Microsoft


It appears that a portion of Microsoft’s “Windows 7″ training materials have been released into the wild by a BestBuy employee.  Why is this news?  Well, a section of the training compared Windows 7 to Linux.  The education material provided information that could help better position Windows 7 versus Linux.

You can view the Windows 7 training screen shots related to Linux here.

The Windows vs. Linux comparison material is likely defendable, but does not paint Microsoft as the open source enlightened company that they’d like to become, or at least be viewed as.  I should clarify “likely defendable”.  Most of the screen shots are, in my view, accurate.  It’s difficult to argue that any other OS has broader support for printers, digital cameras, video cameras, applications or games than Windows.

On the other hand, it is easy to argue with claims that:

“There’s no guarantee that when security vulnerabilities are discovered, an update will be created. Users are on their own.”

Or that Linux does not have “Authorized support”.

These claims are accurate if you’re comparing versus an unsupported community distribution of Linux.  But these claims are plain wrong if you’re comparing versus a supported Ubuntu or Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop.

Microsoft could have handled this potential for misinformation by adding another column for “Supported Linux” or adding a note at the bottom of each table.

Now here’s the surprising thing.  BestBuy doesn’t sell Linux machines.  So why in the world would Microsoft want to provide this information to BestBuy sales representatives?  I understand that these types of marketing enablement material is created once, and used essentially as-is for several audiences.  Some of Microsoft’s sales channels certainly also sell Linux machines.  Hence, this education was intended for them, and not necessarily BestBuy.

Note to Microsoft; tailor these materials by audience in the future.  Or even better, don’t deliver marketing enablement for certain audiences that you wouldn’t feel confident publishing on your public website.  This applies to Microsoft as much as any vendor.

What I don’t understand is why Microsoft is even putting Windows 7 on the same page as desktop Linux.  This may be a comparison that I or other open source proponents want to see.  But it’s not a comparison that typical PC buyers consider.  Why isn’t OS X in that comparison table?  Shouldn’t Microsoft be comparing with the operating system that PC buyers consider to be comparable, if not superior, to Windows 7? Maybe that was another section of the training material?

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PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

A poll from SMB marketplace Accredited Supplier suggests that Microsoft risks losing Microsoft Office share amongst UK small businesses.

Accredited Supplier conducted a survey of 1400 existing Microsoft customers and found that nearly 15% of respondents were ready to switch to Google Apps.  That clearly is the risk:

Respondents considering switching to Google Apps (from Microsoft Office):
13% Switching
29% Not aware of Google Apps
22% Undecided
36% Not switching
Source: Accredited Supplier, 2009

Now for the opportunity, which is unlikely to be news to Microsoft:

Preference for accessing business applications through a browser:
34% Prefer browser
28% Strongly prefer browser
12% No preference
8% Unsure
18% PC software
Source: Accredited Supplier, 2009

The reason that customers are considering the move to Google Apps appears to be linked to how the applications are accessed and interacted with.  The published survey results do not point to dissatisfaction with Microsoft office or cost concerns, although these may be contributing factors.  The data does show that respondents want a SaaS access mechanism to their business applications, office productive suites included.

Microsoft has been working on this problem for some time, and the existing Office Life Small Business offering is a step in the right direction.  The missing piece with Office Live Small Business is the hosted office productivity applications.  That missing piece is crucial, and Microsoft needs to fill it soon. Today, Office Live Small Business lets users share documents, but the actual editing of documents requires a desktop install of Microsoft Office.  Microsoft knows this needs to change, least it cede its small business share to Google and others.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

News that paravirtual drivers for Windows on KVM have been released by Red Hat isn’t, and shouldn’t be a big deal.

In the virtualization wars, it is clear that every hypervisor will strive to support Windows and Linux guest operating systems at the very least. Yes, it was news when Microsoft added drivers to the Linux kernel to help Windows Hyper-V better manage Linux guest operating systems. But this was more about the GPL code contribution and the following controversy.

Second, it doesn’t look like the KVM drivers for Windows are ready for prime time. Even the original blog post from Hadyn Solomon states:

“Paravirtual block drivers for windows has been very low key and known to be unstable.”

He goes on to ask:

“With Redhat expecting to release it’s Enterprise 5.4 version in September , maybe they’ve got windows paravirtual block drivers in working order?”

Who wants to bet that the stability, or lack thereof, of the Windows drivers is the reason that Red Hat has been “low key” about the work? There is virtually no way that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4, due out in September, will have working, enterprise ready Windows paravirtual block drivers. Will that change in the future? Absolutely. Will it be news then? Sure, because it’ll mean that Red Hat isn’t happy to just be a guest in a Windows world.  Fight! Fight! Fight! ;-)

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

For many years, Microsoft’s profit from Office and Windows has allowed the company to invest in new markets such as gaming at an early stage ROI that would make most VCs queasy.  The Xbox driven Project Natal may return the favor and help Microsoft Office outpace its competition; an unexpected, but pleasant, quid pro quo.

Microsoft describes Project Natal as:

“…a revolutionary new way to play: no controller required.  See a ball? Kick it, hit it, trap it or catch it.  If you know how to move your hands, shake your hips or speak you and your friends can jump into the fun — the only experience needed is life experience.”

Ina Fried was given a chance to try out the technology and reported:

“Playing Ricochet, a 3D breakout-like game, I found myself wanting to do whatever I could to stop the balls from passing me. It felt less like a traditional video game and more like I was a soccer goalie and an entire team was firing shots at me.”

While Project Natal sounds like the real deal for gamers, the technology has applications within the home, and more importantly, in the office.  Ina writes:

“At last week’s analyst meeting, Bach and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer, also outlined the broad appeal of being able to interact more directly with computer interfaces. After Bach tried his hand at some Natal gaming, Mundie offered a demonstration of how gesture recognition might function in a work setting, saying that the desktop PC of the future could in fact encompass the entire office.”

Project Natal is clearly Microsoft’s response to Nintendo’s Wii.  The Wii has without a doubt forced the gaming industry to rethink the gaming user experience.  The Wii has forced competitors, including Microsoft, to, pardon the pun, raise their game.  End users have obviously benefited from simpler and more fun user experiences.

OpenOffice.org (OOo) could learn a thing or two from Nintendo and the Wii.  OOo appears content to competing by offering a similar user experience to Microsoft Office 2007.  This is surprising to some users who view the user interface (UI) shift from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2007 as a reason to consider OOo in the first place.  If users are going to face a discontinuity in the UI, why isn’t OOo pulling a Nintendo move and innovating in an underserved portion of the market?  Okay, I know why.  I recognize that technology like the Wii controller or Project Natal doesn’t just materialize.  Often, significant research and related funding is required.  Whatever Sun invested in OOo, and I don’t know the numbers, it’s clearly not the same level of R&D spending that a Nintendo or Microsoft would have at their disposal.  And with Oracle taking the reigns of OOo, it remains to be seen if project budgets will be maintained.

Considering the profit that Microsoft derives from Office, there is clearly room for disruption.  But this won’t happen if vendors simply seek to recreate the Microsoft Office user experience. And if Microsoft does indeed introduce Project Natal technology into a future Microsoft Office release, competing by “doing what Microsoft does” won’t be an easy road to travel.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Project Renaissance is an OpenOffice.org project aiming to deliver a new user interface (UI) for OOo.  The team recently completed the prototyping phase and is asking for users to provide feedback on the 8 UI options.  The UI options strongly resemble the Microsoft Office 2007′s Ribbon UI.

Response to the Ribbon like user interface options has been, well, somewhat one-sided:

e7 writes: “This would be a killer feature for not using OpenOffice.org… Don’t implement this, do other things – like live editing in presentation, a correct ttf/otf export or such things.”

Andis writes: “I would like to see list of problems in previous interface of Impress and how these problems are addressed in the new interface. Because now I see only problems (at least for me) with that new interface…..”

.wu writes: “that’s brilliant! add even more to the top part of the UI because, you know – the screens aren’t getting wider…”

The three comments are fairly representative of the comments as of August 5th.  The concerns boil down to why work on a new UI when there are other higher priority items for the OOo to tackle, why introduce such a significant change to users and why waste vertical screen space?

I can’t speak for the OOo community as to why they’re working on this versus some other requirements.

The second concern raised is interesting.  Since many MS Office users are still using Office 2003 and some have resisted the shift to Office 2007 because of the Ribbon UI, why would OOo follow suit with a Ribbon-like UI?  A UI that more closely resembles Office 2003 will make it easier to adopt OOo versus training 500 or 20,000 or 300,000 employees on using the new UI found in Office 2007.  A commenter, talkimposter writes: “…In fact I use OpenOffice at work because they moved to Office 2007 and I just can’t stand that STUPID interface for idiots…” On the other hand, while initial user reaction to the Ribbon UI has often been negative, this is typically the case with many release to release UI changes. However, as commenter sRc writes: “I like where this is going, myself. To be honest, the Office 07 Ribbon does look “functionally challenged” at first, but once you get used to it, it is so much nicer to work with then a standard interface. After working on a project in Office 07 at my work, I find myself missing the Ribbon now every time I load up OOo.”

The third concern raised is much more troubling.  Screens have been getting wider, and when netbooks are considered, OOo should be innovating UIs that conserve vertical space.  Widescreen displays were not common when Microsoft researched and introduced the Ribbon UI.  Could OOo be making a mistake and following the leader with a UI technique that no longer fits with today’s devices?  Said differently, would Microsoft have introduced a horizontal Ribbon if they were researching a UI for today’s computers?  Interestingly enough, Lotus Symphony uses a vertical Ribbon-like menu system on the right-hand pane.  This approach takes advantage of widescreen computer displays.  I didn’t understand that design decision until today since I still have a 4:3 screen for work.  So maybe OOo should consider UI research conducted more recently than trying to mimic Microsoft’s approach?

You can test drive the UIs and provide feedback.  The prototype test requires Java 6 and takes about 2 minutes to load.  Well worth the time and effort.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Microsoft has responded to claims that their Linux Integration Components (LIC) were only contributed under the GPLv2 after being out of compliance with the GPL in the first place.

It’s important to note that LIC was pre-existing code available from Microsoft.  The version I downloaded only supported Novel SUSE but it seems Red Hat Enterprise Linux was supported also.  Until a few days ago, this code was not completely under the GPLv2.  How much was, and whether GPLv2 and non-GPLv2 code was combined in a manner that violates the GPLv2 is at the root of this story.

A well-known Linux contributor, Stephen Hemminger found the LIC prior to its contribution under the GPLv2.  He writes:

“…but on closer examination there was a problem. The driver had both open-source components which were under GPL, and statically linked to several binary parts. The GPL does not permit mixing of closed and open source parts, so this was an obvious violation of the license. Rather than creating noise, my goal was to resolve the problem, so I turned to Greg Kroah-Hartman.”

Steve’s post resulted in Greg Kroah-Hartman (aka Greg K-H), the Linux kernel maintainer who accepted the Microsoft code, updating his post about the Microsoft GPLv2 contribution:

“Steve gives a little more of the backstory of what caused me to start talking to Microsoft in the first place.”

Microsoft’s Sam Ramji posted today:

“Microsoft’s decision was not based on any perceived obligations tied to the GPLv2 license. For business reasons and for customers, we determined it was beneficial to release the drivers to the kernel community under the GPLv2 license through a process that involved working closely with Greg Kroah-Hartman, who helped us understand the community norms and licensing options surrounding the drivers.”

If I’m reading the statement correctly, Microsoft disputes that the decision to release LIC under the GPLv2 was based on any obligations resulting from the use of GPLv2 components within the original LIC code available prior to July 20th.  Sam does state that Greg K-H helped Microsoft understand the “community norms and licensing options…”  Hence, the decision to release LIC under the GPLv2 was simply a business decision.  It is possible that the business decision was influenced by what customers and “the community” would think if the questions about the LIC compliance with the GPLv2 came to light.  Having said that, I can’t understand what value Micrsoft would see in keeping this code under a non Linux-friendly license.  By ensuring that this code makes it into the Linux kernel, Microsoft is making it much easier for customers to deploy Linux on Microsoft Windows 2008.  I go back to my “this was a business decision” view.

What do you think?

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

It’s been amusing to read all the “pigs flying” and “Armageddon is near” initial responses to news that Microsoft is contributing code under the GPLv2.

If you really thought this would never happen, then you’ve been under a rock for the past 3 years.  Or you’ve ignored Microsoft’s shifting stance towards open source.

Beyond the hype, the simple fact is that Microsoft made a business decision that will make its commercial software more attractive to buyers.  Full stop. (I’ve wanted to use that statement in a post for quite some time.)

Sure, the business decision involved making an open source contribution, under the GPLv2 no less.  But this is not as groundbreaking as some are suggesting.  The contribution has absolutely no viral impacts to Microsoft’s commercial software, nor does this action suggest that Microsoft is about to open source key parts of its software portfolio. On that point, why would any software vendor do so without a compelling business case?  The contribution makes it easier for customers to run Linux on top of their Windows Server 2008 license, so Microsoft’s revenue stream stands to benefit.  See the business case linkage?

To get excited about this news for the pigs flying factor is to ignore all the work that Sam Ramji’s team has been doing internally and externally over the past 3 plus years.  As Sam told Paul Krill and I, engineering teams at Microsoft are “much more open to open source today than ever before”.

There are surely more announcements from Microsoft regarding open source contributions in the pipeline.  And each of these announcements will be driven by a business case that advantages Microsoft’s products.  This is no different than the motivations of other companies participating in the open source ecosystem.

Microsoft’s “openness to open source” is surely linked to the growing evidence that enabling open source products to work with Microsoft’s commercial products will help Microsoft’s business.  This is a conclusion that IBM reached years ago when we got behind Linux, helped found Eclipse, contributed to Apache, etc.  And frankly speaking, Microsoft reached this conclusion long before yesterday’s announcement.  The public has simply been too busy ignoring Microsoft’s work around the open source ecosystem.  So, if anything the news coverage will be helpful to shift the “us vs. them” stance to a more constructive conversation.

Kudos to Sam, Robert and the Port25 team for their efforts in driving that constructive conversation.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Are you confused by reports that 60 percent of companies plan to skip Windows 7, while at the same time reading that Windows 7 is selling well in the US, UK and Japan and a recent IDC estimate of Windows 7 forecasted sales?  Join the club.

I didn’t think much of the survey of over 1,000 companies by ScriptLogic Corp. which suggested 60 percent of respondents had no plans to deploy Windows 7. Then I read IDC’s estimate of Windows 7 sales:

“IDC is forecasting Windows 7 shipments of 177 million units by the end of 2010. Forty million of those sales will be in 2009, says IDC.”

So I went back to the ScriptLogic results.  It turns out that 34 percent of respondents expect to deploy Windows 7 by the end of 2010 and 5.4 percent expect to deploy by the end of 2009.  It is unclear what percentage of the 60 percent without plans for Windows 7 will adopt a non-Microsoft operating system versus developing adoption plans at a later time.

How does one rationalize the ScriptLogic and IDC results?  While they seem to contradict each other, it’s important to start with the approximately 500 million Windows XP users today.  So, if 34 percent of Windows users do upgrade to Windows 7 by 2010 as the ScriptLogic survey suggests, that represents 170 million licenses.  The fact that this number is so close to IDC’s estimate is downright spooky.  I used to work in market research and did market forecasts for years so I use “spooky” in its scientific connotation.

There you have it, two sources suggesting that Windows 7 will be a failure and a success based on virtually the same data.  Makes me think of the quote: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Reading the Windows Internet Explorer 8: Get the Facts marketing campaign instantly made me wonder “When did Microsoft hire Oracle’s marketing team?” While Oracle is getting much better, they were legendary for making bold claims by cherry picking “data”.  It used to drive me nuts when I was in the IBM market intelligence group and was asked to pull background data to refute these claims.  Not because the work was hard.  But because I felt that the work was unnecessary.  After a while, readers and customers learned to discount the bold claims.

In any case, back to the current story at hand.  I’m probably more pro-Microsoft than most open source folks, which is why the IE 8 Get the Facts marketing stings more than it probably should.  I have nothing against IE 8, and it may very well be an excellent browser.  For what it’s worth, I use both Firefox, the “View in IE” Firefox extension and IE 7 daily.

When I read a comparison table and one product has a check on every item and the other two competitors have, at most, 4 checks, I am instantly weary of the comparison.  Markets are way more competitive than the story Microsoft is painting with this comparison table.

I’m really wonder who Microsoft is targeting with this campaign.  For most Windows corporate and consumer users, IE is on their desktop and they’ll continue to use it.  This campaign doesn’t mean much to them, and can’t really be targeted at them. If these users are using Firefox, it’s because someone they know or someone in the IT department has convinced them to use Firefox.  To get my little cousin to stop using Firefox, Microsoft has to get me to stop using Firefox and wait for me to tell her that IE 8 is much better than Firefox.  But this comparison table treats me like a moron.  Especially when you consider that I’m using Firefox and have pre-existing views on many items on the comparison table.  Only IE 8 gets a check for “Security” “Privacy” and “Ease of Use”?  Really? At a minimum, Microsoft should have used Harvey Balls to show that the competitors have capabilities, which may not be as strong as IE 8.  Microsoft could have posted videos that show how easy it is to carry out a common task in IE 8 and compare it to Firefox with the relevant add on installed.  Show us what happens when a session crashes and how much better the combination of “tab isolation and crash recovery” is in day to day use versus Firefox.  In this case, simply having two features versus one or the other, doesn’t tell me anything about my day to day experience.

If Microsoft wants me and others like me, to take IE 8 seriously, I expect them to treat our intelligence with some respect.  Anything less, and after a while, we’ll have been taught to discount their bold claims.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

While the future of JavaOne is anybody’s guess, it’s interesting to note that Microsoft and IBM are both delivering keynotes at JavaOne this year.  This is Microsoft’s first JavaOne keynote and IBM’s first in at least 2 years.

Microsoft’s Dan’l Lewin will be discussing .NET and Java interoperability.  It’s great to see .NET and Java interoperability get more industry attention.  For all the .NET vs. Java hype, at least one-third of customers (an old Gartner stat) have both .NET and Java.  In fact, I spoke to two customers in the last month who are interested in the WebSphere CEA feature pack and have a .NET front end speaking to a Java back end.  Good thing we designed for interopability from day one.

It seems there may be a cloud angle to the Sun & Microsoft announcement.  I’d hazard a guess that Sun and Microsoft will announce support for “Java Services” on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, similar to the .NET Services currently supported.  It’s always seemed awkward to me that Azure would be a Windows/.NET centric (only) cloud.  Why would Microsoft choose not to address the one-third of customers that have .NET and Java in their shop?  I have to believe that Sheila Gulati, Steven Martin, Sam Ramji, Robert Duffner, Bill Hilf and others at Microsoft are thinking along these lines.

IBM’s Craig Hayman, will be discussing Extreme Transaction Processing (XTP) and Elasticity, two hot trends in the enterprise Java arena.  As core business applications built with Java face exponential user and transaction growth, enterprises can’t really rely on a “Fail whale” strategy.  Elasticity and XTP work hand in hand to address this growth with an eye on reducing costs across peaks and valleys.  Craig will also cover how IBM’s efforts in the open community, both through open standards, and open source, are driving developer productivity and innovtion.

I would have liked to attend JavaOne this year, but we’re taking wee Isaac to visit family in Ireland.  If he fares well on this 6 hr flight, the ~20hr trip to India is up next!  Clouds, Java, .NET and XTP will surely be waiting we get back.

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