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Do you think Microsoft believes its own hype?

© November 2005 Anthony Lawrence

Recently a Microsoft memo was supposedly "leaked". It seems pretty obvious to everyone that it was actually deliberately released, but never mind that. The real question is whether the memo was written with an eye toward the planned release or was a genuine internal document that they then decided to throw out to the press.

Knowing Microsoft, you'd bet on the former.

But on the other hand.. do they really believe this stuff? Entitled "The Internet Services Disruption", the memo paints Microsoft as a prescient innovator. For example,

When we reflected upon our dreams just five years later in 1995,
the impetus for our new center of gravity came from the then-nascent
web.  With a clear view upon the challenges and opportunities it
presented, the entire company pivoted to focus on the internet to
pursue that fully connected dream with support for internet standards
throughout our product line: a web browser, server and development
tools, and a service in MSN that was transformed into a web portal.
Many things we developed in that era continue to fuel the growth
of todays internet: the technologies of AJAX  DHTML and XMLHTTP
were created in 1998 and used in products such as OWA.

Yeah. Funny how the rest of us remember Microsoft ignoring the web, especially ignoring TCP/IP and only coming into that whole market way late. I sat in a meeting in 1993 where I suggested that Microsoft needed to embrace TCP/IP both for the Internet and for general network integration. The consensus of the other attendees and the meeting's leader (a large VAR) was that I was a fruitcake, Microsoft would kill TCP/IP and the Internet was unimportant except to (fruitcake) geeks like me. Those opinions could have been found just about anywhere back then, and although I never sat in a Microsoft meeting, I bet I would have been labeled as a fruitcake there also. Well, OK, I am a fruitcake. But that's not the point, is it?

Well, here it is twelve years later, and Microsoft is feeling the pressure from web services. Web services don't necessarily need Microsoft operating systems, a fact that Bill and the boys surely must realize, and yet they say:

Most challenging and promising to our business, though, is that a
new business model has emerged in the form of advertising-supported
services and software.  This model has the potential to fundamentally
impact how we and other developers build, deliver, and monetize
innovations.  No one yet knows what kind of software and in which
markets this model will be embraced, and there is tremendous revenue
potential in those where it ultimately is.

Promising? Are you kidding?

And that tremendous revenue potential is from advertising? This is the part that raised my eyebrows:

Online advertising has emerged as a significant new means by which
to directly and indirectly fund the creation and delivery of software
and services.  In some cases, it may be possible for one to obtain
more revenue through the advertising model than through a traditional
licensing model.  Only in its earliest stages, no one yet knows
the limits of what categories of hardware, software and services,
in what markets, will ultimately be funded through this model.
And no one yet knows how much of the worlds online advertising
revenues should or will flow to large software and service providers,
medium sized or tail providers, or even users themselves.

More revenue than traditional licensing? Seems bloody unlikely to me. Not that its anything to be sneered at, of course. But there is just no way that ads in otherwise free applications are going to match the income stream of selling a monopoly operating system. Microsoft is used to a rich, creamy revenue flow; this is water with a little added milk powder by comparison. Not that Microsoft has much choice here: if they don't do it, they'll be the only ones who aren't. But as they suck hungrily at the teat that just cannot provide the volume they are accustomed to, what then?

Nastiness and more nastiness, of course. This isn't taking a bottle away from a helpless baby; this is a big nasty lion crouched over its prey. The great mass of jackals and buzzards interested in the spoils may ulimately win, but that doesn't mean a few of them won't get swept away by large claws. The memo says:

We will compete energetically but also responsibly and with
recognition of our high legal responsibilities.  We will design
and license Windows and our internet-based services as separate
products, so customers can choose Windows with or without Microsofts
services.  We'll design and license Windows and our services on
terms that provide third parties with the same ability to benefit
from the Windows platform that Microsofts services enjoy.  Our
services innovations will include tight integration with the Windows
client via documented interfaces, so that competing services can
plug into Windows in the same manner as Microsofts services.  We
will compete hard and responsibly in services on the basis of
software innovation and price  and on that basis we will offer
consumers and businesses the best value in the market.

Um, sure you will.

You can't read that and not wonder just how many lawyers are gainfully employed right now looking for the ways and means to do exactly none of that, and how many friendly politicians are getting nice little campaign donations in hopes that they will better understand the vital necessity of a dominant Microsoft. You know, "documented interfaces" could be a national security threat, couldn't they? Loose lips sink ships. Won't someone think of the children?

Ahem. Windows twentieth anniversary was November 20th. Happy birthday, Bill. I have to wonder whether you'll see a thirtieth. I've said that in public a few times recently, and of course once again I'm a fruitcake. Agreed. Microsoft Windows almost certainly will see a thirtieth anniversary.. but the cake will probably be a lot smaller and have no frosting.

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-> Do you think Microsoft believes its own hype?


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More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Tue Nov 29 11:21:25 2005: 1385   anonymous

What a lot of nonsense!

" ... support for internet standards throughout our product line"

Oh, yeah, that's always been a priority.

I think it possible that Microsoft now realizes that breaking the standards can be counter-productive, but to speak as if they've always meant to adhere to them ...

I liked this:

"... our high legal responsibilities"

As opposed to what? Are there "low legal responsibilities" as well?

I'm also struck by how badly this is written. This is the richest company on earth, but it releases something written by someone who can't write good English. The writer seems incapable of recognizing the possessive case: I winced at every "Microsofts". This is perhaps the worst sentence:

"Only in its earliest stages, no one yet knows the limits of what categories of hardware, software and services, in what markets, will ultimately be funded through this model."

In fact, the piece is written in that kind of choked-up prose that people who are not particularly well-read think sounds impressive:

"Online advertising has emerged as a significant new means by which to directly and indirectly fund the creation and delivery of software and services."

Are there "new" phenomena that don't "emerge"? What's the significance of "significant" here? And so on, and so forth.

That means little more than:

"Advertising can be used to cover the costs of providing software or services to users".

Tue Nov 29 21:55:48 2005: 1386   BigDumbDinosaur

This model has the potential to fundamentally impact how we and other developers build, deliver, and monetize innovations.

More bad English: "other developers" and "we" are out of order in the sentence. Also, "fundamentally impact" is fundamentally wrong. The proper prose should be "fundamentally affect." And what, pray tell, is "monetize?" None of my dictionaries have such a word in them. Did the author mean to say that advertising supported services might affect how Microsoft and the others will make money?

This whole thing sounds as though it was written by some clueless political science major fresh out of college who accidentally got hired by Gates and his buddies. What a dweeb!


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