Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Abandon Vista. We don’t need another desktop OS

Over the last 24 hours I haven't been able to help myself but dig a little deeper into the Vista story and I have to tell you, I've not read more fascinating content on the Internet than I found at the Mini Microsoft blog in the comments section on this post.

There are an amazing 400+ comments but don't let that deter you because all the good stuff is right at the top. Basically, it's a whole bunch of Microsoft developers and staffers bitching about everything from compensation, hours, shipping schedules, management incompetence, accountability and so on. If you want to take a real peak under the hood, forget Scoble, this is where the real naked conversation is going on. (The quality of comments decreases exponentially after the post gets slashdotted and the geek mob arrives but the dude behind mini Microsoft has provided a summary of the best comments here).

Basically, the thread gets down to the fact that Vista is a bloated product and Microsoft has become a bloated company, with one staffer comparing what M$ has become to the old Big Bloated Bluey.

The real problem for Microsoft is it has invested about as much money as the Gross Domestic Product of more than a few African nations in an operating system that became out-of-date about a year before it was due to ship. The simple fact is we don't need another desktop operating system. We need an Everywhere OS.

When was the last time you smacked your PC across the display because XP didn't look pretty enough or was lacking some key feature you needed. Don't ask me because I couldn't tell you.

Now tell me when was the last time you found yourself at a loss because there was some file on your home PC that you really needed when you were on the road. I reckon I have that problem once a week, at least. Do you use multiple computers too? Find it frustrating trying to remember how you set up the file system on each one?

I've written before how I think Google is working towards an online/offline future. Now if Microsoft really wanted to trump the big G, this is where they could hit them with a great big plank of four by two.

Start the foundation of your next operating system with the kind of technology that appears to drive Omindrive or Sharpcast (I say appear because both are still pre-public beta so I've not played with either yet). Don't tack online tricks onto the back of a desktop. Start with this model. Get replication, synchronisation, online/offline file system models right first and foremost and then tack everything else on around it.

I don't care if you have to start again, nobody does. Build a skinny Windows emulator for those apps that some customers just have to have, but once you give developers a platform to build all of their applications according to the online/offline model, who's going to want to keep a desktop bound application, anyway.

Change the paradigm, Microsoft and watch the innovation flourish. Re-energise your devs with a project that really does matter. Enabled your third-party developers to re-cast their applications. Give people a real reason to upgrade their software and give our industry a real-lift in the process. Build the Everywhere OS. Let me centralise my desktops, my favourites, my preferences, my file structure and have it follow me where ever I may go. And while you're there, start again with security so that we can make this model inherently protected.

Because once you enable true online/offline, all these AJAX applications start to look pretty lame. Finally, you enable the software industry to build true, rich applications that can natively harness the collaborative and everywhere nature of the Internet.

And guess what, as an added bonus for software monopolisits who call within the next five minutes, free to you, a subscription model! Finally you have a genuine reason not only to ask your users to pay for that up-front upgrade, because who the hell wouldn't upgrade to the Everywhere OS, plus you can charge them an annual fee for their online storage requirements.

Google may be heading in this direction with G:Drive, GDS and Lighthouse but they're at a fundamental disadvantage because they don't control the OS of-choice today so they have very little leverage in regard to the offline part of the equation. Apple are more intent on pushing into the loungeroom and the open source brigade would take a decade to regroup and respond to this kind of initiative. In fact, really only Microsoft has both the online and offline clouth plus the developer network to properly pull this off within the forseeable future.

Maybe Microsoft is headed in this direction with Live? However, it doesn't appear to be. I don't think it can do this until it makes the strategic decision to let loose it legacy model and start again from scratch. But I reckon if you took 50 of the smartest devs in Microsoft and gave them a project like this to sink their teeth into, they'd probably beat out Vista, if they didn't have to worry about the backward-compatibility issue.

Hell, if Microsoft won't do it, maybe there's a start-up out there who can. OS X wasn't created by Apple let's remember. Build this and I reckon you'll have Bill and Steve coming knocking on your door in double-time flat. You can even have my Everywhere OS name, free, gratis, on me.

The industry needs this. Build it and we will come.

Filed under: Microsoft

Biggest. Microsoft. Stuff-up. Ever? (And Who the heck is David Richards?)

In case your not a regular Squash-ee or else haven't picked it up along the way, my tiny, tiny little niche area of authority that I've been fortunate to build a business on is the Australian technology media.

So it always warms the cockles of me heart when an Aussie IT journo (which is Aussie/Brit slang for journalist btw) breaks a story big enough to warrant them significant attention in the big, worldwide blogosphere. I kinda feel like a parent who's kid just hit a home run (in Australia of course, that would translate to hitting a six).

Tonight, one particular Australian tech hack is at the very centre of the blogosphere's hot story of the moment. Although, the jury is still out on whether he's hit a homer or if he's taken a wild air swing.

That journalist is David Richards, who penned the now infamous 60% Of Windows Vista Code To Be Rewritten story. Today, he updated his story with quotes from the marketing director of Acer Australa who "confirmed independently of SmartHouse Magazine that Microsoft is having major problems with its Vista operating system".

However, Microsoft blogger and evangelist Robert Scoble wants Richards sacked.

Whenever you see a story that says 60% of any OS is gonna be rewritten you should demand that the journalist who wrote that be immediately and publicly fired. Totally 100% incompetent. Did NOT do their homework.

Dave Winer gives Richards "zero credence" and Alec Saunders also weighed in on the "hogwash" call. But then Richards has also had people back him including Stowe Boyd and
Steve Gillmor who wrote to Scoble:

Stop calling for the head of a reporter or an editor or both about the 60% code story. Are you so sure that's untrue? Or put it another way–are you so sure anyone except maybe Bill really knows how much code has to be rewritten, or thrown away, to meet a January deadline which most likely will also slip?

For those of you who are trying to work out how much credence you want to assign the SmartHouse story, I thought, I'd fill you in on who David Richards is, because it makes this little drama even the more delectable.

Firstly, the Scobleizer isn't going to be happy to hear, that it's highly unlikely that Richards is going to be sacked, on account of the fact that he'd have to sack himself. Richards is CEO and editorial director of 4Square Media, the publisher of the Smarthouse magazine and website. So you can be pretty safe to assume that in this instance, Richards was journalist, editor and publisher. So if you want to point your spears at anyone, there's only one person you need go looking for.

Without a doubt, Richards is the most notorious and controversial technology journalist in Australia and it won't surprise anyone down under in the tech media or IT industries that he's managed to get himself embroiled in this kind of saga.

First things, first. Richards is a real, bona fide journalist. He's not an amateur blogger. He's not a techie, who took up a writing. He's got a Fleet Street background and was responsible for one of the most, important investigative journalism works ever published in Australia when his expose on the Painters and Dockers union uncovered extensive corruption and sparked a historical Royal Commission. This ain't no tinpot IT product scoop, we're talking about. This is about as close as we've gotten in Australia to a Watergate scandal.

Richards is also a successful entrepreneur. He started a PR company, Weston Communications, which he built up and sold and following that he founded a publishing company DWR Media, which he flogged to US publisher Penton Media for up to $US8 million (Penton would about 2 years later offload the division for a pittance).

Along the way, though, he's ticked a lot of people off. He's brash, pushy and thrives on controversy. He always seems to be suing someone, or else being sued. In the past few months, he's been accused on plagiarism, attacked for conflicts of interest and laid a big, steelcapped boot into one of the world's biggest PR companies.

He does, however, know a lot of people. However, in his reporting, he constantly flies dangerously close to the wind (a lot of reporters with track records for breaking news do though). So would Richards report this story without checking facts or seeking out confirmation. Absolutely. Would he write this kind of report, if he didn't think it was true. I don't think so. Would he sensationalise it? Yes. Would he have access to a "Microsoft insider" who you would really trust with this level of information. It's possible. Would I believe everything I ever read or hear from Richards. No. Would it surprise me if this story was, at least in part, true. Absolutely not.

So what does Squash reckon? I think it's mathematically impossible that Microsoft will be changing anything near 60 per cent of Vista code before release. I think it's more likely that Richard's source has heard something along the lines that 60 per cent of code will need to be reviewed.

Is Microsoft stuggling with Vista? Abso-farking-lutely. Not hitting that pre-Christmas deadline is one of, if not the BIGGEST screw-ups in Microsoft history. You cannot possibly underestimate how much angst this is going to cause Microsoft's hardware partners. You cannot possibly underestimate how much this is going to ruin Microsoft's Vista marketing plans.

With this delay, Microsoft has pretty much single-handedly ruined Christmas for the PC industry. The single-biggest season for PC sales will flop because nobody is going to buy a PC when a new OS is just around the corner. I'm sure Microsoft and its PC partners will offer free Vista upgrades to people who buy Christmas PCs but that's not going to be enough. Hell, do you want to go through that upgrade process when you can wait a couple of months and have it pre-installed. No way!

Which means Microsoft isn't going to be able to do any pre-launch marketing or else it's hardware partners will tear them to shreds. All this at a time, when Microsoft is under more competitive pressure than it's ever been before. If ever PC makers needed a reason to offer alternative operating systems to Windows, this will be it! Christmas-time Linux PCs? Guaranteed. And stand by for Apple to crank up the marketing like never before. This is an opportunity they simply will be salivating over.

So, for Microsoft to have delayed this one, there has to be major issues. All of which re-affirms everything I've learnt in dealing with David for the last ten years. Take everything he says with a grain of salt, but do listen, because more often than not somewhere in amongst the barrage, there's nuggets of truth and sometimes they're gold.

Filed under: Microsoft

Why Google shouldn’t crush Microsoft in search

Squash reckons the worst possible thing that Google can do is rub Microsoft out of the search/online advertising game.

Right now, Microsoft is a distant third behind Google and Yahoo and, let’s face it, it’s giving up a monster start. And ultimatey, Google’s defensive AOL play may well succeed in being the move that cruels Microsoft’s chances of making big bucks out of being an online advertising intermediary.

However, if Microsoft does give up on the market as a cashcow, it has a very appealing backup option. It can simply rip the guts out of the market and in doing so cut the legs out from underneath Google.

‘Startup boy’ Naval Ravikant writes similiarly on his blog. In a post titled How Microsoft can Obliterate Google, he opines “All Microsoft has to do is to give the revenues from any potential search to the site carrying it”.

Of course, first Microsoft must be “willing to forego the Google ad revenue stream in exchange for severely crippling Google”.

When you think about this, it wouldn’t be a purely defensive play, either. Sure, if MS came in and undercut the margins that Google is taking out with AdSense, it would make a big hole in Google’s bottom line and almost certainly slow down the companies momentum. But such a play would benefit Microsoft in other ways as well.

Microsoft will need AdCenter to gain critical mass. It has already conceded, that advertising-driven, on-demand applications is a space it will need to play in. The last thing it will want is to give a cut of iis ts online advertising revenues to Google or Yahoo as it starts to roll out next generation online mail and productivity applications. But if AdCenter fails to gain critical mass and AdSense and Overture control the market it won’t have a lot of choice.

If it takes a no-margin approach to AdCenter, it would have content producers converting in droves. That would make AdCenter so much more effective, driving up AdCenter rates and thereby increasing the revenue MS can derive from hotmail, msn, live.com, online versions of office, etc. Let’s remember that if Microsoft fully embraces this model, it could almost instantly become the biggest content producer on the net. After all, compare how much time you spend working in Word, say compared to the number of times you use search.

And then who’s the Internet do-gooder? Microsoft becomes the champion of the net, with its benevolent act of turning over all online advertising revenue to the people who produce the content. Hooray, hoorah for Steve and Bill. Suddenly Google at $430 a pop doesn’t look like such a great investment.

Filed under: Google, Microsoft, Online Advertising

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