Google and Microsoft to join?

Fortune on CNN is wondering if Google and Microsoft would join forces to go against Apple.

Sigh.

I’m tired of these “who will defend against whom?” articles.

I’d rather hear what each company will do for customers and what they’ll stand for. Not against.

That’s how we’ll build great value.

Look at my mobile post yesterday. I used Google on a Microsoft SmartPhone to make my life better. Value was created.

That’s where we should focus our energies in this industry. I see tons of camera phones. Not enough applications that use them. I see tons of RSS feeds and still haven’t seen an RSS aggregator that really makes me happy (have you tried Dave Winer’s NewsRiver yet? You can get a preview here. I’m trying it and like it.)

We need more partnerships in this industry, not more fighting. And where we fight needs to be done because you have a better idea, not cause you’re trying to tear someone else down.

Microsoft takes down Chinese blogger (my opinions on that)

OK, this one is depressing to me. It’s one thing to pull a list of words out of blogs using an algorithm. It’s another thing to become an agent of a government and censor an entire blogger’s work. Yes, I know the consequences. Yes, there are thousands of jobs at stake. Billions of dollars. But, the behavior of my company in this instance is not right.

Rebecca MacKinnon has the details in a post titled Microsoft takes down a Chinese blogger.

Why is this so important to me? Well, you ignore the voices of individual people at your peril. And, I’ve been raised by people who taught me the value of standing up for the little guy. My mom grew up in Germany. Her mom stood up to the Nazis (and got a lot of scorn from family and friends for doing so).

I do believe in a slippery slope. If they come after you today, maybe they’ll come after me tomorrow. Gotta stop this kind of stuff while we’re still talking about you.

Oh, and to: Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti I’d like to offer you a guest blog here on my blog. I won’t censor you and you can write whatever you’d like.

Guys over at MSN: sorry, I don’t agree with your being used as a state-run thug.

This whole post has a couple of disclaimers. 1) I am assuming all the facts are as Rebecca has presented them. She’s a former CNN reporter and I trust her a lot, but there might be more to the story than is being told — I’m going to try to find out. 2) These are my own opinions, obviously.

I’m copying this post to Christopher Payne, corporate Vice President over on MSN and will try to get his point of view on this.

Update: someone over on MSN Spaces just wrote me and said he hadn’t heard of this and that he’s raising this up the management chain too. I’ll report more as I hear more. he told me that Steve Liffick is the VP in charge of MSN Spaces and that he reports to Blake Irving. I’ve sent email to both of those guys on this issue.

AT&T to spend $1 billion on rebranding

Brad Feld is stunned. Me? I’d rather spend that money improving the products. See, marketers still haven’t learned. The world has changed. You can’t fool people with a Superbowl ad anymore. Well, you can a little bit, but not the way you could in the 1980s. No, our word-of-mouth networks are FAR more efficient today than they used to be. Advertising just isn’t going to have the pop it once did. What will? Product quality. It’s why I respect Jeff Bezos and the two guys who started Google and Skype and Firefox so much. They built their businesses without doing much, if any, advertising.

Google announces feed API

Niall Kennedy, of Technorati, has the news that Google will release a feed API in early 2006.

Here’s another note to Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Ray Ozzie. Hey, I asked you guys to acquire NewsGator three months ago. If you had done that you would have taken the wind out of Google’s sails. But now that Google has a feed API, we’ll need one too and right now NewsGator looks pretty good. Yeah, I know, we have RSS-SSE coming, and we have some Groovy other stuff coming too, but that’s not here yet and it’s hard to get developers excited about a new and unproven API (Google has its work cut out for it too because they don’t have that many RSS users yet. Emphasis on yet).

Yeah, I know that NewsGator has its problems too. Now, we do know that NewsGator’s API is too difficult to use. Why do we know that? Cause Dare Obasanjo (one of our developers who works on MSN Spaces backend and also does the excellent RSS Bandit in his 20% free time) is having troubles figuring it out. Dare writes about the Google news here.

Let’s be honest. We’d rebuild NewsGator from scratch anyway. That’s what big companies usually do after acquiring companies. But, it’s a lot easier to rebuild something that’s already done than have 500 meetings with seven groups figuring out what to do from scratch. What’s the opportunity cost of doing that?

Let’s look at the case for NewsGator again. They own four out of the six most used aggregators. They have the leading Outlook aggregator. Yeah, we’re doing our own in Office 12, but let’s be honest, how long will it be before that gets to more than 50% usage? I’d guess 2010. And even then there are lots of people who’ll still have Outlook 2003, and older Outlook clients, who’ll need to read feeds. Yeah, Attensa is out there with a good competitor too, but Attensa doesn’t have an API. I bet they’ll sign onto Google’s API (or they’ll be bribed with some of Google’s money).

Let’s look at the Mac. NewsGator owns NetNewsWire. It’s the best feed reader on the Mac — by far. Buying NewsGator would rejuvenate our MacBU. The Macintosh is gaining in market share and if Apple announces a nice Intel-based portable computer in January watch things go up even faster.

Now, let’s look at Media Center. A very high percentage of all PCs sold are actually Media Center Editions. Now, who has an aggregator for that? NewsGator again. Why is that important? Well, look at Chris Pirillo’s house. He has an HDTV in his family room. He has an Xbox 360. And he has a Media Center in his office. What was one of the first things he showed me? His Media Center playing on his Xbox’s screen. Now, imagine if NewsGator was pulling down podcasts. If it was going off to the BBC and pulling in pictures and news. If it were going to his Flickr feeds and pulling down his friend’s photos in live time.

Now, switch over to my sooopppeerrr doooopppeeerrr new SmartPhone. Who has an aggregator for that? A few companies, but NewsGator has a Web service that shows me feeds. I like it a lot.

OK, now we are still a company that cares about regular old Windows, right? After all, we’re shipping a new version of Windows next year. So, who has the best aggregator for Windows? NewsGator again. With FeedDemon.

To put a little icing on the cake, NewsGator is the only RSS syndication system that hooks into Microsoft Exchange that I know about.

You’re not on any of these? Well, did you know NewsGator also has a Web client that’s getting raves? I like it better than Bloglines (which is one of the popular feed readers that NewsGator doesn’t own).

Oh, and here’s even more icing: on top of all this NewsGator does blog search and does it better than many of the more popular “blog search” engines. Why? Cause it searches YOUR feeds (which don’t include all the blog spam that hit other engines).

All this stuff is synchronized. Read a feed on your Mac, it marks it as read on Windows, and on SmartPhone, on the Web, on the Media Center, and in Outlook.

Anyway, if you were Bill/Steve/Ray what company would you want to acquire?

A conversation with Windows Vista Kernel Team

This is Channel 9’s Christmas Present to geeks everywhere. A candid conversation with the team that’s building Windows Vista’s kernel. I even ask if they wish the registry had never been invented. But, Charles Torre did most of the interviewing. Being in a room with these guys for an hour makes my brain hurt.

They give a lot of details about how they are rearchitecting Windows to make it easier to ship new, higher-quality, versions of the OS.

I don’t remember any conference where these four people get together and just have a simple conversation. In 2006 I’m going to push for even more corporate transparency into why we do the things we do. Since much of the world has bet on our products, shouldn’t the world have better conversations with the folks who build those products?

Think about the impact on the world these four people have. If there are going to be hundreds of millions of people using Windows Vista (and that’s if it’s a market failure), and these four people find a way to increase computer speeds even a few seconds a day (or do something similarly impressive to increase productivity), imagine the economic impact of that.

Happy Holidays from building 18 on Microsoft’s headquarters! Hope you have a good one!

Update, I wish I were back in Belgium with this Nine Guy.

Salesforce hits problems

This is why I said “give Six Apart a break” a few days ago. Turns out that Salesforce.com had an outage the other day too. See, this is why I don’t like this rush to the Web for everything. It’s why I like an RSS aggregator that stores my stuff on BOTH the Web AND my desktop or Tablet PC. Silicon.com has a better article on this.

This is why I say Steve Gillmor is nuts when he says Office is dead. Silicon Valley has been trying to kill the thick client ever since it came out. Sorry, I still want my data local. It’s what I really liked about Radio UserLand. Right now my data is at WordPress. Now, I like Matt a lot, but he’s in control of my digital life. If his servers get hit by a terrorist everything I have disappears. Not so if I had it stored locally as a backup like I did with Radio UserLand.

But, back to the Six Apart point. Truth is that these systems are still way too fragile and having a totally resilient system is extremely difficult. I’m certainly not going to throw the first rock here. But, I love having systems that have BOTH a Web and a local storage capability.

I look at Exchange’s email. I can get to it from a Web browser, which is great cause I can get to my email over at friends’ houses without having to carry my Tablet PC along, but I also have it stored locally (on several machines, I might add) so if something with the Internet or datacenter goes screwy I have everything backed up.

In all the Web 2.0 hype I don’t see enough emphasis on this. Look at Riya. I have to upload my photos to their servers to have the system work. Why can’t I do all that work locally as well and have a backup copy?

I’ll tell you why: adoption.

Most entrepreneurs (and even those of us inside big companies) know that you’ll get far faster adoption if you don’t make users install anything.

Which is why things like Salesforce.com are so attractive. It reduces IT costs by not forcing companies to install software on their PCs.

But, there is a cost. You’re looking at it in this post.