Building a Better Buggy

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2003-11-18 Email Print this article Print

Whip"> SG: Gates has not exactly gone broke estimating the appeal of technologies like the components of Longhorn – for example the ability to write in three lines of code what took a VB developer a thousand lines of code three years ago. Or take the bunch of peer-to-peer technologies integrated in WinFS.
Schwartz: JXTA has been incorporated into the Java standard and will be incorporated into the Java Desktop this spring. Its a natural evolution of that simple collaboration environment, where peer-to-peer could be used to transport new versions of documents. Curtis Sasaki [vice president of engineering, desktop solutions] is going to drive those priorities based on what customers tell us, not because I come in and say I have a vision of what is interesting that could be delivered. We dont run the company that way. I run the company based on what its going to take to close [the sale with] the Indian Ministry of IT.
SG: Its not just customers, its also the channel; Its ISVs saying, "This is what were going to sell to those people, and were competing against the VB/Visual Studio developer juggernaut."
Schwartz: Developers go to developer conferences because they want to learn about hot technology. But they deploy whats practical and what they can monetize. SG: Right now theres some controversy about Longhorn around XSD being baked into Office, but is being deprecated in favor of a new schema structure for WinFS. Schwartz: No one should be surprised that Microsoft wants to take the standards that emerge and bring them in and try to make them proprietary. Along with Boeing, we took our file format and gave it to Oasis, so were pretty confident that we have an alternative that customers find appealing. SG: But so what. If Microsoft goes off and bakes its stuff into 100 million desktops… Schwartz: Id love to see it happen. I dont think theyll have a hundred million by the time they ship Longhorn. And although theyve had wonderful developer conferences… Theyve had a fantastic SmartPhone for a long time. We outshipped them about a 150,000 to 1, and were going to outship them 300,000 to 1 and a million to one. It isnt the exclusive view of a technology that defines a market opportunity – its a combination of customers who are interested, developers who want to make money, carriers that want to deploy it. I dont look at Longhorn and say "Oh, my god, theyve architected a better automobile." I look at them and say "Youre trying to improve on a buggy whip." If youre just another end node on the network, what are you going to deliver to it? Office productivity is just a feature. Were over it, done with that. The real issue is: what are you going to do with peer-to-peer streaming of video? Heres the canonical example of what the world will look like: Two years from now, the 2006 Olympics, youre going to have teenagers in the audience with 30-frame broadcast capability in their phones. Is there going to be anybody there with a PC? Do you think this will have an impact on the planet? I do, because our kids are going to sitting at home with their PCs watching three-dimensional representations of the Olympics. Is that likely? Not a doubt in my mind. So whats the killer app on that device? Communications. Name me a software business last year that was $6 billion. Its tough to do – database, maybe. And this year, ring tones will be $8-10 billion. Maybe an enterprise app is worth that kind of money. All of the high value systems going forward are going to be consumer systems. SG: But what youre really talking about is a convergence of enterprise and consumer apps. Schwartz: You as an enterprise consumer are so much less valuable to a carrier than an 18 year-old who chews gum, wears rhinestones and wants to buy 5 ring tones a week. SG: Once the technology becomes pervasive, the value of time in a business context will overtake that market. Schwartz: Perhaps. We made a critical infrastructure acquisition about 6 months ago – Pixo – a provisioning engine to deliver bits. Ring tones, games, enterprise apps – who cares? Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum

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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