Microsoft NZ boss sees paradox on the road ahead

The Internet will this year begin to disappear as a separate entity and 'become a common thread to all business applications' according to Microsoft New Zealand head Geoff Lawrie. The Internet's 'loss of visibility as an entity' at the same time as it becomes more pervasive, was one of the 'paradoxes' Lawrie predicted for 1997 at a briefing in Auckland this week.

The Internet will this year begin to disappear as a separate entity and "become a common thread to all business applications" according to Microsoft New Zealand head Geoff Lawrie.

Lawrie laid out a vision for the year at a briefing in Auckland this week, and predicted "a solid diet of Internet-related business content," as opposed to last year's focus on browser wars and the like.

The Internet's "loss of visibility as an entity" at the same time as it becomes more pervasive, was one of the "paradoxes" Lawrie predicted for 1997.

"I would also expect to see the sophistication of software increase while its complexity decreases, and IT spending to rise but costs to fall."

Lawrie also emphasised the adoption of a "publishing metaphor" for the Internet and intranet, in line with Microsoft's new support for push technologies within IE4.0 and the Memphis upgrade to Windows 95, which is due mid-year.

Lawrie predicted an easing of revenue growth in the IT industry as a whole, down from the 25-30% rates of recent years to 15% "and probably less in New Zealand." The area where Microsoft expected to buck the trend was Windows NT, "where we expect our New Zealand business to grow by 100%," overtaking Unix in the server area.

One product focus from Microsoft would, he said, be the integration of Windows and the IE Web browser, although "there will always be a stand-alone browser free for download - that's the commitment."

Microsoft would also emphasise common components in the OS, ease of use, multimedia (via its DirectX technologies) and scalability.

The scalability of NT, in conjunction with SQL Server, would see Microsoft become a player in the "terabyte-scale" database market and begin to overhaul market leaders within 12 months.

Lawrie also dwelt on Microsoft's competition, picking Oracle and Lotus as the strongest performers in the software industry. Corel, he said, "will struggle to close the gap between aspirations and reality. I don't think they will gain enough revenue to fund continued development.

"I really hope Apple succeed - apart from being a useful foil, they're one of our biggest customers. But they really have to deliver in 1997 and I don't know if a hash of the MacOS and NextStep is going to do it. I really think they should be looking at NT, and adding value to that.

Novell, he said, had missed the first Internet wave and lacked for applications support and a database strategy, and Netscape would be an "important player", although it would continue to lose market share to Microsoft and would struggle with its "financial metrics".

Lawrie saved most of his venom for the Unix crowd, and claimed that "1997 will be the year in which the cruel hoax about openness in the Unix environment is exposed ... for all the noise from Scott McNealy, the Jerry Seinfeld of the computer industry. Java might help Sun's credibility, but it won't help its balance. I think they'll be threatened by NT."

Windows "will be the pre-eminent Java development platform by the end of the year," said Lawrie - but he dispelled talk that Microsoft planned to follow Corel in rewriting its Office suite for Java.

"There is no plan for that. But we're not religious about it. If the Network Computer prospers without Windows, that could change."

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