REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 15, 2002 — An old man is showing a young, new employee “the ropes.” As they walk through a room with people filling orders on computers, the elder starts to reminisce.
“When I was first hired, we didn’t have all these fancy integrated systems,” he says. “Our sales program wasn’t even linked with accounting. The warehouse platform in Chicago wasn’t linked to anything — not even shipping.” Behind them, computer screens show orders being placed, processed and confirmed. Merchandise is boxed for shipment. Computers update inventory levels.
“Back then, orders took days; now, they just take hours,” the senior employee reflects with a gleam in his eye.
“How long have you been working here?” the new hire asks.
“A couple of months now,” comes the reply.
Its no joke. The scene is part of a US$200 million television and print advertising campaign that Microsoft launches worldwide Monday, Feb. 18, to illustrate the agility and responsiveness that corporations and their customers are already experiencing from the Microsoft .NET platform.
The campaign marks Microsoft’s first synchronized global advertising effort to promote the enterprise software that companies and organizations are increasingly using to run their operations worldwide and to create robust, scalable solutions for the connected world. It is also the first major ad campaign in which Microsoft will present the .NET platform to the general public. The campaign comes on the heels of several major milestones that demonstrate rapidly growing acceptance of .NET in the enterprise marketplace. With this campaign, Microsoft .NET is moving from an abstract vision of how the Internet can help businesses to become more connected toward realizing that vision with tangible business value.
Dubbed “One Degree of Separation,” the campaign shows how companies, including Pfizer, Dollar Rent A Car and Trans World Entertainment, are already using .NET to respond quickly to customer needs, work more closely and productively with their partners and empower their employees. It includes four television spots in addition to a print campaign, created by advertising firm McCann Erickson San Francisco.
The broadcast and print campaign will appear in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, with commercials starting to roll out today and continuing over the next few weeks. An online ad component will feature enterprise solution success stories.
“Red,” one of the campaign’s first television commercials, demonstrates a business’ ability to respond more quickly to changing customer needs. In the ad, an automobile assembly plant paints a car to match an order being taken at the same time by a car dealer in a distant showroom, adjusting seamlessly even when the dealer’s customer has difficulty settling on exactly which color he wants the car painted. In “Vintage,” the ability to work more closely with distributors and other outside partners is demonstrated by the case of a hapless vintner. He may lose his entire cellar in a bizarre giant-cask-and-fork-lift accident — but at least he’s able to update his computerized inventory instantaneously, sending new pricing to a distant importer/exporter who’s selecting a crate of the suddenly scarce wine for a client.
“We are launching this campaign now to tell the world that .NET is real, it’s here today and it’s the best platform for companies that want the agility to turn the accelerating pace of change to their competitive advantage,” says Microsoft President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Belluzzo. “Companies everywhere are eager to take advantage of XML-based Web services to interact more effectively with customers and others, seamlessly and securely, over the Internet. The .NET platform is the only one built from the ground-up to do this.”
.NET Makes Major Advances in the Enterprise
While the new advertising campaign confirms this message, many Microsoft customers already have gotten the point. Microsoft reports continuing and increasing customer interest in its .NET Enterprise Servers, the XML-enabled product line that supports Web services and applications for everything from e-commerce and business process integration to mobile access and database management. For example, companies and developers are showing keen interest in BizTalk Server, which enables them to build XML-based business processes across applications and organizations, as well as in the newly released Web Services tool kit for SQL Server. Customers have purchased more than 100 million user licenses for Microsoft Exchange Server, surpassing the user base of IBM/Lotus Notes to make Exchange the leading software for messaging and collaboration.
Enterprise software developers have been so enthusiastic about Visual Studio .NET — the comprehensive tool for rapidly building and deploying XML Web services and applications — that they snatched up more than 3.5 million beta copies before its formal release this week. Visual Studio.NET is now the most widely distributed pre-release software tool in Microsoft’s history and, as far as the company is aware, in the technology industry’s history. More than 6,000 applications built on the .NET framework are already “live,” deployed in production environments worldwide.
In all, Microsoft saw its revenue from enterprise software climb by 20 percent — to total $4.8 billion — in the fiscal year that ended last June 30, despite challenging economic conditions and a general industry downturn in technology revenues.
“Customers are responding to Microsoft because Microsoft is delivering the software that allows them to respond to change and to become more agile,” Belluzzo says. “Customers are using .NET to quickly create robust, scalable, interoperable applications based on open industry standards and accessible by partners, customers and previously disconnected internal systems. The release of Visual Studio .NET is the milestone that puts the tools for .NET solutions into the hands of millions of developers — which makes this week the ideal time to launch the campaign that tells the .NET story.”
Dollar Rent A Car: .NET Reduces Development Costs 75 Percent
Dollar Rent A Car — one of the companies highlighted in the print version of the “One Degree of Separation” ads — calls its use of .NET is “a complete success, absolutely,” according to Larry Zucker, Dollar’s executive director of application development. . The Oklahoma-based, worldwide rental firm adopted .NET more than a year ago, to work with a major airline to connect the Dollar online reservations system to the airline’s corporate Web site — even though the two companies were using different technologies.
The added revenue from airline customers making Dollar reservations is rapidly approaching $10 million. Dollar has also deployed Microsoft BizTalk Server to extend its Web services architecture to include a dozen additional partners, and applied Web services to high-volume, load-balanced transactions such as rate searches. The proportion of reservations coming through Web services now approaches 30 percent.
“Beyond providing an important way to get closer to our customers, .NET has drastically reduced our costs of deployment,” Zucker says. “In the past, adding a partner meant taking three months to write special code that wormed its way deep into our system and had to be maintained. With .NET we write only a very small piece of additional code, and the partner is online with us in as little as 14 days. .NET has reduced our development costs by 75 percent.”
Dollar also turned to another .NET component, Microsoft Mobile Information Server, to enable any customer using any standard mobile device with a standard Web browser to access its reservation system.
“In a matter of weeks, .NET enabled us to become the first car-rental company with this capability,” Zucker says. “We gained a double advantage over our competitors, being able to announce this innovation first and getting into the best position to capitalize on this part of the market as mobile devices continue to take off.”
“That’s the power of .NET — a power that’s being leveraged by businesses of all sizes, from large companies through to small manufacturing concerns in the supply chain and retail outlets,” Belluzzo says. “Dollar’s story — like the stories of the other companies in our campaign — demonstrates what’s possible when you have just one degree of separation from your customers and partners.”