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Microsoft PerformancePoint: When Bad News Is Good News

When Microsoft launched its PerformancePoint Server family back in November 2007, it was a big deal in the business intelligence (BI) community. Companies like Business Objects, Cognos and Hyperion were all suddenly put on notice. Microsoft was bringing its compelling licensing terms, vast platform play and commoditization mantra to the once-sleepy BI market space.

But a funny thing happened on the way to BI dominance: The product known as PerformancePoint Server 2007 flopped.

Well, it didn't flop entirely. Yes, Microsoft on Friday announced it was closing the PerformancePoint product line. But PerformancePoint won some accounts and certainly had a reasonable tale to tell in the wide-ranging Windows Server and .NET stack. The BI product in the Office Systems suite was, however, something of a misfit -- a vertically oriented product in a toolbox full of horizontal solutions. Microsoft partners struggled to sell folks on PerformancePoint, when many were already happy with what was baked into SQL Server, SharePoint Server and Excel.

Kristina Kerr, lead product manager for Microsoft Business Intelligence, told me that part of the problem was Microsoft's failure to differentiate from the competition. "The way we were packaging [PerformancePoint] and selling it was no different than any other BI vendor out there," she said, adding, "Really, our team is aligning itself to how customers are purchasing our software right now."

You know, in another time, Microsoft might have simply churned out a second and, ultimately, a third version of PerformancePoint, each more refined and capable than the last. But this isn't any other time. With the economy in a tailspin and Microsoft mindful of its core product business, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft shoring up the levees.

The good news is that the monitoring/dashboarding and analytics capabilities of PerformancePoint will find a new home in SharePoint Server Enterprise. Migration work on what will be known as PerformancePoint Services is already underway, with BI features set to surface in the upcoming SharePoint 14 release. Also, current PerformancePoint software assurance customers will get a license to SharePoint Server Enterprise, enabling them to tap the forthcoming BI capabilities of SharePoint.

The financial budget, planning and consolidation capabilities of PerformancePoint are heading in a different direction -- back to the Microsoft Dynamics team. Included in this is the technology acquired in the 2006 purchase of ProClarity.

All in all, the decision to shutter PerformancePoint is a bit embarrassing for Microsoft, but it's good news for developers, IT shops and Microsoft alike. The addition of PerformancePoint functionality will give Microsoft a powerful talking point when it pitches the upcoming SharePoint Server 14 product to customers, and could prompt those on the fence to dive into the enterprise-edition of SharePoint Server.

Shuttering an unsuccessful product is hardly surprising. It happens all the time. But when I try to remember the last widely promoted software product Microsoft essentially shut down in the prime of its lifecycle, I'm hard-pressed to remember more than a few. Microsoft Bob, yes. Visual J++, certainly. But it's actually remarkable how consistent Microsoft has been with its product lineups over the years.

Now that PerformancePoint Services will start showing up in SharePoint Server, what are your thoughts on taking advantage of it? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/27/2009

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