Microsoft is the number one software company in the world, at least according to revenues as compared by the IDC in its annual report. IBM is second and Oracle is third, even after the acquisition of Sun Microsystems.
I'm not sure what impact that has on us as SQL Server professionals, but it should mean that Microsoft can afford to continue to invest in its products for some time. The profitable ones, like SQL Server, should continue to receive a lot of this investment for a long time, along with plenty of marketing, sales, etc. Your company might not be doing well right now, but improving your SQL Server skills should pay dividends for some time to come in the overall job market.
At the recent TechEd conference, Microsoft said they would continue to invest in their products, and continue to spend on research and development. Even after the recent layoffs, it seemed none of the core Microsoft products I care about (Windows, SQL Server) was cut at all. At least, I haven't seen much the way of blogs or reports about people leaving those teams. That's good since we want as much continuity as we can get between releases. Some people will move on, but you want to minimize that between releases and keep as many people working on the next version as possible.
How big an investment does Microsoft make? I checked the most recent annual reports and Oracle shows an R&D expenditure of US$2.7B. IBM shows US$6.3B, and Microsoft leads the way at US$8.1B. There's no way to know how these investments are parceled out, what they're working on, how they count practical investments v theoretical ones, etc. It does show me that Microsoft believes in research and pushing forward into new computing areas.
Whether that will pay off with SQL Server and other interesting projects is hard to know, but it does appear they are committing significant resources to their efforts.
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