Analysts Hold Forth on Microsoft's HailStorm
- By John K. Waters
SAN JOSE, CA—Last month, Microsoft announced Project HailStorm, an Internet-based
architecture boasting an extensive set of user-definable XML-based Web services.
The software building blocks grouped under the HailStorm rubric can be used
to create personal networks of applications, devices, and services.
HailStorm, considered to be a key component of the Redmond, WA-based software
giant's evolving .Net software-as-a-service strategy, is still in beta, with
promises from Microsoft of an early 2002 release.
In a research note, Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget said that HailStorm
was important to Microsoft because it might increase the size and loyalty of
Microsoft's consumer user base, which could ultimately create opportunities
for Microsoft to charge users a monthly fee. More importantly, he wrote, "...HailStorm
should make the .Net platform more attractive to third-party developers. These
developers will be able to leverage both the HailStorm code and user base when
building their own Web services—similar to how they leverage the Windows OS
when building PC applications."
In a recent FirstTake report, analysts at the Gartner Group saw the HailStorm
announcement as a clear sign that the software giant is gassing up its Web service
engine and attempting to spur the emergence of a large Web services industry.
"...Microsoft will likely emerge a big winner," the report concludes. "[HailStorm]
will accelerate movement to Windows XP and software subscriptions. In the opinion
of the Gartner researchers, the HailStorm initiative will give Microsoft "...the
mantle as the industry visionary..."
The report goes on to state that, if successful, HailStorm will make Microsoft
specifications the "de facto" standard, completing Microsoft's transition from
a vendor of desktop software to a vendor of software solutions. It would also
reduce Microsoft's dependence for revenue on version upgrades.
However, while Microsoft's dominance and leverage on the desktop is undisputed,
on the Web, competitors abound—including IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard,
all of which are wooing developers to their own Web-based services platforms.
Nonetheless, Gartner predicts that HailStorm and .NET are likely to significantly
increase Microsoft's influence in the industry. By 2006, at least half of midsize
and large enterprises will open their networks and rely on HailStorm or similar
services for critical business processes, the Gartner report predicts.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached