year was surely one of mixed fortunes for Microsoft India. While the company
held firmly to its dominant position as a software vendor of choice, the
dwindling fortunes of its parent in the US ruffled its position in the country.
It added many big names to its clientele and signed agreements with several
state governments–Gujarat and Karnataka. Yet, a few compelling factors raised
doubts about the future of the company in the new economy. The reasons were both
national as well as international. The most painful was that Windows, the de
facto desktop operating system and the source of Microsoft’s monopoly, was
beginning to seem less likely to remain the dominant software in computing.
As the internet took center stage, myriad computing devices were being enabled
to tap into it. And these did not necessarily need Windows.
Windows 2000–the beefed up version of
NT and one of the biggest launches of the company in recent years–too failed
to perk up sentiments. Though the response was by no way dismal, with the
company getting full support from all
its major partners, it was marked by confusion and caution. Added to this was
the migraine caused by the ongoing battle with the Department of Justice in the
US. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered the parent company to be split into
two. Under Jackson’s order, one of the two ‘baby Microsofts’ would own and
market the Windows operating system. The other would handle all other software,
such as the Office suite and the Internet Explorer browser. The company has
asked for a stay against the order while it appeals.
The sheer familiarity of the PC
interface saw Microsoft put an ever-growing icing on top: office productivity
suites, NT server software, SQL Server databases and Exchange email servers. So
much so that the company increasingly worked its way up from the homes to the
medium-sized users to large enterprises in the Indian market. The company also
revamped its licensing policy to make it simpler for the SME segment.
While Windows caused Microsoft
concerns, the company’s other products did well too. In the database market,
it consolidated its position. Though Oracle continues to be numero uno in that
space, SQL Server 7.0 made major inroads. With the launch of SQL 2000, the
company hopes to further consolidate its position. In the suites space too, the
company continued to cruise comfortably at the top position. ‘Go local’
seemed to be Microsoft’s tune in 1999, with the launch of the Hindi version of
Office 2000 suite.
Microsoft did not sell any products on
its own. It also did not service or support its products directly except for
large accounts. What it did instead was train partners and enhance their support
skills so that they could meet customers’ requirements. This ensured that both
Microsoft and its partners grew by leveraging each other’s strengths.
The company’s new focus is to get
Windows branded software into as many places on the internet as possible. Now
the company is looking to put up a new face–one that looks at the web, at all
the data and software on PCs, and at the servers that run corporate networks.
That would mean taking Windows to not just inside machines of all kinds that are
connected to the internet, but into connections between them as well. DQ