The anchor for Microsoft's wish to enter this deep "enterprise application" play relies on the ever expanding role MS office takes in our daily corporate life. In the official MS press release Lewis Levin summarizes this tight integration – Microsoft Office System to Add New Business Performance Management Scorecard Application – "'Maestro' helps businesses turn information into action by surfacing key business data in the Office System," said Lewis Levin, corporate vice president of Office Business Applications at Microsoft.
This leverage MS-Office can be a real threatening competitive edge to established pure play "enterprise application" companies in one main scenario. In general we can say that If the user-facing aspect of an enterprise application becomes too complex then Microsoft with their existing rich UI platform and their deep experience with handling complex user-facing tasks can show real difference.
BI seems to go on the road of becoming much more interactive with users and here Microsoft can have a real chance to show their strength and set a foot in the market.
Microsoft's strategy to increase market share in enterprise-wide applications such as BI, CRM and ERP can be a two edged sword considering pure play competitors competitive edge:
1) Pure enterprise application companies are built from grounds up to sell enterprise applications to enterprise customers both in terms of well adjusted business models, specific sales cycle, unique customer relations and most important deep understanding of the customer business. This is a sustainable edge that can not be erode easily purely by strong marketing and R&D.
2) Enterprise applications hold more then just user-facing aspects, many times the UI is just a small portion of the application such as in the subject of BI (data warehousing, analytics, enterprise scale and more…). The accumulated domain expertise from the other areas will be invaluable in the fight.
It is a two edged sword for Microsoft, since their entrance to the enterprise business play diverts their focus from their anchor, the OS and Browser, the same anchor that got them to this opportunity in first place.
Update: See full coverage on Maestro – australianit.