Living in the Micro

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-01-30 Print this article Print

-Content World"> In a micro-content world, business documents are broken down into their constituent elements: notification, transaction, context, priority and lifetime. IM traffic, Weblog posts, breaking news, appointments, alerts and good old e-mail comprise a dominant percentage of micro-content traffic. Managing the real-time flow of information becomes Job One, followed closely by archiving and publishing snapshots of the data as "documents." The traditional productivity applications become rendering engines for various end-stage documents. Word produces spell-checked, formatted pages; Excel produces reports, charts and graphs; PowerPoint produces presentations. In its current incarnation, Outlook renders messages. FrontPage—well, FrontPage is being sunsetted by Weblog-authoring tools.
To be sure, Microsoft can take comfort in its strategy of waiting for the competition to do the R&D and then swooping in when the market is primed. Micro-content authoring tools are in their infancy, held back by the lack of resources in mom-and-pop RSS aggregator shops. But the patent filings are giving companies such as Apple and Sun time to seed their platforms with common services that can be bootstrapped by small ISVs.
With e-mail attacks becoming the norm, Microsoft shops must devote more and more cycles to combating the enterprise effects of network slowdowns; unreliable communications; and loss of strategic data to uncaptured channels such as IM, voice and Hotmail back channels. Thats why social software spaces and link cosmos engines such as Technorati are becoming mission-critical repositories for maintaining secure communications. As RSS information routers reach the critical mass of persistent, searchable storage, feed-tunable preferences, embedded browser rendering, and attention data mining, the motivation to store data in licensed document silos will flatline. Remember: Microsoft is competing in the micro-content space with the one non-renewable resource: time. Nowhere in the real-time space does it have dominant market share—not in IM, not in RSS, not in search. If it places its chips on Word, its competing not just against micro-content, but against its own installed base. There are some signs that Gates gets it: hiring Wiki inventor Ward Cunningham, incorporating some OneNote technology into the next Mac Office release and even floating a rumor that he will start an internal blog. But Longhorn still reminds me of the Las Vegas skyline, where objects appear a lot closer than they really are. Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum Messaging & Collaboration Center Editor Steve Gillmor can be reached at

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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