Powers Unfiltered

An entrepreneur’s journey into grid computing and partnering with Microsoft, by John Powers

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More on the BioIT Alliance

June 15th, 2006 · No Comments

George Laszlo has responded to my comments about about his earlier post, regarding the Microsoft BioIT Alliance.  It’s easier to just reproduce most of his response here:

First, please note that my primary concern is the welfare of the client who buys hardware, software or services from any vendor. My experience tells me that while vendors always have good intentions, they are primarily concerned with selling whatever they have and that may or may not be in the best interest of the buyer.

Don’t get me wrong, the tools that the BioIT Alliance is building and selling may be great but that does not mean that either the Alliance or the individual vendors will stand behind them. If critical mass is not achieved, it is likely that the larger vendors will simply pull out. You know as well as I do that what a small company may think of as financially viable and even enviable, a larger company may consider an unsupportable rounding error. I can cite you many examples of this and would be happy to do so in a conversation with you. I am not, however, going to put it in a blog since it’s not my intention to hurt any given vendor.

Related to the latter point, my intention is to make the buyer aware of the pros and the cons of making a buy decision. I have seen them go down the wrong track countless times and see more failures than successes when it comes to application software. This is why it’s important that anyone evaluating any offering from the BioIT Alliance proceed with caution and ask themselves not only what benefits will be delivered by the solution but also what the short and long-term risks are to the organization. A Microsoft-centric focus, in my mind, is one of those risks.

So, my post is not about the quality of the relationship between Microsoft and its partners (a topic that you also discuss in other posts on your blog) but the potential effects of the BioIT Alliance on its customers.

P.S. – On my comment about disappointing the Alliance members, no amount of interviewing on my part would have been of use in this case. The Alliance is simply too new to see what the relationships will be like in two, four or six years. And that is the time horizon that is relevant for the members and their clients.

If Mr. Laszlo’s point is that he can’t tell if anything will succeed for two, four, or six years, then fine. I think every member of the BioIT Alliance would agree that this is a long road, and the success of this effort will be measured years from now. If Mr. Laszlo wants to advise his clients to “proceed with caution,” that’s certainly fine advice. No one (Microsoft included, I suspect) expects customers to jump up and buy products based on the announcement of a new alliance alone.

But if a Microsoft-centric focus is a risk, so is an IBM-centric focus, and so is a “roll-your-own” focus, and so is a “best-of-breed” focus, and so on. The risks of a Microsoft-centric focus have proven time and again in other industries to be lower than other risks, and to be outweighed by the benefits delivered. I agree that life sciences customers have made many wrong turns in buying application software, and in fact see improvements in this area as a real market opportunity. In my view, the BioIT Alliance announcement provided the market with a statement of intent from Microsoft and its partners. The statement says to the market — here we come. This is good news for the clients Mr. Laszlo seems intent on protecting — more choice, from an industry leader with lots of staying power and lots of partners.

Mr. Laszlo’s implication that BioIT Alliance vendors may not stand behind products is just old-school FUD. Because the alliance is new? By that logic, nothing new should ever happen, because we can’t trust new things. Because Microsoft is too big, and will get bored with this tiny little market? By that logic, no one should buy from big companies because we can’t trust big things.

I think Mr. Laszlo may need to look more closely at the capabilities of the Microsoft partner community, not just Microsoft itself. Microsoft is a platform company, and it builds fine platform products. Microsoft partners shape and adapt those products for different markets, and provide feedback to Microsoft about how best to address specific market needs. This model serves customers well in numerous markets, and I have confidence it will serve customers well in the life sciences market as well.

Tags: Partnering with Microsoft

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