Strange Bedfellows Have Become the Microsoft Norm
For as long as anyone in IT can remember, a focus on controlling the platform on which an IT solution is delivered has influenced every action taken by every IT vendor. No vendor was more focused on that issue than Microsoft. Extending the Windows franchise drove every strategy the company employed for over three decades.
Satya Nadella was hired to replace Steve Ballmer as Microsoft's CEO essentially because he promised to pursue a more open approach that would include more open-source software, as well as alliances with platform rivals.
While words can often be cheap, at the recent Microsoft Inspire 2017 conference, Microsoft allowed erstwhile rivals such as Red Hat, Samsung and Adobe Systems to exhibit. In fact, Microsoft shared the main stage with Adobe, even though the two companies have fought for control over documents on the desktop for decades.
Now Adobe is making available document services that are hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud, which Microsoft touted as an element of its overall digital transformation strategy. In fact, Jay Dettling, vice president of global partners for Adobe, said Adobe is now the largest independent software vendor (ISV) on Azure. "Adobe and Microsoft share a vision focused on connecting the dots between sales, marketing and support teams," he said.
In a similar vein, Red Hat in the wake of signing an alliance with Microsoft late last year, was showcasing the results of that initiative on the show floor, including hybrid cloud computing instances of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) running on Azure.
Even more surprising was the presence of Samsung Electronics North America. It demonstrated how smartwatches based on Tizen could connect to Samsung tablets running Windows in order to access backend analytics applications running on Azure. "We're excited to gain access to the Microsoft ecosystem," said Jim Heesacker, vice president of strategic alliances at Samsung.
Solution providers attending Microsoft Inspire expressed relief that the platform wars between Microsoft and vendors such as Samsung are finally coming to an end. "We no longer have to force-fit the solution," said Raheel Rettiwalla, general manager for BlueMetal, a solution provider focused on hospitality applications. "It lets us become more flexible in front of the customer."
AppDirect president and co-CEO Daniel Saks said that when it comes to alliances between vendors, solution providers need to distinguish between tactical agreements versus strategic alliances that result in increased profit opportunities for channel partners.
"Sometimes, it's just a case of full on co-opetition," Saks said. "But these new alliances that Microsoft is making seem to reflect the agenda Satya Nadella has set for the company."