Microsoft unveils knowledge management plan

Just three months after Microsoft executives confessed that the company had no solid knowledge management strategy in place, company officials have detailed just such a strategy at a technical for briefing Microsoft consultants, product managers, and reseller partners. But one analyst fears the technology's dependence on Windows 2000 features will ensure Microsoft misses the boat.

Just three months after Microsoft executives confessed that the company had no solid knowledge management strategy in place, company officials detailed just such a strategy at a technical briefing hosted last month in Seattle for Microsoft consultants, product managers, and reseller partners, according to sources.

In November 1998, officials said that Microsoft's knowledge management strategy would consist of a combination of existing Microsoft and third-party products, and now some of the details of this are starting to emerge.

Part one of Microsoft's knowledge management plan includes the upgrade to its Site Server 3.0 product, which is code-named Tahoe, according to sources close to the company.

Tahoe will feature document management, workflow, and search capabilities as well as XML support for tagging documents, document versioning, and templated publishing functions. Tahoe would apparently become a knowledge repository for integration with Microsoft's MSN.com portal technology so that developers could create their own enterprise information portals, sources said.

According to one analyst, integrating these capabilities with the Site Server Web server will bring some benefits to the end-user, but basing this type of solution on the Internet will exclude some people.

"By doing this with Site Server, there are limitations because of the need for connectivity. It will have benefits for some, but if your target is the traveling salesperson, then forget it," said Tim Sloane, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group, in Boston.

The second part of Microsoft's strategy includes technology code-named Polar that is expected to deliver such features as collaboration, workflow, and document tracking, according to the sources. Polar includes some of the core technologies of Microsoft's SQL and Exchange Servers, and is part of Microsoft's strategy to better integrate its Office and BackOffice products, the sources added.

According to Sloane, "Microsoft has already missed the boat" on knowledge management and has likely already lost this market to Lotus Domino.

Neither Tahoe nor Polar is expected to ship until at least six months after Windows 2000 -- which may not happen until 2000. Likewise, Polar will rely on Windows 2000 and its Active Directory, so widespread migrations to that platform will definitely not happen right away.

"You're talking four years," Sloane said. "Nobody's going to use Active Directory in the first year - they'd be crazy. What Microsoft needed was integrated knowledge management solutions for their existing Exchange base." He added that many users will find "the pain of migration too high and will just consider a different platform like Domino."

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at: www.microsoft.com.

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