Ballmer Touts 'Software Plus Services,' Beats OBA Drum

Ballmer speaks at Software 2007 Conference, focuses on promoting Software Plus Services, Office Business Apps (OBAs).

The way Steve Ballmer sees it, the software industry is going through a fundamental transformation, but it's not a shift -- as many industry watchers (and Microsoft competitors) have predicted -- from a packaged product delivery model to Software as a Service (SaaS).

"We do have an evolution going on in the model of computation and the user experience that people expect coming from software as a commodity," Ballmer said at the recent Software 2007 Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. "At Microsoft, we talk about it, not just as Web 2.0, though it encompasses that, and not as Software as a Service, but as the evolution of Software Plus Services. Everything we do [at Microsoft] will evolve to this model -- Windows and Office, business and entertainment applications."

Microsoft has been talking about Software Plus Services for some time, observes Neil Macehiter, research director at U.K.-based IT industry analyst firm Macehiter Ward-Dutton. "At the highest level, it's really about making Microsoft's existing business model -- selling enterprise -- [and] consumer-deployed software-relevant in the face of the growing popularity of hosted software," Macehiter tells RDN, "be it or Google Apps, which are accessed on a subscription [and] advertising basis."

OBAs on the Rise
Ballmer also exhorted the crowd to embrace the Office Business Application (OBA) concept, which Microsoft now views as one of its most important growth markets. OBAs fall into a new category of business apps that connect line-of-business systems and processes with the people that use them through the Office interface.

"We see a real opportunity for business solutions to marry software and services with popular Office applications that run on the desktop," he said, "and to manage the world of structured processes with unstructured collaboration at the desktop."

Microsoft displayed such a scenario at the conference. Ballmer was joined onstage by a representative from Dassault Syst�mes, a French company that develops product lifecycle management (PLM) systems for engineering teams. The Dassault rep demoed an OBA created for Dassault Aviation that uses SharePoint Server 2007 and Communications Server 2007. He showed how a repair report could be not only logged into the system, but also integrated into Dassault's 3-D CAD engineering model, effectively showing managers and maintenance crew in real time exactly which part was malfunctioning.

In addition, Ballmer talked about the Duet project, which SAP AG developed with Microsoft, and which the company once touted as the quintessential OBA. Duet is designed to allow Office users to access selected SAP business processes and data, but it hasn't made the splash Microsoft had hoped, Ballmer said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at

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