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 · · Microsoft

Windows Cold Call · Re­cent­ly, it’s been hap­pen­ing over and over: the phone rings af­ter din­ner and a call-center pick­up sys­tem switch­es in a per­son with a heavy South-Asian ac­cent who tells us that there is a prob­lem with our Win­dows sys­tem, and of­fers help ...
Lock-In, the 2008 Flavor · So, if I want to watch the Olympics on­line, I need to in­stall Mi­crosoft Sil­verlight. And if I’m in­ter­est­ed in good-looking new high-end com­pact cam­eras, I’m super-interested in the new Nikon P6000; which writes a RAW for­mat that can on­ly be read by Mi­crosoft WIC, avail­able on­ly on Win­dows ...
OOXML: Everything’s Just Fine · Or at least that’s what ISO’s Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al says. [I had hoped to stop writ­ing about this sub­jec­t, sigh]. There are mul­ti­ple ap­peals against OOXML; let’s try to read the tea-leaves with­out too many gut­tural snick­er­s ...
ISO Fantasy · There has been much re­joic­ing re­cent­ly at the pro­cess where­by, ap­par­ent­ly, an ISO com­mit­tee takes full con­trol of OOXML. But you know, that sto­ry is en­tire­ly ir­rel­e­van­t. It will have no ef­fect on what im­ple­men­tors of OOXML, in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft, should or will ac­tu­al­ly do. The story’s end­ing will I think be most­ly tawdry. Oh, and I have some OOXML news that I think is im­por­tan­t, but that I don’t think any­one else has re­port­ed ...
BRM Truth · I’m sor­ry to my read­er­s, 80% of whom prob­a­bly don’t care about OOXML stan­dards pol­i­tic­s, but I’m hav­ing a hard time de-obsessing. For those who share my un­for­tu­nate con­di­tion, please go read Some clar­i­fi­ca­tions on the OOXML Bal­lot Res­o­lu­tion Meet­ing, a fan­tas­tic write-up by An­to­nis Christofides of the Greek del­e­ga­tion. I think it il­lus­trates the big pic­ture bet­ter than any­thing else I’ve read, in­clud­ing my own cov­er­age.
BRM Narrative · Now that the BRM is over, I feel I can write about it a bit more; there are some re­stric­tion­s, but I’ll lay them out. Sum­ma­ry: A lot of good work was done, but the pro­cess is ir­re­triev­ably bro­ken ...
2008 Prediction 2: Windows Looks Bad · This is the sec­ond of five pre­dic­tions for 2008, ex­pand­ed from the short form gen­er­at­ed on short no­tice as de­scribed here ...
Blows Against the Empire · Mi­crosoft is bipedal; its legs are Win­dows and Of­fice. I’ve al­ways thought that Of­fice was the more im­por­tan­t, and less open to at­tack. But there in­sur­gents lurk­ing out there in deep space; their at­tacks are just pin­prick­s. So far ...
Missing Information Workers · Awww... they’re gone. Check out Microsoft’s third-quarter fi­nan­cials, and com­pare them to the year be­fore. No­tice any­thing dif­fer­en­t? Client-side earn­ings used to be bro­ken in­to “Client” and “Information Worker”. This year, they’re all rolled up in­to “Client” (and damn im­pres­sive num­bers I must say, $4.244B net on $5.272B gross). I guess there’s a lit­tle less scope for this kind of thing, and gosh, I like in­for­ma­tion work­er­s.
I’ve Seen This Movie · It turns out that the Atom Pro­to­col isn’t good enough for what­ev­er part of Mi­crosoft Dare Obasan­jo works in, he says. Three things should be said: First, Dare’s ar­gu­ments are bo­gus. Se­cond, if you were para­noid and cyn­i­cal, you might won­der what Microsoft’s up to (I’m para­noid and cyn­i­cal.) Fi­nal­ly, this is ac­tu­al­ly good news. [Up­date: Check out Dare’s GDa­ta isn't a Best Prac­tice Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Atom Pub­lish­ing Pro­to­col and Mi­crosoft and the Atom Pub­lish­ing Pro­to­col, and es­pe­cial­ly Joe Cheng’s Mi­crosoft is not sab­o­tag­ing APP (prob­a­bly). It looks like Mi­crosoft will be join­ing the APP par­ty af­ter al­l; ex­cel­len­t! On GData: as of April’s in­terop even­t, GData, based on an ear­ly draft of the APP, was far from be­ing an in­ter­op­er­a­ble drop-in im­ple­men­ta­tion. But that’s what the event was for; Kyle Marvin and the Googlers gath­ered tons of hands-on da­ta and, last time I checked, still say they in­tend to do APP straight-up.] ...
Four Words for Microsoft · Lit­i­gate or shut up.
More FUD · Andy Upde­grove quotes a flur­ry of egre­gious Mi­crosoft bull­shit about ODF from Ja­son Ma­tu­sow. In par­tic­u­lar: “The ODF for­mat is lim­it­ed to the fea­tures and per­for­mance of OpenOf­fice and StarOf­fice and would not sat­is­fy most of our Mi­crosoft Of­fice cus­tomers today.” In your dream­s, Ja­son. [Up­date: What Andy Upde­grove said.]
Office Politics and Profits · In re­cent weeks I’ve been spend­ing quite a bit of time talk­ing to jour­nal­ists and an­a­lysts about the is­sues around office-document XML file for­mats in gen­er­al, and the Mas­sachusetts dust-up in par­tic­u­lar. There’s one ex­change that pops up in al­most ev­ery one of these con­ver­sa­tion­s, and it goes some­thing like this. Journo: “Now, you guys are tak­ing all these ide­al­is­tic high-minded po­si­tion­s, but you know and I know that what we have here is a bat­tle for mar­ket share.” Tim: “That’s part of it, but we think that our in­ter­est­s, and the customers’, are both best-served when there’s no file-format lock-in and there’s a wide-open com­pet­i­tive market.” Now it’s not en­tire­ly about busi­ness, be­cause gov­ern­ments have pol­i­cy ob­jec­tives, for ex­am­ple trans­paren­cy and free­dom of in­for­ma­tion, that aren’t di­rect­ly business-related. But in­deed, there is a dollars-and-cents busi­ness di­men­sion. And to help broad­en the knowl­edge of those dol­lars and cents, I went and checked Microsoft’s In­vestor Re­la­tions page to look up the Office-related num­ber­s. In the fis­cal year that end­ed Ju­ly 1st, they re­port­ed prof­it of $7.915B on $11.013B in rev­enue. The trend con­tin­ues: in the most re­cent quar­ter (end­ing last Septem­ber), it was $1.934B on $2.675B. Just FYI.
Catcalls · It seems like my lit­tle thought ex­per­i­ment has touched a nerve. Scoble, Dare Obasan­jo, and Randy Hol­loway all push back, amaz­ing­ly enough all mak­ing the same ar­gu­men­t: how can I be against du­pli­ca­tion in office-document XML for­mat while at the same time be­ing mixed up in the Atom Pro­ject? The ar­gu­ment is fal­la­cious, but at least Robert and Randy made it in grown-up, po­lite terms, leav­ing the child­ish name-calling to Dare. Now, as for RSS and Atom: When I came on the scene in 2003, RSS was al­ready hope­less­ly frag­ment­ed, and there was ex­act­ly ze­ro chance of any of the large-egoed thin-skinned pro­po­nents of the var­i­ous ver­sions de­cid­ing to make nice with each oth­er. Atom is pre­cise­ly an at­tempt to re­duce the num­ber of vo­cab­u­lar­ies that im­ple­men­tors feel they have to sup­port. Turn­ing to the office-document space: right now the world has ex­act­ly one fin­ished, de­liv­ered, stan­dard­ized, totally-unencumbered, multiply-implemented XML-based of­fice doc­u­ment for­mat. You are the guys who want to in­tro­duce an­oth­er, in­com­pat­i­ble one. And I think that’s OK; but re­strict your in­ven­tion to the spe­cial­ized Mi­crosoft stuff that ODF can’t do, and don’t re-invent the ba­sic­s. Why is this con­tro­ver­sial?
Thought Experiments · I see that Mi­crosoft has post­ed a lit­i­ga­tion covenant on the Of­ficeXML for­mats (al­so read Bri­an Jones’ ex­e­ge­sis). In re­spon­se, there’s a bunch of le­gal pok­ing and prod­ding here and here; I don’t un­der­stand the le­gal ar­gu­ments, and I don’t think they’re the in­ter­est­ing part of the sto­ry any­how. So, let’s do two thought ex­per­i­ments. First, what if Mi­crosoft re­al­ly is do­ing the right thing? Se­cond, how can we avoid hav­ing two in­com­pat­i­ble file for­mat­s? [Up­date: There’s been a lot of re­ac­tion to this piece, and I ad­dressed some of those points here.] ...
New England Town Meeting · On the 16th of this mon­th, the Mas­sachusetts Tech­nol­o­gy Lead­er­ship Coun­cil host­ed a meet­ing at which Eric Kris­s, the state’s Sec­re­tary for Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Fi­nance, and Peter Quin­n, the CIO, dis­cussed the state’s re­cent pro­pos­al to stan­dard­ize on the Open Doc­u­ment For­mat. I re­ceived a set of meet­ing notes, which I re­pro­duce al­most as-is (spell-checked, re­moved per­son­al names and ed­i­to­ri­al­iz­ing). They rep­re­sent one attendee’s in­for­mal cap­ture of the pro­ceed­ings and have no of­fi­cial stand­ing. But there is some eye-opening stuff here. [Up­date: via David Ber­lind, there’s on­line au­dio of the meet­ing.] [Up­date: Aha! Bob Su­tor re­ports that the Mas­sachusetts de­ci­sion is now fi­nal. This is just the be­gin­ning of a long, long, road, and you know what? Mi­crosoft is too smart not to go down it; the on­ly ques­tion is when they start. See al­so Sam Ru­by on Brays, Fair­ness and Dou­ble­s­peak.] ...
Good Question · Brad DeLong, an economist and aw­ful­ly good writ­er to whom I’ve been sub­scribed for a long time, rais­es a sim­ple but aw­ful­ly good ques­tion about Mi­crosoft. Check out his table; it’s ac­tu­al­ly the SG&A line that has my head shak­ing.
Newsapalooza · I take off for a cou­ple of days of ru­ral iso­la­tion and and dial-up ac­cess, and the news flood­gates break loose. Si­mon Phipps has good com­men­tary and more point­ers. First, a tip of the hat to Poland for their in­ter­ven­tion which (at least tem­porar­i­ly) seems to have de­railed the EU’s head­long rush to em­brace soft­ware patents. In all this news, one an­gle that’s get­ting lit­tle dis­cus­sion but seems to me a re­al game-changer has to do with the Mi­crosoft­/EU lit­i­ga­tion. Mi­crosoft says they’ll ship a ver­sion of Win­dows with­out Me­dia Play­er and, while I agree with the EU that they played a lit­tle dirty in lever­ag­ing the Win­dows monopoly in­to the media-player space, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal. What does seem a big deal is the or­der that they dis­close enough of the Ex­change and SMB pro­to­cols to em­pow­er peo­ple to build com­pet­i­tive mail/disk servers with­out hav­ing to do ar­cane reverse-engineering. This ge­nie, I think, can’t be put back in the bot­tle, how­ev­er the ap­peals end-game shakes out, and it’ll be a while be­fore we re­al­ly un­der­stand all the im­pli­ca­tion­s.
Office Source Code · I’ve been try­ing to think of some­thing in­tel­li­gent and new to say about Microsoft’s re­cent Of­fice source code ma­neu­ver, but Si­mon Phipps took care of it. Any­how, when it comes to Of­fice soft­ware, I’m less in­ter­est­ed in its code (source or ob­jec­t) which should be dis­pos­able and re­place­able, than I am in its out­put. Some call them “office documents”; I pre­fer “intellectual heritage”, “racial memory”, “crystallized thought”, “priceless treasure”, that kind of thing. They need to be tak­en care of bet­ter than they are, I think, and oth­ers agree.
OpenOffice Furore · My good­ness, there are oceans of words be­ing pumped around about some sub­claus­es in the Sun-Microsoft agree­men­t. I love Slashdot’s ed­i­to­ri­al judg­ment but de­spise the id­i­ot­ic dis­cus­sion thread­s, so suf­fice it to say that the usu­al peo­ple said the usu­al things there about Sun and Mi­crosoft and lit­i­ga­tion; but then check out Danese Cooper’s take. Any­how, I think it’s sen­si­ble to be con­cerned about the po­ten­tial threat. Of course, that con­cern would van­ish if Mi­crosoft were to state that they won’t use intellectual-property lit­i­ga­tion as a com­pet­i­tive weapon against oth­er office-software pack­ages. Sim­ple enough. How about it?
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