In what has to be one of the boldest displays of marketing ever, Microsoft’s Office 365 director Tom Rizzo wrote a post on Monday accusing Google of “spooking customers” by cancelling products too quickly and not offering to support them for long after their cancelation.
He says that that Google “does not have a product roadmap and clear vision for productivity for their business customers.”
He might be right. But it’s rich criticism coming from Microsoft.
Microsoft cancels, discontinues, and makes drastic changes to business products all the time.
Most recently — and ironically — Office 365 replaced a previous set of services called the BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), which first rolled out commercially in 2008.
Office 365 required newer software (it doesn’t work with Outlook 2003), used a different pricing model, required mid-size companies to use multitenant (shared servers) instead of dedicated version of the service, and was generally different enough that Microsoft devoted an entire Web site to the upgrade process.
In other words, Microsoft totally redesigned its online services for businesses after less than three years on the market.
That’s not the first time either. Long-time Microsoft watchers might remember:
- bCentral. This set of hosted services for small and mid-size businesses included some pretty critical business functions like online accounting. It lasted from about 1999 through 2003.
- Office Live. This was another effort to deliver online collaboration services and apps, including things like project management. It kicked off in 2007 and lasted for about two years before being split apart — some functions went to Windows Live and SkyDrive, some to Office 365, and some just disappeared completely.
- OneCare and Equipt. OneCare was a hosted security and management service for individuals, but Microsoft also sold a small business edition bundled with a subscription-based version of Office. It lasted less than a year, in 2009.
Any business who relied on any of these services had to find a replacement when Microsoft canceled it.
That doesn’t even get into software and development platforms that have fallen under the knife thanks to Microsoft’s strategy shifts. Remember HailStorm, the plan to build consumer Web services that made personal data accessible anywhere from any device? Or the PerformancePoint business intelligence server? What about Office Accounting? Or Project Green, the plan to unify a bunch of different ERP products on a single codebase?
Microsoft must think its customers — and potential Google customers — have very short memories.