The responses I received to my editorial in April SQL Mag, “Is Microsoft Leaving Small Businesses Behind,” InstantDoc ID103615, indicate that some of you have strong feelings that Microsoft’s focus on the enterprise has indeed had the unwanted effect of leaving the small business sector behind. At least that’s the perception. Readers have noted the high cost of the enterprise products and the enterprise-oriented feature sets in products intended for the small business market. Some readers also lamented the loss of simplicity and ease of use that Microsoft products for have been known for. In this column I’ll share insight from some readers about what you perceive as Microsoft’s growing distance from the needs and wants of the small business community.

Is the Price Point a Fit for Small Businesses?

Not surprisingly, in this still lean economy, several readers noted that the price increases of Microsoft products make it more difficult for small businesses to continue to purchase product upgrades. Dean Zimmer noted “The increase in cost and complexity, and decrease in small business focus has been quite noticeable the last 5 years. We will not be upgrading to VS2010, we stop at VS2008 and look for alternatives”. Likewise, Kurt Survance felt there was a big impact on pricing for smaller customers: “The impact of the new SQL Server pricing is heaviest on small business but the additional revenue seems to be targeted for features and editions benefitting the enterprise client. SQL 2008 R2 is a case in point. If you are not seduced by the buzz about BI for the masses, there is little in R2 of much worth except the two new premium editions and some enterprise management features useful only to very large installations.”

Do Small Businesses Need a Simpler Offering?

Price, while important, was only part of the equation. Increasing complexity was also a concern. David Dorvak lamented the demise of the simpler Data Transformation Services (DTS) product in favor of the enterprise-oriented SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS). “With Integration Services Microsoft completely turned its back on those of us who value and appreciate the simplicity and ease of use that SQL Server used to provide. I understand that Integration Services can provide very robust functionality if used properly, but it is definitely at the expense of simplicity.”

Do Small Businesses Want a Scaled-Down Enterprise Offering?

Perhaps most outstanding is the feeling that Microsoft has lost its small business roots in its quest to be an enterprise player. Andrew Whittington pointed out “We often end up wondering how much longer Microsoft can continue on this path of taking away what customers want, replacing it with what Microsoft _thinks_ they want!”  Doug Thompson agreed that as Microsoft gets larger it has become more IBM-like. “Microsoft is vying to be in the same space as its old foe IBM—if it could sell mainframes it would.”

David Dorval also questioned whether Microsoft might be on the wrong track with its single-minded enterprise focus.  “For every AT&T, there are 10’s, 100’s or 1000’s of companies our size. Microsoft had better think carefully about where it goes in the future.”

In comments to the editorial online, Chipman observed that Microsoft’s attention on the enterprise is leaving the door open at the low-end of the market, “It's the 80/20 rule where the 20% of the small businesses/departments are neglected in favor of the 80% representing IT departments or the enterprise, who make the big purchasing decisions. This short-sightedness opens the way for the competition, such as MySQL, who are doing nothing more than taking a leaf out of Microsoft's original playbook by offering more affordable, easier to use solutions for common business problems. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”

Two Sides to Every Story

I’d like to thank everyone for their comments. I didn’t get responses from readers who felt warm and fuzzy about the way Microsoft is embracing small businesses. If you have some thoughts about Microsoft and small business, particularly if you’re in a small business and you think Microsoft is doing a great job tell us about it at motey@sqlmag.com or letters@sqlmag.com.