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.

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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.

Infoworld’s Paul Krill has an interesting article about the server operating system becoming a two-horse race between Linux and Windows in which both OSes will grow at the expense of others (i.e. Linux).  Market research we did at IBM over 7 years ago indicated that Linux would grow at the expense of Unix more so than Windows.  So, I’m not surprised that a Gartner survey from a Linux-oriented conference indicated a 3-to-1 ratio of migrations to Linux will be at the expense of Unix versus Windows.

Another interesting finding from the Gartner survey:

“Linux was ranked by 39 percent of respondents as the OS expected to have the most growth in their datacenters during the next five years. Windows was a close second, ranked as the OS with the most growth potential by 35 percent of respondents at the Linux-oriented conference.”

The fact that 35% of respondents at a Linux-oriented conference, reported growth of their Windows OS install base is telling.  As enterprises get more comfortable with Clouds, offering an environment to deploy Windows and Linux workloads is a no-brainer. I’m certain that Microsoft realizes this and will announce Linux OS support when the Microsoft Cloud goes live ;-)

Peter Galli over at Port25 is reporting:

“Microsoft and Red Hat announced this morning that they have recently signed agreements to test and validate their server operating systems running on one another’s hypervisors.”

Co-opetition being as it is in the IT industry, this is an excellent move for both vendors. Supporting customer choice continues to be a winning strategy:

“”This means that those customers with valid support agreements will be able to run these validated configurations and receive joint technical support for running Windows Server on Red Hat Enterprise virtualization, and for running Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Hyper-V Server 2008,” Neil says.

So, while Microsoft and Red Hat will continue to compete, customers have asked us to work together on technical support for server virtualization. These agreements respond to that request by giving them a new level of integration between Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows Server for their heterogeneous IT environments.”

It really is great to see Microsoft opening up to opportunities like this.  Whatever its history with open source, Microsoft keeps showing that they can evolve their thinking to remain relevant to its customer base.

Very cool – now when will this happen ;-)

Port 25 is reporting that Microsoft has released Web Sandbox under the Apache License 2.0.  This is the first I’ve seen of the Web Sandbox, but it seems like a great idea, especially the part about an open standard around the technology.

As Web 2.0 applications and mashups continue to include third party content, the overall security of these applications comes into question.

The Web Sandbox website explains:

“We want you to get involved. We created a cross-browser JavaScript virtualization layer that provides a secure standards-based programming model without requiring any add-ons. We are not done yet. We need your help: experiment with the Sandbox and make sure it works. We’ve included a set of samples so you can try to break the Sandbox. Our goal is to provide reusable components that will allow you to secure your Web 2.0 mashups. Our goal is to work together to standardize a secure web platform. “

Web Sandbox not only provides enhanced application security across browsers, it also provides consistent W3C DOM support.

Go check it out and see if you can’t hack one of the samples!

By now, news of layoffs at IBM and Microsoft are being reported far and wide.  Some may take this opportunity to predict victory for open source.  However, I’m hard pressed to reach this conclusion.  Indeed, as an IBM Software employee, I have a biased view.  But hear me out.

IBM reported a 10.5% YTY increase in 2008 Software revenue to $22.1B.  Microsoft’s Server & Tools business grew 15% YTY in Q2-FY09 to $3.74B.  I call out the Microsoft Server & Tools business division because the majority of Microsoft’s products that compete against open source (Windows Server, SQL Server, and Visual Studio) reside in the Server & Tools division.  Yes, you could argue that Linux on the desktop was the driver behind the 8% YTY quarterly decline in Microsoft’s Client division.  But, it’s more likely, as InfoWorld’s Tom Sullivan points out, that Vista’s issues drove the decline in Microsoft’s Client division business.

None the less, when you look at the growth rates from IBM and Microsoft’s divisions that could compete against open source, 10.5% and 15% are very healthy growth rates.  This is doubly true when the size of the revenue (tens of billions) is taken into account.  So it’s difficult for me to see open source as the driver behind the layoffs.

I do however fear that these layoffs are a precursor to similar actions we’ll see from open source companies.  It’s been argued that open source will do better during the belt tightening due to lower initial costs.  However, what’s lower than $0?  I’ve had three discussions with friends whose companies have made the choice to go with open source solutions for projects that they’ve typically used commercial products.  These companies have decided to save costs by asking their internal developers to shoulder the cost of supporting the open source products.  So, while commercial vendors were kept out of these three deals, so too were open source vendors.  Clearly, three isolated examples don’t make a trend.  But I fear that we’ll see a lot more of this in 2009.

What are you seeing out there?

I completely agree with Matt Aslett’s view that 2009 will see consolidation in the open source arena at the hands of established software vendors (e.g. IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP).  Aslett writes:

“As proprietary vendors will be looking to open source to extend their reach into new potential customers, many open-source vendors will be looking to proprietary technology as a means of converting community interest into revenue.”

Matt Asay also agrees with Matt Aslett, and Asay predicts that Microsoft will make its first open source acquisition in 2009, probably Zend.  Indeed, folks at Microsoft have, at a minimum, considered this acquisition.  I think it’s a bad idea, here’s why:

IBM was long considered an open source supporter before we made our first “open source acquisition“.  Sun was considered an Open Source company well before acquiring MySQL.  Oracle’s acquisition of Sleepycat didn’t really add to its Open Source credibility.  Intel and HP are considered open source supporters, without open source acquisitions.  Simply put, a Traditional vendor can support the open source movement without acquiring an open source company.

Now, considering Zend specifically; the problem with buying Zend is that the acquisition delivers very little customer value or impact to the acquirer’s top/bottom line.

What would Zend deliver to Microsoft (or another suitor, be it IBM, Oracle, SAP, or even Red Hat)?  Two key items that come to mind, first control over the PHP language, and second, revenue that Zend drives from Zend’s enterprise PHP products.

Control over the PHP language is a red herring.  Customers can be well served without control of the PHP language.  IBM and Oracle both have PHP-based offerings without having control over the language.  If Microsoft were to buy Zend, what could Microsoft do with the PHP language?  Microsoft couldn’t make any language-specific changes that would favor the Windows environment or allow native access to Windows resources without users fearing that their PHP applications will be locked into the Windows OS.  One great thing about PHP is that I can develop on my Windows desktop and deploy to my hosting service provider running Linux.  If this changes, Microsoft (or any Zend acquirer) should expect an uproar from millions of PHP users.  Also, we shouldn’t neglect the possibility of another vendor or “the community” forking the PHP interpreter under the guise of protecting PHP users from Microsoft’s commercial interests.

Next, let’s consider the revenue potential through Zend.  Today, the revenue is nowhere close to impacting Microsoft’s growth targets.  The reality is that PHP use is so widespread that the “community PHP” has become solid enough for all but a few usage scenarios.  So, the need to pay for a “production ready PHP” or advanced management, scalability, etc. for “business critical PHP” is minimized by the quality and breadth of community driven PHP offerings.

Having PHP in its toolbox isn’t going to help Microsoft grow revenue in the enterprise market.  Let’s not ignore the fact that the PHP language hasn’t been able to attract developer interest at the enterprise level.  This has been a surprise to me considering the level of PHP use outside of the enterprise.  Yet, Python and Groovy have had a lot more traction than PHP in the enterprise.

This leaves us with Microsoft using PHP to further penetrate small & medium sized business (SMB) and partners.  Microsoft already owns this segment, and VB is the lead-with language here.  So, adding PHP into the mix isn’t going to drive a lot of net new revenue.  Unless Microsoft is experiencing VB losses to PHP, which I doubt.  And even if these losses are occurring, then I’d argue that Microsoft’s current partnership with Zend delivers the same benefit to Microsoft that owing Zend would.  In both cases, the likelihood that the SMB is paying for the use of PHP, e.g. Zend-driven revenue, is minimal.  In both cases, the likelihood that the SMB is running the PHP application on Windows is very high.

Maybe it’s just me, but I see a lot more risk than upside for Microsoft in this particular deal.

What do you think?

Interesting news that Bob Muglia has been promoted to “President” at Microsoft.  This appears to be a fairly exclusive title at Microsoft.  There are currently only 4 other “Presidents” at Microsoft.

Muglia is responsible for Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business at Microsoft (STB).  Much of Microsoft’s open source efforts are driven from within the STB division.  Bill Hilf, Sam Ramji and Robert Duffner all report up into Muglia.  I wonder what role the efforts of his open source team had in securing this promotion.  Or said differently, could Muglia have been promoted to President of STB if Microsoft was still fighting open source tooth and nail?

TheStreet.com is reporting:

“Muglia’s promotion will raise speculation about the pecking order for executives at Microsoft, as well as its succession plans for CEO of the company should Steve Ballmer depart, reports Computerworld. Ballmer has said publicly he plans to retire in 2018. “

At EclipseCon 2008, Sam Ramji said: “Microsoft is 3 years into a 10 year journey in reorienting Microsoft’s internal and external views on OSS.”

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Muglia were to take over for Ballmer in 2018?  An exec with open source experience in Microsoft’s CEO position; How’s that for a New Years prediction!

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