Volker has linked to an interesting article in the Inquirer... an opinion piece which, while it occasionally offers assertions without supporting evidence, covers the multitude of issues and challenges that Microsoft's core business faces at the moment.  Hopefully it will get some attention, despite the publication...
These are the business practices I see and hear every day....

The answer was to head off the defections by offering massive discounts. Send in the big names to woo the simple. Threaten behind the scenes. Do anything it takes, and when Microsoft says anything, rest assured that there are things none of us have thought of coming into play with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Now, in comments, Volker asserts that "Microsoft could change. As did IBM."  I think there are some pretty fundamental differences.  Microsoft's business to business offerings are three -- Windows, Office, and the .NET programming tools and back-end servers.  Two of three are what allow the rest of Microsoft to operate at staggering losses.  There is nothing else to really offset the changing business climate.  In IBM, the change happened because of a focus on a single thing -- providing end to end solutions -- that meant creation and expansion of a portfolio of business to business offerings.  When Microsoft has to do deals at 95% discount -- "[the] Thai government, which pays $36 for Office and Windows XP comes with a 95% discount if you compare it to list" -- the era of unbridled profitability inevitably comes to an end.
2004 should be an interesting year.  The first of those Licensing 6.0 deals-at-gunpoint come up for renewal, and the bet that most companies will have to place is whether the "Longhorn" era will ship in time for the next three years of Software Assurance to have any value or not, on top of what they already own entitlement to.  Those should be some interesting sales conversations.
Link: The Inquirer: The IT industry is shifting away from Microsoft  >

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