What Users Think of

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-11-11 Print this article Print

Microsofts Memos"> Some users of Microsoft technology are not impressed, either. "Its all vaporware for products that wont be out until 2006-2007 at least," said Richard Olson, a developer with Digett, a Boerne, Texas, interactive media firm.
"Like that My Hailstorm/Passport nonsense from a few years ago. Itll be interesting to see how well they can compete without the home field advantage."
Mark Figart, Digetts president, added, "One must only take note of the fact that my firm subscribes to, and pays for, ordinary business services from Basecamp, TimeConsultant, Simplicato and Flickr to see that the online services model is thriving." Indeed, Figart said he has been "a fan of Microsoft for years, and I think their desktop products like Outlook and XP are better than ever. But we at Digett have actually reduced our dependency on their development and other server-side tools, and will probably continue to do so. They have become more expensive and more difficult to manage, while less expensive alternatives have improved in terms of quality and support. "Microsofts Live strategy? I dont know if it represents anything of significance or not. Out of necessity Im more focused on the here and now regarding the resources available to deliver Digetts services." George Girton, a member of the Santa Monica software patterns study group in Santa Monica, Calif., said the Ozzie memo echoed some of the concerns about reduction of complexity in software that his group has discussed. But, while Microsoft has shared some of its forward-looking strategy, "On reflection Im not sure why its so important to them to try to remain dominant. Just because?" Stephen Forte, CTO at Corzen Inc., N.Y., said, "Many people love to predict the death of Microsoft or compare them to IBM of old (before the turnaround) or with being a slow dinosaur, but I think they are still a very competitive, sharp, and innovative company—from the top down." Indeed, "When they see the winds changing they move pretty fast—and usually with good innovation," Forte said. "I remember the now infamous Bill Gates on the pitchers mound at the Kingdome speech back in the early 90s when the dot-coms were going to put Microsoft out of business and Bill [Gates] declared: we are now an Internet company. Can anyone argue that they did not deliver on that? I am sure that they will deliver." Forte added that he thinks Web 2.0 is over-hyped. Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at Citigate Hudson, N.Y., said: "My critique would be that the term service is, paradoxically, both loaded and completely hackneyed and meaningless. I think they [Microsoft] need to work through some more precise vocabulary. They need it for internal focus and planning, and they need it to ward off external parties viewing this whole thing as rehashed Hailstorm." Moreover, Brust said, the "seamless vision Ozzies got of getting all these devices to just work means they need to think hard about Windows. It carries a lot of baggage, and thats severely impeded their success in devices and digital media. They have to look at Xbox, and look hard: Its not Windows (not really, anyway), its branded without the Microsoft name, its targeted at kids who care about experience and ease of use, and it integrates with Windows when it needs to. They have to do that again. About 50 times." On Nov. 1, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and CTO Ray Ozzie outlined Microsofts services strategy, christened Live.com. At a recent launch event in San Francisco, Gates and Ozzie detailed two of the main components of that strategy: Windows Live and Office Live. A week after the Live.com unveiling, Microsoft made public memos that further detailed Microsofts services plans. Those memos, penned by Gates and Ozzie, went to Microsofts top managers. Ozzie wrote that his memo was "intended to get all of us roughly on the same page, and to get you thinking." As part of his 5,000-word missive, Ozzie outlined what Microsofts planned next steps in the services area will be. Ozzie said that by Dec. 15 he will have appointed a number of "scenario owners" who will lead each of Microsofts business units in creating a plan to develop, deploy and market services that are pertinent to their lines of business. These services will be either advertising-based or subscription-based, he said. He added, "Limited trial use, ad-monetized or free reduced-function use, subscription-based use, on-line activation, digital license management, automatic update, and other such concepts are now entering the vocabulary of any developer building products that wish to successfully utilize the Web as a channel." Ozzie said he expected that "for some groups this will impact short-term plans; for many others on path to shipping soon, it will factor significantly into planning for future releases. As we begin planning the next waves of innovation—such as those beyond Vista and Office 12—we will mobilize execution around those plans." As Citigates Brust said, "Success here is far from assured, especially since Google will own most of the ad market for the foreseeable future, and because Microsoft is encumbered by their size and established position. But theyre asking the right questions, theyre being introspective. And when they set their minds to it, they are very quick studies. So I wouldnt bet against them." Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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