Tag Archives: Microsoft

The story of 2009? Enterprise disruption?

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In addition to the interview I did yesterday with socialtext, which explores some of the disruption coming to enterprises, there’s another trend I’m tracking: the coming fight between the collaborative web and Microsoft.

Now some pundits in the industry think that the fight will be head on. Not me. I think it’ll be more parasitic. Like how mold takes over a strawberry. Slow, but in the end the strawberry dies.

Is that what we’re seeing now? Well, here’s something that is a small piece of the bigger trend. You could call it a few cells of mold on the strawberry, if you’d like.

What is it? Panorama Software for Google Apps. I shot two videos with Oudi Antebi, VP of marketing and strategy of Panorama Software. Never heard of them? Neither had I, but what they are doing is very disruptive to bigger companies:

Part I. Where we discover what is happening in the Business Intelligence space and learn what Panorama Software is doing. (This video is embedded above).
Part II. Demo of how the Panorama gadget is used to display real-time data.

So, why did this catch my eye? First, they are taking something very expensive, Business Intelligence charting and dashboarding, and making it free. That alone is pretty disruptive. When Microsoft is charging $a few hundred a seat (and Microsoft is disrupting lots of other players in the market who charge a lot more than that) you know there’s disruption when some new player comes along and under prices everyone.

But don’t focus on that disruption.

Instead, look at the bigger picture. Here they are using Google spreadsheets to bring you live, collaborative, business intelligence. Watch the second video to see how different this is from most of the “old-school” approaches that haven’t yet built on a platform designed for the web from the start.

See that’s the real disruption: there’s a new platform being built. Right now it’s ugly and incomplete. But every year it gets better and better. Will 2009 be the year when lots of you try out a web-based collaboration suite like the ones from Zoho or Google?

I am sensing “yes” is the answer. Why? The economy is forcing big companies to cut every cost they can and this stuff is not only lower cost (often free, or a few bucks a month) but it also is much more productive. Now anyone in a group can update a spreadsheet and everyone in the company can see that activity in real time.

This is very powerful and useful. I remember visiting Printing for Less a few years back. They had graphs like this on their intranet for all their employees. But now anyone can build them for very little money.

And keep watching, this stuff isn’t only for Google. It is for Salesforce.com and other enterprise data.

After the cameras were off he showed me something else they are working on for 2009. He swore me to secrecy, but I can say this, if what he showed me comes out a lot of things will be flipped and a lot of people will finally get some use out of the collaborative world.

The other question for 2009 is will Microsoft’s slow efforts to “webize” its Office Suite be enough to keep these trends at bay for another year? My gut feeling? Microsoft is so strong and so well capitalized and living off of the continued strong momentum that it won’t be hurt in 2009 but by the end of the year most pundits will start noticing the fuzz on the strawberry and will start asking deep questions of Microsoft’s leadership.

Who said that enterprise software was boring?

Testing out the latest Windows Live Writer

I’m playing around with Windows Live Writer, here’s their blog where you can download it from.

They released a new version last week and it’s a very nice way to edit your blog (it’s an offline editor that lets you write and edit your blog without using a browser). Hooked up to my blog very quickly. Presents me with a much nicer user interface than WordPress.com has. Doesn’t rely on the browser, so I can open and close the browser as much as I want (since I’m playing with an early version of Firefox that crashes a lot on my system that’s a huge advantage). I’ll have to get Maryam using this for her blog, since it’s a lot nicer. Of course it always takes me about a year to convince her to do anything. If you read her blog (I’m her husband) you’d know why.

One more test, I want to see if I can copy and paste accurately from FriendFeed. I’m using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8.0, beta 2, and copied this item, and am just pasting it in here:

Google Reader Louis GrayGoogle Reader
Rumors of Upcoming Microsoft Cut-Backs

OK, it did just about the same as copying an item out of Google Chrome and into WordPress.com’s browser-based editor does. Cool.

Anyway, looking good. You should try it with your blog and let us know how it goes.

Why haven’t I always used it? Because I was using a bunch of different computers and didn’t like having a great UI on one, but not on the others (Windows Live Writer doesn’t work on an iPhone, for instance) and I wanted to know WordPress.com like the back of my hand so I could post faster. Now I don’t need that anymore because all my fast posting is done on Twitter or FriendFeed, and also because I’m consolidating my blogging into one computer, so an offline editor makes more sense.

Thanks Microsoft, very nice job!

Does Microsoft have a speed problem?

I just saw that Redfin has switched its maps from Microsoft’s maps to Google’s maps. Why?

The Redfin blog says “speed, speed, speed.”

It says that Google’s maps are 385% faster than Microsoft’s.

This matches my observations too, but it doesn’t end there, and is why I have so many arguments lately with Steve Gillmor. Gillmor, you see, keeps telling me that Microsoft is going to really rock and roll with Ray Ozzie in charge (Ray’s teams are developing a bunch of really cool sounding cloud-based services, but then Microsoft’s Maps are really cool too, if you compare just features. Even the RedFin blog admits that Microsoft had more features, including more aerial views).

But, when I go to my wife’s blog, which is on Microsoft Spaces, it is TONS slower than WordPress. WordPress doesn’t have the huge data centers available to it that Microsoft has. Same when I use my Hotmail account. Gmail is faster. Same when I go to other things, because I’ve seen lots of people praising Microsoft’s Live.com services lately so I’ve been testing them out. Tonight ReadWrite Web, for instance, talks about the new Microsoft Labs bookmarking service.

But if you can’t make them fast, I just don’t want to have any part. This is the major reason why I chose to spend most of my time on FriendFeed instead of Facebook. Speed, speed, speed.

I thought I might be alone in that, but interesting to see Redfin making that point too.

What about you? Is there anything more important than speed? Especially when it comes to cloud services that I’m going to integrate into my blog?

Never underestimate Microsoft’s ability to turn a corner

This week Microsoft didn’t get much hype for its three major announcements. Certainly it didn’t stay on top of TechMeme as long as, say, if Steve Jobs gets a sniffle. But don’t miss what they did.

1. On day 1 of the PDC they announced Azure, which is a set of cloud services that competes with Amazon’s S3 and Rackspace’s Mosso and will radically change enterprises’ acceptance of cloud services for a whole lot of reasons.

2. On day 2 of the PDC they showed off Windows 7 which is getting high praise from my blogging friends who were lent laptops with it on there (I didn’t get Windows 7 yet).

3. On day 3 of the PDC they showed off new Web-based versions of Microsoft Office that were really nice. Will the new PowerPoint have the collaborative features, of, say, SlideRocket? Will Zoho go out of business? No, and no, but this is a significant move into the Web for a group that’s tried to pretend that the Web didn’t matter that much.

4. They also released new Mac and Mobile versions of Mesh and further explained how that’ll enable new kinds of Internet-connected apps to be built.

Some really great resources on all this:

Microsoft put up videos of every session at the PDC.
Ars Technica covered it well
.
Microsoft’s own Channel 9 has a ton of videos.
I have a database of all blogs and good items on FriendFeed for these searches:

So, lets talk about whether Microsoft will be successful in changing the marketplace again. First some things you should remember:

  1. Microsoft has an extraordinarly strong sales force.
  2. Microsoft is a world-wide company with thousands of evangelists located in almost every local market. When I attended the Converge South conference in North Carolina, Microsoft had an evangelist there to make sure everyone got the latest software they were pitching. Same thing happens in Israel. In China. In Russia. In Dubai. In India. Does Rackspace have that kind of on-the-ground sales muscle? No.
  3. Microsoft is one of the few companies with enough cash to ride out the recession in good shape and keep its data centers up-to-date with the latest machines.
  4. Microsoft has a huge set of developers who know Visual Studio well and have been building apps with C# and Visual Basic for years now.
  5. Microsoft has sales leverage due to its other products. Here’s an imaginary Microsoft salesperson’s pitch: “You want Exchange server? Your company will need to buy that unless you’re a small startup and can consider going with a new approach like Gmail. Well, how about you get it a lot cheaper if you go with our cloud services?” Same for Sharepoint. Or SQL Server.

Translation: It doesn’t matter that Microsoft didn’t get all that much hype this year at the PDC or that it didn’t sell out or that other companies like Amazon, Google, and Rackspace are ahead in the cloud game.

You just saw Ray Ozzie turn the creaky old cruiseliner hard to port and damn, it is impressive.

What do you think? Am I right? Did the old cruiseliner just make a major corner turn? Or is this all stuff that can be ignored?

More on Microsoft and not going to PDC

Frank Shaw answers back. He’s the head of Microsoft’s account at Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft’s main PR firm (and has been for years). Frank’s one of the smartest guys in the PR business, so it’s good for him to step in here. He basically has a finger lashing for everyone involved in yesterday’s incident, including me. I just saw his post in Google Reader, and added this note to it when I put it on my shared items blog:

Frank runs PR for Microsoft for Waggener Edstrom. He takes me to task. Fair enough. I over reacted a bit, mostly because employees were saying that what they said on blogs and on Twitter doesn’t reflect back on their companies, even if they try to disclaim that it’s their opinions. Sorry, that’s just not true. I didn’t make that point well, though, and over reacted. I’m still not going to PDC, it just isn’t high enough value for me. Same reason I’m not going to Apple’s PR thing in the morning. Engadget will beat me all over the place and I don’t have a team to tackle the event. At conferences I rarely get video that fits FastCompany.tv’s style — this year I’ve been to dozens of conferences. How many have you seen video from? Very few.”

To other Microsoft employees, I apologize. Glad to see that Frank addressed this in public.

My feelings got stirred up quite a bit by being on Gillmor Gang and hearing the other participants in the call saying they thought it affected their perception of Microsoft in a negative way, so I figured I’d make a point to get a discussion going. It did that, for sure, and for doing that I’ve done myself some harm. I’ll lick my wounds and come back at it tomorrow.