The problem facing every tech company

Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, blogs about the difficulty of getting people to see their new technology and programs.

I feel his pain.

When I was in Montana I met people who hadn't heard of blogs, podcasts, or Second Life (or even Windows Vista). You know, normal people. People who have other things to care about than what is on TechMeme.

Heck, today I spoke to a group of PR professionals and only 2 out of the 40 or so that were there watched TechMeme (they really should, since they are PR pros in the tech world).

So, if you were talking to Jonathan what ideas would you give him for reaching the unreachable masses?

Disclaimer: the other day Jonathan invited me to have lunch with him (thanks to Tim Bray). That'll happen soon. He's the first CEO of a major tech company to invite me to lunch. I am very honored and hope to learn a lot from one of the few CEOs who blog.

My tip? I'll ask him why he doesn't do a video blog ala a Channel 9. So many people come up to me and tell me Channel 9 changed how they viewed Microsoft that I know there's some real power in amateur, shaky-cam video.

I wonder if that team he spoke with (a Fortune 100 tech team) knew about Windows Communication Foundation or Windows Presentation Foundation, or what's in the latest Sharepoint, or what Microsoft Dynamics does? 

Google’s achilles heel: search, er, Technorati

If I were in Bill Gates' office right now wondering how I'd deal with Google, one of my first proposals would be to take a deep look at why Technorati is succeeding in the marketplace on Google's home turf: search.

Technorati has taken quite a bit of my search time away from Google and

Why is that? Well, Google has the same disease that Microsoft has: it can't see small things.

Blog search is a small thing.

Not enough users to get product managers at Microsoft or Google excited. Instead they look at the big audiences and the big money.

I can just hear Eric Schmidt at Google telling his troops: "let's go after Microsoft, cause that's where the money and users are."

And I can hear Bill Gates at our offices telling us "let's go after Search, cause that's where the money and the users are."

In the meantime Technorati is sticking its tongue out at both of us saying "you suckers, you can't see the small things and the small things are important."

Technorati is a proof case that Google is vulnerable on search.

Now, it's up to us to start seeing the small things. Give Dave Sifry a call. He'll show the way. Tom Foremski of ZDNet sees it

Google announces more sleepless nights ahead for MSFT product managers

Ahh, Google announces a spreadsheet service and the bloggers go nuts.

This is a good thing in my book.


It's a good thing because of my philosophy. I want better software. Competition brings better software. It gets product managers to worry about customers. It causes discussions of features that were long-ago decided on.

You're watching two massively different ideas about how computers should be used battling it out right on the world's economic stage.

On one hand you have the old standard Office that says "load locally and use local resources."

On the other hand you have the new, fresh and clean, Google Office that says "load on the server and use a thin client, er browser."

I know which one I'm betting on. Why? Perspective. Even with my always-on-$80-a-month Verizon card getting to Network resources is still far slower than pulling them off of the hard drive. And, that'll remain true for a long time. Also, the Web browser simply doesn't have the API support to do really rich stuff.

Which predicts where Google and Microsoft will really battle it out: in the middleware.

Ahh, middleware 2.0 wars coming soon to a browser near you. Why? Cause as Google gets more people to try its spreadsheets more people will ask for more features. If they don't get those features the PR will turn back toward Microsoft's approach (since our Office has a lot more features than Google's offerings do). There will be pressure on at Google to add features but DHTML (er, Ajax) will simply run out of gas. So, you'll start seeing middleware coming down. (Runtimes like .NET, Flash, Java, and WPF, are what I'm thinking about — I'd bet that Google is working on a browser-runtime of its own that'll add a lot of local functionality to Web clients).

On the other hand, we're going to feel pressure to add online functionality to our Office suites. You're already seeing us respond to that pressure (Sharepoint added RSS, Blogging, and Wiki's in its next incarnations).

All this is great for customers because they'll have a lot more choices again. I agree with Don Dodge that right now there's a clear winner in this battle, but I'm not cocky enough to believe that Google won't figure this out long term. There are too many smart people over there for us to not take this threat seriously.

That said, I finally have switched to Windows Vista and Office 2007 on my main working machines and, wow, is Office 2007 getting underhyped. If I was a Microsoft product manager over on Office I'd send every blogger a free copy and say "please compare to Google Office." I'd love to see the blog hype if we did that.

Update: Dan Farber sees the two approaches as complimentary, not competitive. That's an interesting way to look at it too. Joe Wilcox is worried that Microsoft will get distracted by Google. Oh, I don't think we have to worry about that too much. I worry a lot more that both of our companies are missing the small things. Believe me, if the CTO of General Motors wants a feature in Excel, he or she will probably get it. Google can't distract us THAT much. But, what things are we missing? What are the opportunities that are bubbling up that we don't see?

Update 2: Vadivel Mohanakrishnan reminded me that there have been online spreadsheets for quite some time. Zohosheet has one, for instance. The thing is, I'm very unlikely to give even a big company my corporate data, but far far far less likely to give a small company that stuff. Why? What happens if they go out of business? That shows the market forces that'll bring most Web 2.0 apps into one of the big three companies.