Microsoft’s Office Business Applications (OBA) are significant in the world of software development for the way they mirror the most important trend occurring now: namely, offering to the individual user of business processes an ease of customization in the business application that has never generally existed before.
One commentator thought that Microsoft’s latest offerings with OBAs were inadequate to the times:
””Mashups can do the same thing and over time I think even the most staid of enterprises will not wait for Microsoft to launch its next OBA RAP solution. After all five years from now companies may not even be using Office.” – Microsoft OBAs are too little, too lame
Microsoft architecture strategist Mike Walker rebuts the mashup comparison, stating that OBAs are more than client applications: combined with Sharepoint server (MOSS). mashup capabilities exist in the following ways.
- Excel via Excel Services
- Word Documents are all Open XML which means they can be consumed easily on the web
- MOSS provides a rich portal environment for hosting enterprise mashups
- MOSS components such Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) are all extendable through Web Services
As we mentioned yesterday, what Microsoft brings to the arena is both a known and disciplined development path, and furthermore governance that business can rely on. This is important. Zapthink has a compelling study of this in an article claiming that Service-Oriented Business Applications (SOBA) are what non-technical business users require, and that the mashup style is the wave of the future.
“For a mashup to be an enterprise mashup in that it addresses a particular business problem, tight coupling between provider and consumer software would be a serious concern. Most of today’s mashups, however, care little about loose coupling.
“Most importantly, however, SOBAs require governance. Clearly, no business would risk allowing any of its employees to assemble and reassemble business processes willy nilly, with no controls in place to ensure that the resulting SOBAs followed corporate policies. The problem is, today’s mashups are inherently ungoverned. The bottom line is, the more governed an enterprise mashup becomes, the less like a Web 2.0-style mashup it’ll be. In any case, the true promise of SOBAs depends upon user interfaces sophisticated enough for a broader business audience to use. Few such tools exist today, but the writing is on the wall: the enterprise mashup is the future of the SOBA consumer.” See SOBA stands for Service-Oriented Business Applications
As to the thought that Office may disappear from use, Mike Walker in his rebuttal added, “I would dare anyone to take away Excel for example, from a business analyst of someone in a lending area that analyzes rates.”
Forrester also concludes that, for example businesses won’t be discarding Excel anytime soon.
However, there is another possibility in this mix. There could come a competitor to Office products that offers flawless importing of legacy data, and if coupled with compelling benefits of use, this could steal Microsoft users. Zoli Erdos illustrates this in his recent story of finally abandoning Outlook for the Google service Gmail, because the importation capability was finally strong enough. Given that many people have a decade or two of legacy business in their Office products, the ease of migration and integration is certainly the key to change. See How to Import All Your Archive Email Into Gmail
Beyond these specifics, Microsoft’s chief software architect, Ray Ozzie, says that the entire software industry is essentially heading towards the same place, namely, services.
“in my view, we only have one shared future as a software industry. And that is centrally deployed code that has a different lifetime associated with it on the device it’s deployed to.” From The Man Who Would Change Microsoft: Ray Ozzie’s Vision for Connected Software
Ozzie continues with an illustration of how different products and vendors are all working within the same overarching architecture:
“Flash—what is that? Well, it involves enhancing the browser runtime by downloading code. But it tethers those enhancements to the service and the lifetime of those things is still within the browser. With Apollo, maybe you can make the lifetime that of the user on that device. They have increased the lifetime from the browser instance to the PC.
“So I don’t see radical differences in the approaches that Adobe might be taking, that we’re taking, or that the web industry in general is taking. The languages and run-times may be different. And we come at it from a history of the desktop coming up to the web. They are coming from a history of being on the web and going down to the desktop, but the endpoint is the same.” – ibid
As Nicholas Carr points out:
“What Microsoft is counting on is that the transformation of the software business will proceed at a measured pace, that the company will be able to continue to reap large profits from its traditional products even as it slowly and steadily changes their nature.” See Ozzie walks the line