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.”

The recent news that the Google Voice iPhone application has been blocked from the iTunes App Store has created quite the stir.

Readers are somewhat correct to suggest that this move is more likely driven by AT&T than by Apple itself.  However, keep in mind that Google Voice aims to insulate the user experience from the underlying phone.  While the iPhone is much more than a phone, if Google is successful in owning the phone-related experience on the iPhone, Apple loses a core value proposition of the device.  This is why I don’t buy the fact that AT&T is wholly to blame for the Apple decision.  I can’t understand how Apple doesn’t have the bargaining position versus AT&T to act on behalf of Apple customers.  Apple does.  This decision helps protect AT&T’s and Apple’s value proposition to users.  Apple acted out of self interest.  I can’t blame them since Apple is not a charity.  But Apple users, and others, should take note and adjust their purchase behavior and legal oversight accordingly, if at all.

Apple pulled Google Voice-enabled applications from the App Store because they “duplicate features that come with the iPhone”.  The fact that Apple can limit the types of applications available to iPod/iPhone users on the basis of duplicate features that Apple provides or will provide in the future, GPS navigation an example of the latter, is mind boggling.  Can you imagine Microsoft not allowing Firefox, Opera or Safari on Windows computers citing the fact that these products duplicate features that come with Windows? Say what you will about Microsoft’s competitive practices, but excluding an application on the basis of providing a similar capability seems awkward in the software industry where there are 42 different ways of achieving anything.

The fact that Apple owns the platform gives it a leg up on any third party applications that may be available before or after Apple decides to add similar functionality.  If this isn’t enough to win versus the third party application, then the Apple product/feature deserves to lose out to the third party application.

To be fair, I find it equally surprising that the RIM BlackBerry App World doesn’t include applications such as Google Maps for Blackberry.  Google Maps is much easier to use than RIM’s BlackBerry Maps.  But since I can get the application directly from m.google.com and there are no limitations on what I can install on my BlackBerry, I don’t much care about the absence of Google Maps from BlackBerry App World.  Since there is only one legal way to install applications to the iPod/iPhone, it really does matter when Apple restricts the applications a user is able to download and use.

Where is the government oversight of Apple’s App Store and iPod/iPhone application development practices?  I care far less about IE integration with Windows than what applications I can run on my phone. My BlackBerry phone has quickly becoming the device I can’t live without; my laptop is well behind my Tivo/PVR.

PS: I don’t own an Apple product, but my wife loves her MBP and iPod Touch, both of which I play with from time to time.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PPS: 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.”

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.

Axum is a Microsoft DevLab project that Microsoft hopes will “validate a safe and productive parallel programming model for .NET”.  Axum is an incubation project, and as such, the syntax, features or runtime itself may change.  Microsoft has no product commitments related to Axum at this time.  The Axum team wants to solicit customer feedback, likely in the hope that Axum itself will become a first class programming language for .NET, or will influence a follow-on language.

Does this sound like a great candidate for an open source project?  It does to me.  Especially since Axum is up against Erlang and Scala, two leading languages that address concurrency, are developed through open source projects.

Surely Microsoft could have kept control of the Axum language and related intellectual property through a contributor agreement.  Microsoft could use the LGPL, for example, to “protect” against competitor actions, and yet have the ability to re-license Axum under a commercial license. Even if Savio Inc were to fork Axum, the strong likelihood is that Windows customers would use Axum over Savio Inc’s fork.

Of course, Axum requires a .NET runtime.  I’m sure the smart folks at Microsoft could have figured out a way to enable community contributions without having to open up .NET to wholesale community edits.  Maybe Project mono could have played a role?

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

Here’s a BusinessWeek article about how “Microsoft is Fighting Back (Finally)”.  The most interesting part is about Microsoft’s new “Windows Anytime Upgrade” strategy. Here are some details:

“Because of the smaller size of Windows 7, three versions of the program will come loaded even on lower-end machines. If a consumer on a cheaper PC running the “Standard” version tries to use a high-definition monitor or run more than three software programs at once, he’ll discover that neither is possible. Then he’ll be prompted to upgrade to the pricier “Home Premium” or “Ultimate” version.

Microsoft says the process will be simple. Customers enter their credit-card information, then a 25-character code, make a few keystrokes, then reboot. Brooks says pricing hasn’t been determined, but upgrading “will cost less than a night out for four at a pizza restaurant.””

After reading this, I instantly thought about Cote excellent post titled “The Return of Paying for Software” from last summer.  Cote wrote:

“When it comes to making money with software, the iPhone App Store is the glossiest example of trend I feel creeping up on us: people paying for software.

Yes, people have been paying for software forever, but the expectations for most consumer software of late has been that it’s free.

The change here is an environment where people will spend $0.99 to $20 for a piece of software. I often comment that this user-mentality – spending small amounts of cash on software – exists in the OS X world, but it’s been lacking from others.”

While I initially balked at the thought of a popup window with: “Hey, it looks like you can afford a high definition monitor, so why not get the most out of it with Windows 7 Home Premium, for an low price of $19.99?”, I’m willing to give this idea the benefit of the doubt.  This recent NYT article (via Cote – that man is Gold!) explains the success of an iPod/iPhone game called iShoot, and is a reason behind my openness to the Windows Anytime Upgrade strategy:

“In January, he released a free version of the game with fewer features, hoping to spark sales of the paid version. It worked: iShoot Lite has been downloaded more than 2 million times, and many people have upgraded to the paid version, which now costs $2.99. On its peak day — Jan. 11 — iShoot sold nearly 17,000 copies, which meant a $35,000 day’s take for Mr. Nicholas.”

Consumers are getting accustomed to acquiring software for instantaneous incremental gratification.  The consumer gets some value off the bat, but is faced with a purchase decision to get incremental value.  When the consumer decides to follow through with the transaction, the gratification is instantaneous, not tomorrow in the mail or through a 4hr download.  With the Windows Anytime Upgrade strategy, consumers would get some value off the bat.  Upon hitting a feature/function wall, a purchase decision would be presented.  And if the consumer chooses to transact with Microsoft, it seems that the incremental value would be provided on the spot, without having to download or acquire and install another DVD’s worth of an OS.

Seems like an interesting strategy that’s much closer aligned to how consumers pay for software today.  Maybe an unexpected outcome of Apple’s App Store strategy is to educate consumers ahead of Microsoft’s Anytime Upgrade strategy.

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