Microsoft


Microsoft announced a new “Spark” program targeted at small web development shops with fewer than 10 employees. WebsiteSpark provides the following Microsoft development and production software licenses:

  • 3 licenses of Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition
  • 1 license of Expression Studio 3 (which includes Expression Blend, Sketchflow, and Web)
  • 2 licenses of Expression Web 3
  • 4 processor licenses of Windows Web Server 2008 R2
  • 4 processor licenses of SQL Server 2008 Web Edition
  • DotNetPanel control panel (enabling easy remote/hosted management of your servers)

These licenses are provided at no cost for the first three years.  After this term, the web development company, or individual consultant for that matter, must decide whether to continue using the licenses for $999 or $199 per year.  There’s an option to stop using the licenses all together.  But after three years of building skills with the Microsoft stack, I don’t see a significant portion of participants leaving the program.

To monetize the WebsiteSpark program, Microsoft will help participants find a hosting provider for the website/web application developed for their end clients.  Hosting providers offering a Microsoft runtime stack pay software license fees to Microsoft.  Even if the web development company decides to leave the WebsiteSpark program after the three year term, their clients whose website/web application is already running will continue to pay for hosting.  As a result, Microsoft will continue collecting license fees from the hosting providers.

Additionally, since there are only 3 licenses of Visual Studio, Microsoft could also generate license revenue from the fourth through tenth employee at the web development company.

So who exactly should care about this program?  Well, early-stage web development companies or a consultant just starting out is probably the target.  This company or consultant likely has .NET skills, but would prefer to see their business take off before paying for software licenses.  In other words, they are Microsoft customers to lose.  In the past the company or consultant would have been forced to look at (L)AMP because of the upfront cost consideration.

The response on ScottGu’s blog announcing the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Again, that’s because the target are Microsoft friendly ISVs or consultants who now have one less reason to look at (L)AMP.

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.”

I just read that Google is set to release and open source an Internet Explorer (IE) plug-in that allows IE to use Google Chrome’s HTML rendering and JavaScript engine. Ars Technica writes:

“Google hopes that delivering Chrome’s rendering engine in an IE plug-in will provide a pragmatic compromise for users who can’t upgrade. Web developers will be able to use an X-UA-Compatible meta tag to specify that their page should be displayed with the Chrome renderer plug-in instead of using Internet Explorer’s Trident engine. This approach will ensure that the Chrome engine is only used when it is supposed to and that it won’t disrupt the browser’s handling of legacy Web applications that require IE6 compatibility.”

Maybe I’m being too negative, but I’m wondering what user problem this plug-in truly solves.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Chrome, but its not hard to install and run two or more browsers on a machine.  Some companies do restrict installing software, be it a new browser, or a plug-in to IE.  However, the Google Chrome plug-in doesn’t address this issue as Ars found out:

“We asked Google if it will be providing packages and tools to make it easier for IT departments to deploy the plug-in. It’s still much too early for that, Google explained, but it’s something that Google might explore when the project matures.”

I could see the value of the plug-in to an IT administrator who doesn’t want to support yet another entire browser.  However, Google faces a significant hurdle to IT adoption without tools to deploy and manage the plug-in.  And really, who else is this plug-in targeted at if not for enterprise users, and the IT administrators who provision and manage IT resources to these enterprise users.  Home users that want to use Chrome would simply install Chrome, not a Chrome plug-in to IE.

The Google team working on the plug-in “cited the ubiquity of Flash as an example of how the plug-in strategy could have the potential to move the Web forward.”  Well, until Adobe AIR came out, the defacto interaction mode with Flash was through a browser.  On the other hand, the defacto interaction mode with a browser is not through another browser. Not sure that I’d be betting the plug-in’s success on the adoption of Flash.

Bygones.

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.”

MySpace announced that they’re open sourcing Qizmt, a MapReduce framework used by the MySpace Data Mining team. Unlike other leading MapReduce frameworks that are typically implemented in C++ or Java, Qizmt was developed using C#.NET. MySpace’s Chief Operating Officer, Mike Jones writes:

“This extends the rapid development nature of the .NET environment to the world of large scale data crunching and enables .NET developers to easily leverage their skill set to write MapReduce functions. Not only is Qizmt easy to use, but based on our internal benchmarks, we have shown its processing speeds to be competitive with the leading MapReduce open source projects on a lesser number of cores.”

Count me surprised by the claims that Qizmt can perform comparably with open source MapReduce projects, even while using fewer processing cores. I’d love to hear more about the performance benchmarks. But that’s another story.

Here’s why this story caught my attention:

“Many companies leverage Microsoft technologies in their BI platforms and Qizmt is a natural extension to these platforms. As companies deal with continued data growth and deeper analytics needs, Qizmt becomes a more integral part of BI both from a data processing and a data mining perspective.”

I couldn’t agree more. With the number of companies and ISVs that rely on .NET, Qizmt could become an important technology for .NET ISVs and customers. This is where CodePlex.org steps in. By helping Microsoft ISVs and customers get comfortable with contributing their IP into Qizmt, CodePlex.org could help Qizmt mature a lot faster than is likely with MySpace simply hosting the project on Google Code, as is the case today.

For appearance sake, CodePlex.org may not want Qizmt as the first project it shepherds. Qizmt’s strong .NET and Microsoft linkage will not go unnoticed by those of us watching how the CodePlex Foundation will shift from vision to execution. But here’s an important fact; us watchers, don’t have skin in the CodePlex Foundation game, and likely won’t for some time, if ever. The CodePlex Foundation should start with an audience that could have skin in the game, namely .NET users. As the Foundation demonstrates its independence and value to the community, the Microsoft/.NET linkage will dissipate. But to get there, the CodePlex Foundation needs to show value to developers and to projects soon.

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 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?

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.”

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.”

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