While DoCoMo is happily fleecing its Japanese flock, Microsoft is sharpening its sheers for something far bigger.
Faced with a maturing computer market, one in which consumers and corporate customers are upgrading and purchasing less often, Microsoft is transitioning to "Software-as-a-Service". In the near future we will no longer pay for Windows and Office as licenses and upgrades, but in yearly or perhaps even monthly fees. Microsoft's new .Net initiative is the company's attempt to get this billing model adopted industry wide.
At the heart of .Net is HailStorm, a collection of tools and services that provides a central repository for user information and will enable any company to develop software that can be sold as a service. Microsoft has stated repeatedly that HailStorm services are based on open standards and that they do not require Microsoft tools to support, with one notable exception.
Simply put, authentication is making sure someone is who they say they are. There are dozens of accepted and common ways computers do this. Microsoft's .Net, however, requires that all authentication take place via Microsoft's Passport authentication system. By doing so, Microsoft forces any company wishing to use its tools to integrate Passport into their products.
The Wall Street analysts who applaud all this as a way for Microsoft to make revenues more predictable don't give the company nearly enough credit. Microsoft is laying the foundation for a software payment system on a scale of which DoCoMo can only dream.
Using Microsoft's tools, software companies can easily develop pay-per-use software, but how will they collect the license fees owed them? Let's see now. Since their customers will have to log onto Microsoft Passport before they can use the software, and since Microsoft will already have a billing relationship with a few hundred million customers worldwide, the solution is obvious.
Microsoft will already be sending Windows users regular bills for software usage, and they will simply add these other license fees to the monthly Microsoft bill. For their troubles, Microsoft will receive whatever percentage of the license revenues they care to take.