RealTime IT News

Microsoft Live is Fuzzy

Michael HickinsReporter's Notebook: According to Directions on Microsoft lead analyst Greg DeMichillie, Microsoft has some explaining to do.

The company has launched a series of products under the Live umbrella, including e-mail, domain hosting and games.

But the products don't necessarily have anything to do with one another.

Office Live, for instance, is a domain hosting service. It doesn't have anything to do with Microsoft Office, and still less to do with MSN Live.

"It makes it difficult for a potential buyer to understand the set of products they're selling," said DeMichillie. "Microsoft needs to articulate some clear definition of what Live is."

The enterprise search market is burgeoning

According to IDC analyst Sue Feldman, the enterprise search market grew by 35 percent over the past year.

Google might be surprised to learn that it was not the fastest growing company in that burgeoning sector.

But it was fast enough.

"It grew tremendously," said Feldman. "Google is now one of the top four companies in enterprise search."

The top five, in no particular order, are Autonomy, Fast, Google, IBM and Endeca.

Lycos VoIP service more than a novelty?

Brian Kalinowski, COO of Lycos, thinks VoIP still leaves something to be desired.

He told me that 11 million Lycos users have downloaded software to run the company's VoIP  service.

Kalinowski qualified that as "pretty good acceptance," driven mostly by international callers and college kids without cell phones.

But he admitted that while initial uptake has been strong, usage is still being dragged down by poor sound quality and a lack of portability.

"When they come up with a portable approach, it will be less of a novelty and more of a reality," he said.

Kalinowski was also very upbeat about the amount of activity on the Internet today.

"From a technology and product flow perspective, we're stronger now than we were in the mid-1990s in terms of people looking for opportunities for the Web," he told me.

Salesforce takes some weekends off

Salesforce.com executives swear that they've tackled the company's outage issues, but customers still complain about downtime.

The CEO of a medium-sized Salesforce.com customer told me, on condition that I not use his name, that every few weeks, the on-demand CRM  vendor brings down its site to perform maintenance during the weekend.

"It's just supposed to be a few hours but all of a sudden you're without it all weekend long," he told me.

That may not be a problem for companies with traditional office hours doing business in the United States.

But, said the customer, "it's a problem when you've got customers all over the world and you're a 24/7 business like us."

He told me his company has considered switching to a Siebel on-demand solution, or even using an on-premise application.

But Salesforce.com can rest easy -- this customer, at any rate, isn't going away anytime soon.

"There's too much pain involved in doing that," the customer told me.

And we thought there was no such thing as customer lock-in in the on-demand world.

Smarter is sooner

According to AMR Research analyst Mark Hillman, an increasing number of companies are looking to make faster use of point-of-sale data.

But there is still a long way to go before most enterprises get religion on the subject.

Thirty-eight percent of companies are still basing inventory forecasts on monthly rather than weekly or daily data, Hillman told me.

"This is improving, but people still aren't moving to be fully demand-driven. More than half the companies still take more than two weeks to get visibility of demand," he said.