Once at the center of all personal computing, Microsoft now finds itself in the position of having to reinvent itself in the midst of the Internet's continued growth. The fact that a single vendor can no longer dominate all aspects of e-business to the magnitude Microsoft dominated the PC desktop makes for a diverse series of applications and innovation. Microsoft's contributions to the growth of the industry are significant, as are their moves into the Internet arena (and specifically ASPs). In a sense, Microsoft is going about what it has excelled at all along: bringing innovation and customer-centered technologies to the market.
Microsoft announced in March that ManagedOps.com, Inc., Qwest Communications International, Inc., and Usinternetworking, Inc. (USi) are the first ASPs to achieve its Gold Certified Partner Program for Hosting and Application Services certification. Microsoft is providing these certifications to drive credibility for its ASP efforts, to recognize the significant resources each company has invested in gaining domain expertise in Microsoft Exchange 2000 and Microsoft Commerce Server 2000, and to recognize those who exhibit the capability to scale with an application-hosting architecture. These announcements actually mark the culmination of the ASP Certification Program launch in July 2000 at the Fusion 2000 Developer's Conference.
The extensive success of Sun's SunTone Program and its ASP initiatives has solidly made Solaris a preferred operating system in many ASP development environments. The Gold Certified Partner Program for Hosting and Application Services certification from Microsoft couldn't have been better timed because Sun's momentum has been unchallenged for more than a year in this area. The competition between Microsoft and Sun in ensuring robustness, reliability, and minimum performance standards will provide the greatest benefits to the ASP customers who choose between companies that are either SunTone-certified, Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Program for Hosting and Application Services-certified, or both.
Microsoft has had a dual-role approach to the ASP market—as a supplier of applications and infrastructure software to ASP partners, and as a provider of hosted services to small businesses through its bCentral portal. The extent to which Microsoft itself will offer ASP services through its bCentral portal is up for debate, which was intensified by the Great Plains acquisition. With the strong traction that Microsoft is accomplishing in the small business marketplace with bCentral, it's predictable that the Great Plains applications, already well tested on the ASP model, will be offered over bCentral within months. Look for Microsoft to be even more aggressive in its ASP plans going forward. Microsoft is expecting between a half dozen to a dozen companies to enroll in its ASP certification program by the end of the year. SunTone's success is being driven by the industry's need for true metrics of scalability with regard to hosted applications. It's entirely expected in the Sun-specific areas of the industry to see an increased focus on the IForce Initiative within Sun as well.