Microsoft accuses industry of Web services hype

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Days after postponing its flagship .NET My Services, Microsoft Corp has blamed industry hype for unleashing a potential backlash from customers angry that web services have been oversold,

Gavin Clarke writes

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Charles Fitzgerald, general manager of Microsoft's .NET platform strategies, is reported to have said Microsoft's biggest fear is customers become bored of web services before they are delivered. Fitzgerald blamed hype for falsely raising expectations.

Fitzgerald said some vendors lacked real technology to back-up web services. "There is a lot of bandwagon jumping going on, from people that are in no way grounded in this. Our concern is that those who are patently just along for the ride are setting some unreasonable expectations," Silicon.com reported.

Sun was singled out for a web services campaign he characterized as "new name, same old rubbish". He claimed Sun's Open Net Environment (ONE) was part of an "utterly schizophrenic" software strategy, as the company first dismissed web services as "smoke and mirrors". Sun recently re-branded its entire applications and tools line under the ONE brand.

Fitzgerald's comments come just days after Microsoft admitted it has pushed out delivery for the flagship .NET My Services, following hostile customer feedback. The company has conceded to demands that .NET My Services can be hosted by third parties such as ASPs, ISPs and ISVs, inside and enterprise firewall, and have the ability to add new services from third parties such as .NET My Travel.

Microsoft's decision to postpone .NET My Services, due in the Fall of 2002, has pulled the rug from underneath customers and partners. Early adopters include Bank One Corp, Monster.com and partners such as McAffee.com who have committed to .NET My Alerts as a means to notify consumers of important information. .NET My Alerts is part of Microsoft's 14 .NET My Services.

Bank One's $30m deal was to have seen customers notified of relevant financial information, such as account activity. Bank One called that deal " a little blue sky" but said it was a "down payument" on a strategy to deliver web-based financial tools to 60 million individual, businesses and investment customers.

One company offering .NET My Alerts, who requested anonymity, said it was now unclear whether Microsoft would proceed with .NET My Alerts. The customer added Microsoft was partly responsible for the hype, and was now potentially fuelling the boredom and disillusionment that Fitzgerald spoke of.

"We feel like we are guinea pig customers. This is an indication that commercial web services are not going to take off as much as Microsoft believed. Microsoft touted the network world, but they can't figure out the business model," the customer said.

Microsoft is no stranger to hype. Windows 95 launched amid a media frenzy engineered by Microsoft among national publications and broadcasters. The company subsequently moved to quell this, claiming surprise at some reports and adding Windows 95 was " no cure for cancer. Jim Allchin, group vice president, last year confidentially predicted Windows XP would revive PC sales.

Microsoft helped engender hype around web services with .NET My Services, since their launch in March 2001. Bob Muglia, Microsoft's former group vice president of the .NET services group and now group vice president of the enterprise storage services group, said at the launch: "This as a shift in business models for the Internet.

"I've been at Microsoft for 13 years, and we're just talking about... and I can say this for an absolute certainty, that it's been a long time since we, those of us who have been putting this together, have had this kind of excitement about the potential for how this can transform the industry, and help people."

Disillusionment with web services, though, was bound to set-in. Analysts earlier this year predicted the setback of the expected date for widespread delivery of web services until early 2003. GartnerGroup recently said that web services faces "serious challenges" in proving its immediate value. The analyst said the real value of web services would become apparent once the technology matures, once vendors' business models become robust and once users have a clear understanding of the applicability to their own needs.

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