Microsoft became the dominant software platform for automation and operations management by the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Most companies have staked their product development to it. Wonderware took a giant risk when it based its startup product on a Microsoft Windows product that was not generally accepted at the time.
Many companies have people embedded in Redmond. Some visit regularly. These include the likes of Beckhoff Automation, GE-IP, Iconics, Rockwell and Siemens. Even the process control systems suppliers moved to a Microsoft platform. This became evident early in OPC UA development when things were not going as well as some would hope and there was a little kerfluffle about developing OPC UA for a .Net environment. Since patched over.
At the ARC Industry Forum in 1998, there seemed to be a viable Java alternative (the Java people always seemed to think that it was an operating system, not programming software). At the 1999 Forum, many (I forget how many) speakers from the various automation suppliers spoke on developing on Microsoft Windows. Only the guy from Sun (remember it?) got up to speak on Java. The battle was over. Even the OMAC group at the time had a Microsoft Manufacturing User Group.
My, the world has changed. Microsoft still has a massive presence. But much of the world is going mobile. Microsoft missed it entirely. Now Steve Ballmer is out. What is the future of Microsoft? Should it split into “consumer” and “enterprise” as some suggest? But with the consumerization of IT, would that be a mistake?
What about you? What are you using these days? Very much from Microsoft?
I still use Microsoft products. But I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro on a minimalist text editor called Write Room. I’ll cut and paste it into my Web application on Firefox. (I use Chrome sometimes, too.)
What do you think about the future of Microsoft and what products do you think you’ll be using?
Meanwhile, here is Wonderware extending its product portfolio even deeper into mobile. Mobile and cloud-based applications and storage are going to be hugely disruptive to the operations management software space. Wonderware is in front of the trend right now. I hope the new owners let it keep it up.
<h4>Wonderware Extends InTouch To Mobile Devices</h4>
Invensys has released its Wonderware InTouch Access Anywhere software. Users can now access plant-floor data via Wonderware InTouch software. It runs inside a web browser so users can connect to other InTouch applications at anytime from anywhere, using any mobile device. The software also supports Macintosh and Linux-based computer systems, as well as Microsoft Windows PCs and laptops. And because users are not required to install any software on their mobile device, the offering is remarkably easy to deploy, manage and maintain.
I have watched the dominance of Microsoft on manufacturing shop floor since the early nineties. I have made career discussions based on this dominance. I always said that when I observed some other technology “crest the hill” then I would perk up. Interesting that the challenge to Microsoft in the factory is coming from three directions; i.e. mobile, Operations Management and their traditional stronghold of HMI / SCADA solutions. Both Rockwell and SAP’s Ops Mgmt. solutions are Java based. Mobile is web-oriented by nature and Ops Mgmt. is more influenced by Enterprise applications which is a much more diverse technical environment. Under attack as we speak are the HMI / SCADA technical platforms. Web technologies that provide new capabilities for distributed access without the onerous nature of multiple levels of server license cost and administration are enabling upstarts to challenge the industry titans (e.g. Inductive Automation). Between these three dynamics I think it is fair to say that the shop floor technical environment has shifted and the movement accelerates to the detriment of Microsoft.