Microsoft Embraces Software Appliance Market
At Linuxworld this week, Microsoft announced that the upcoming release of Virtual Server 2005 is going to provide a platform for software appliances. Well, they didn't actually use the term "software appliance," but they did say Linux would be supported on their platform. The underlying message, however, is consistent with the Microsoft objective of having all applications run on Windows - "If your application only runs on Linux, you can now run it on Windows with zero porting, installation, or configuration hassles."
Running Linux on Microsoft is not interesting at all. Giving application developers the flexibility to do a single port to a single platform without excluding any part of the available market due to OS incompatibilities is VERY interesting. Microsoft's announcement further cements the argument for application providers to choose Linux and open source as their preferred platform because they can eliminate the expense and time to market penalties associated with multi-platform support without sacraficing any market share associated with legacy "Windows Only" IT shops. Embracing the software appliance concept, with Linux and open source as the system software platform, just got easier.
Most legacy software vendors support multiple releases of multiple platforms in order to offer their product to the widest possible market. These companies typically spend about 14% of revenue on R&D expense. Salesforce.com only spends about 7.5%. Why the difference? Salesforce.com only supports a single platform, so they eliminate an enormous amount of engineering, QA, and test associated with installers, multi-platform ports, configuration scripts, etc. Imagine the benefits to shareholders and customers if software companies were able to drive 6 points on revenue to the bottom line or to better R&D (i.e. "core" issues instead of "context" issues).
Microsoft may have just helped the rest of the software world become more efficient by embracing the software appliance concept. Linux and open source becomes the universal platform and Microsoft provides the bridge for the legacy Windows users to avoid being left behind.