How can Microsoft keep its platform vibrant?

I walked around a company, Soasta, today that had nothing but Macintoshes for all of its developers — all used to develop testing systems that’ll run in Web browsers. And this was a startup aimed at Enterprises. Folks who build systems for Salesforce.com. For Oracle. Etc.

The company was full of people who used to do .NET programming (one of whom used to work for Dan Appleman, the guy who wrote the API book for Visual Basic).

This should freak Microsoft out.

Why are they using non-Microsoft tools? One, by using a Mac for development systems they can run Linux, Windows, and OSX on a single box. That saves them money and administration time (they use Paralells for running these different OS’s virtually).

But the Executive Chairman, Ken Gardner, saw that he was more productive when he switched from a Windows machine to a Mac. He also noticed he was more productive when he worked on a 30-inch screen.

Every worker there has TWO 30-inch screens. One at home and one at work. Ken knew his employees would work more if they had nice equipment at home too. So, he bought everyone a MacPro for the office (faster, so gives coders incentive to work in the office) and a MacBookPro for taking home.

The software they are building is brilliant, too.

Why don’t all companies invest in their workers this way? Ken says it gets results. And I can’t argue with what I saw through my camera lens.

THE POINT

Anyway, this all had a point. I got off on this riff cause of Joe Wilcox who laid out yesterday why Microsoft got so big and how it is harming its ecosystem of partners by releasing competing applications. He says that Microsoft is leaving a hole that he thinks Google could fill. There’s only nine months left until Vic Gundotra takes a new job at Google. He did a lot of strategy and developer evangelism work. Clearly Google is building a new kind of ecosystem and is courting developers. They are winning over the startup-style developers and new entrepreneurs to be sure. But, will they get the bread-and-butter developers who used to use Visual Basic?

SOASTA is betting on the Web. If Microsoft doesn’t watch out, they certainly won’t be the last company to switch people from .NET to more Web-centric and open-source development methodologies.

Will Microsoft listen to Joe Wilcox? That’s the question that developers everywhere (and their bosses like Ken Gardner) will watch to see the answer to.

By the way, Ken doesn’t think Microsoft can make the switch.

Google proves advertising industry is quite robust

Google’s profit doubles.

I’m here talking with Pete Flint, CEO of Trulia, a real estate search engine, and I just told him that Henry Blodgett was wrong and I was right. Pete agrees.

But, Henry is sticking to his guns.

Truth is that Google is the new Yellow Pages. If you aren’t advertising on Google you simply aren’t in business because most searchers who are looking for things like “San Francisco Real Estate” are using Google. That’s not me saying that, it’s Pete. He’s showing me his referer logs, and they definitely show that Google sends more traffic his way than any other search engine.

Anyway, I believe Henry is wrong. I think Google is still gaining strength in the advertising market when compared to Yahoo and Microsoft. With YouTube entering the picture Google is positioned to gain even more.

There’s still lots of businesses out there who don’t realize that Google is the new Yellow Pages. But, as stories like what Pete just told me get around, more businesses will start advertising on Google.

To underscore that. Reuters reports that Google’s growth rate is TWICE that of eBay, Yahoo, or Microsoft’s growth rate. Translation: Google is outrunning any softness that might be in the marketplace (at least in the short term) through its growth. That’ll continue unless the economy takes a turn for the worse (and, according to every number on CNBC lately, shows signs of picking up, not weakening further).

Now, yeah, Yahoo and Microsoft are coming out with advertising systems that act a lot like Google’s does, but it’s going to be hard for those search services to convince new advertisers that the hottest traffic is there.

Pete certainly doesn’t believe that Google is losing any share to Yahoo and Microsoft.

Translation: Henry is wrong. He’ll continue to be wrong. As long as the economy doesn’t get hit hard by something none of us are forseeing.

Oh, and Steve Rubel, you are wrong too.

Disclaimer: I don’t own shares or have any interest in any of the big three search and advertising companies.

UPDATE: Om Malik agrees with me and takes a subtle potshot at those who bought into the Blackfriars’ report, as Rubel did.

Firefox vs. IE 7 (IE7 having trouble with Google sites?)

Chris Messina, who used to work on Flock (an open source browser based on the same code that runs Firefox), says the beast has woken up. Beast being Microsoft.

But IE7 does have some challenges ahead of it. Some sites in it render very slow. Most notably for me, Google Reader (that’s now my most used Web site because I’m reading all my feeds there and building my link blog with it). I’m also using the new Firefox 2 and Firefox is a LOT faster. IE7 is frustratingly slow on Google Reader. It seems to hang whenever new stuff is being downloaded in the background via AJAX. To be fair, Google is probably pushing the browser in all sorts of ways, even the MSN team decided to back off on its use of AJAX due to speed problems, though (Live.com used to have an infinite scroll capability, which I really loved but they got rid of it after speed complaints came in).

I haven’t yet visited enough sites with both browsers to know whether this is a single site problem, or an experience that I’ll have overall, but Firefox 2 does seem faster.

UPDATE: I just went to Google Maps with both browsers too. Same results. Firefox 2 is a LOT faster on AJAX (dragging the map around feels a lot better on Firefox 2).

On Local.live.com, though, both browsers behaved almost exactly the same (both were fast).

I wonder what the difference in AJAX calls are between the two mapping sites. That might demonstrate that Web 2 sites might need to do some homework to get their sites to be performant in both IE7 and Firefox.

By the way, I just did a little “start up test” of both browsers. I set both browsers home page to TechMeme. Then I started both up. Then I closed both. Then I started them both up again. Both times Firefox noticeably beat IE7 on completing the page load.

So, my #1 wish for IE8 is already “more speed please.”

What have your experiences been?