Microsoft is delaying the development of "Project Green" - the plan to tie in its four different business software suites into one package.

The revelation came during the Oracle and DoJ trial, when the head of Microsoft Business Solutions, Doug Burgum, told the court the first projects will now not be out until 2008 - at the earliest. The original plan was to launch the first products later this year.

Burgum also said that the number of developers working on Project Green had been cut from 200 to 70. Instead, the company is going to "focus on its existing products".

"We have made a decision to move resources off Green and back on the core product lines to strengthen those product lines because we realise now that it is going to take much longer," Burgum said. He did not say where those developers had been moved to, but the continued saga surrounding the delays in its service pack 2 for XP, and more significantly, the delays in its delayed "Longhorn" new Windows OS look like likely targets.

Project Green is an attempt to replace the different business apps it received in its acquisitions of Great Plains in 2000 and Navision in 2002 with one code base. It is clear that Microsoft's priorities lie in getting out its new OS, and then working on new software to sit on top of it. Rather unfortunately for Oracle, this somewhat undermines its argument that competition in the business software market is strong, and so it should be allowed to takeover one of the other two main players, PeopleSoft.

The decision to reassign developers off Project Green is a reversal in strategy. Microsoft Business Solutions executives last year said the company planned to have two-thirds of its developers working on the new products by mid-2004, with one-third focused existing products.

Microsoft Business Solutions, headed by Burgum, although still loss-making, is a key part of Microsoft's strategy for growth as it looks beyond its maturing Windows and Office franchises.

Burgum's testimony and internal Microsoft documents related to Project Green entered into evidence in the DoJ's case provided some more, previously undisclosed, details on Microsoft's plans for Project Green. A "Market Requirements Document" reveals that Microsoft plans to target only new customers with the first release of Project Green. "There will be no specific effort yet to convert existing MBS customers to Green," the document reads.

Project Green Release 1 products will be targeted at core small business, low mid-market and core mid-market companies, which, according to Microsoft's taxonomy are businesses with between 10 and 49, 50 and 99 and 100 and 500 employees, respectively. The second release of Project Green - due 2010 at the earliest - would extend into the upper mid-market and the corporate account space, companies with between 500 and 1,000 and between 1,000 and 5,000 employees.

Microsoft is aiming for a 30 percent market share, based on revenue, in the business solutions space by 2011. The company held a meager 4.9 percent of the worldwide ERP market in terms of revenue in 2002, according to Gartner.