Last weeks news that Microsoft plans to offer its 1,000 largest U.S. Windows 2000 customers access to that operating systems source code got the Puss pondering about whether this could be the start of Microsofts adventure into an open-source environment. But a closer examination of the issue made it abundantly clear that this is not the case.
Those "lucky" enough to view the source code are prohibited from touching it; changes are verboten. The very restrictive license agreement that users must sign to view the code also scraps any possibility of individual product innovation that could result from seeing the code. So, wondered His Hirsuteness, what could Microsofts motivation be?
Although there is an advantage to customers in that they can use the source code to see why an API does not work as documented and then code around this, the benefit to Microsoft is much greater. It gains access to the huge resources of its enterprise customers IT teams, which essentially become little more than glorified Windows bug testers. "Perhaps," fussed the Furball, "this look but dont touch scheme could be used as the basis for a new standards body known as almostopen.org."
The gossipy Grimalkin also caught wind of a rumor from the Great Northwest that Microsoft is having second thoughts about its participation in Avenade, the joint services company that it set up with Accenture (formerly Arthur Andersen) to provide implementation services for Microsoft products. The Kitty hears that Avenade may not have produced the results Microsoft hoped for and that the Redmondians are possibly considering backing out.
Things dont seem to be looking any better for AskJeeves. Already losing money and top executives, the company is now seeing its dot-com customers, most recently etown.com and ehow. com, fall on hard times. As the companys stock hovers around $1 per share, shareholders are fretting that its about to go the way of eToys. The Furry One hears that a buyout could be brewing. The companys search and guided-selling technologies would be a good fit for several companies.
A pal of the Puss claims a potential suitor could be eGain, a Web customer service software company. eGain expects to be profitable by midyear and will look to acquire "weaker players" to consolidate the market and extend its own capabilities. That said, eGain itself could get snapped up by Oracle or Siebel. Company officials have had discussions with both, according to the Tabby tattler. Interact Commerce, which already uses AskJeeves Answers 5.0 to enhance its customer support offerings, could also be a potential suitor.
And for a long shot, privately held RightNow Technologies, which has had to delay its IPO because of unfavorable market conditions, could make a nice move into presales customer service by buying AskJeeves.
"Reverse IPO, anyone?" laughed the Lynx. "Somewhere, P.G. Wodehouse must be smiling."
Spencer had to take his medicine when a concerned reader took him to the woodshed and pointed out that Stephen Turner recently left SAP, not SAS, as the "katnip"-addled Kitty reported in last weeks column.
"No contest," pleaded the Puss.