 2000s, Microsoft hyped up this idea that enterprises would suddenly be serving tons of video on the network using Windows Media Server.

It didn't happen.

Microsoft servers can handle video, but they traded in the proprietary tech used in Media Server for a standard known as Real Time Streaming Protocol.

Last week, Microsoft moved its streaming video service to its cloud, Azure, and introduced Windows Azure Media Services, Microsoft VP Scott Guthrie announced in a blog post. It doesn't support Microsoft's old proprietary WMS technology either.

Microsoft has spent about a decade trying to become a big player in ERP and accounting software.

To get there, Microsoft bought Great Plains and Navision for more than $1 billion apiece in the early 2000s. As a result of these acquisitions, it actually got FOUR lines of ERP software: Great Plains, Solomon (owned by Great Plains), Navision, and Axapta (owned by Navision).

It then spent a couple years promising it was going to integrate these programs in to one big product, backward compatible to all. It called it Project Green.

The whole thing was way too complicated and expensive, and would have alienated the partners who had built specialties around one of the four product lines.

Project Green withered to death a couple years later.

Today, Microsoft still sells multiple ERP products. They're all marketed under the Dynamics brand name -- but Dynamics is best known for its CRM product, which Microsoft built in house.

Google blew up Microsoft's first try to bring Office to the cloud.

Microsoft's first attempt to combat Google Apps was a fail. It was called the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

BPOS had all the downside of being a cloud app with very little of the upside. It offered cloud e-mail and collaboration, but didn't have versions of Microsoft's most popular Office apps, Word, PowerPoint, Excel. Microsoft couldn't easily upgrade those versions (they were based on Office 2007).

Worse, BPOS was known to go down for hours at a time.

To compete with Google Apps, Microsoft rolled out a new service to replace BPOS, known as Office 365. Office 365 includes cloud based versions of its Office apps. But BPOS users couldn't be automatically upgraded. There's a big process to change users over.

In another attempt to compete with Google Apps, Microsoft tried Office Live.

Office Live Workspace was free and sort of aimed at consumers, but was really only functional as a online backup system for people who already paid for desktop versions of Office. You could see your Office files, but you couldn't edit unless you opened them on your Windows PC.

There was also Office Live Small Business, which had a free Web site for businesses and other features, like an online calendar and online customer management app.

Now, the whole thing has been scrapped for Windows Live SkyDrive (for consumers) and Office 365 (for businesses). Those products have browser-based versions of the core Office apps, so they're a reasonable competitor to Google Apps.

Poor performance for PerformancePoint.

Microsoft had grand plans with a financial analytics applications called PerformancePoint 2007. It took three years of secret planning and included home-grown software and tech acquired by buying a company called ProClarity in 2006.

Microsoft killed the product in April 2009.

It competed with products like Business Objects, later bought by SAP, and Cognos, which got snapped up by IBM. Microsoft's homegrown version never did well against them. It was an odd fit for a company that made most of its money on lower-cost boxed software. It required a lot of work and expense to set up.

Windows Mobile didn't move businesses.

Microsoft's early mobile operating system, Windows Mobile, was built to compete with Palm's PDA. The earliest Windows Mobile devices were not smartphones, but handheld computers that used a stylus.

Windows Mobile was never more popular than Palm, and also fared poorly against RIM's BlackBerry, which combined a phone with e-mail, no stylus required.

Microsoft morphed Windows Mobile into an operating system for smartphones but it used a lot of outdated technology. The browser was particularly bad news.

Microsoft abandoned Windows Mobile with its latest operating system, Windows Phone, so software for Mobile is not compatible with Microsoft's current phones. Not that it mattered much, as very few businesses were depending on Windows Mobile anyway.

If it keeps producing clunkers then this could happen ...

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