Software giant Microsoft Corp. began taking some giant steps toward deeper involvement in the insurance industry with several major announcements at the ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum here designed to help promote its platform and products in this industry and to undercut arch-rival IBM.
During the conference, held here last month, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft brought out several of its insurance industry executives and gathered media in its lush Las Vegas suite to spread the word that it is committed to the insurance business.
Why insurance? “Its been the most profitable vertical for IBM,” said Dennis M. Maroney, managing director, insurance industry, Financial Services Group, for Microsoft. “It makes sense for us to move in, [too].”
Taking a swipe at mainframe provider and Microsoft rival IBM, Bruce Burns, director-Technical Diplomacy Platform Strategy & Partner Group for Microsoft, claimed insurance companies can save “about 50% of their IT costs” after migrating from their legacy mainframe systems to Microsoft’s Windows server environment. Asked what that migration might cost, however, he did not provide an estimate.
Instead, the Microsoft executives emphasized what they said is the “choice, flexibility and agility” offered by products from Microsoft and its partners, versus what is available from IBM and its WebSphere platform.
In a related announcement, Microsoft and Micro Focus International Ltd. of Sunnyvale, Calif. said they have created “a new alliance to enable the migration of critical proprietary mainframe systems onto the Microsoft Windows operating system using .NET technology.” According to the companies, the alliance provides a technology foundation for users to move workloads from the mainframe to “more modern Intel architecture and the Windows Server platform.”
Microsoft also previewed its Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Insurance Forms. The software maker said the product is “designed to help insurance industry customers cut processing time and costs, and reduce errors associated with data re-entry.” It does this by tying standard ACORD forms with XML Web services, making those forms available to participants in any ACORD forms program via Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003, the company’s information-gathering program.