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

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

“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 executives swear that they’ve tackled the company’s outage
issues, but customers still complain about downtime.

The CEO of a medium-sized 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 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

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.

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