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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Gillmor Gang Returns at 1PM today

It will (likely) be here  While I won’t be on the show, something I have been working on should surface there. 

That is as much of a pre-announcement as I can make . . . vague and conditional as it is.

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Don’t ignore the Twitter user contracts

On the Friday Gillmor Gang, we discussed a decentralized Twitter.  It was both constructive and sometimes contentious.

Chris Saad discussed his idea (GetPingd) — an interesting approach that got short shrift on the call.  Bob Lee had some idea on how to do more with Jabber.

A couple more things (some of which I articulated on the call).

Twitter is not micro-blogging.  It can be used for micro-blogging, but it is a different animal completely.  It isn’t instant-messaging either, though it is used for that a lot.  As a result, if you are trying to improve it — or replace it — don’t try to force it into these other paradigms.  

Why do I say this isn’t just micro-blogging or IM?  Look at the user contracts:

  • Blogging has a simple Subscribe/Unsubscribe contract.  Twitter has block / track / direct messages (and soon filter).
  • IM generally has a friend approval mechanism to receive IM’s.  That is if you want updates from me through IM, I have to say it is OK.  Twitter allows this “private updates” feature, but the default is open.

Don’t try to architect a better Twitter by ignoring these contracts — your service will fail.

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Yahoo not in Microsoft

I had to drop off the emergency Gillmor Gang last night before I had a chance to give my thoughts on the Microsoft / Yahoo deal.  Not only did Steve call an emergency Gang, but it looks like the blogosphere did as well.  Anyway, here is what I think:

All bad for Yahoo

  1. Yahoo fought the deal, lost a bunch of key employees, increased “golden parachutes” for employees, etc.  While Yahoo didn’t ask for a takeover bid, it was pretty clear Ballmer was going to go after Yahoo again.  Jerry Yang should have been ready, but wasn’t.  His response was to take measures which make it harder for the company to do business as an independent.
  2. Yahoo’s stock price is about to plummet.  My guess is well below its price before this all started.
  3. And, investor lawsuits. 

Mixed for Microsoft

  1. Ballmer spent a lot of time and money on this and came up short.  Unless he had the secondary goal of sabotaging Yahoo this was just a waste of time and money.  Clearly he thought he could get it done, but he didn’t, and he failed there.
  2. Merging the companies together would have been very difficult culturally — and I think a long hard slog for everybody involved.  Good thing this is avoided.
  3. Microsoft still needs to jumpstart their advertising revenues.  It really isn’t clear how they do this.  Live Mesh is a longer term play for building a stick and highly compelling services platform.  This will convert to ad revenue, but not very quickly.

The real issue for Microsoft is how to convert the (still strong) Office / Windows revenues into a sustainable and growing advertising platform.

What I think Microsoft needs to do now:

  1. Robert Scoble says that Live is a damaged brand.  Building cool services won’t fix this on its own.  Microsoft needs to fix this by defining Live in a way that is clear.  Live can’t be all things to all people!  Define it.
  2. Windows Vista is a damaged brand.  While this is slightly off the topic of a services platform, it is dead center on the Microsoft definition of S+S.  They need to fix this.  The whole “Vista Ready” fiasco really informs what Microsoft did wrong here.  Number one priority for Microsoft on Vista should be to make it as performant and stable as XP. 
  3. Wait.  Keep building out their very cool services and dev platform.  Get a Silverlight Office out.  Keep an eye on Yahoo.  Maybe after Yahoo gets hammered, the economics will make sense.

Microsoft clearly has had a two-pronged strategy here: build and buy.  Buy is out for now — as it isn’t clear what other acquisitions get Microsoft what they need — but build is going like crazy.  The problem with build alone is that it only works accompanied with brand.  So I think the real question is:

How will Microsoft fix their brand woes?

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On Live Mesh and Silverlight

David Treadwell was on the latest Gillmor Gang talking about the recent Live Mesh announcement.  David’s title is Corporate Vice President, Live Platform Services and has been described as Ray Ozzie’s point man on the Mesh.

It was a pleasure talking with him — and thanks to David for the LiveMesh invitations.

The synchronization capability in this preview is a big deal not in what it provides, but for what it promises. 

That is why it is a little disappointing that there is such a heavy emphasis on Windows and Windows Mobile.  I discount the coming Macintosh support because support for non-Windows mobile devices is really the issue.  If iPhones and Blackberrys are out of the equation, then the synchronization story isn’t so compelling.

Nobody should be surprised about Microsoft promoting Windows.  And I certainly am not, but Microsoft’s new openness had me hoping for a different alignment of Microsoft strategy.  One in which their S+S play would de-couple the Windows, Office, Windows Mobile, and Live businesses.  I saw this happening through the Silverlight runtime everywhere.  I hoped that the mobile Live Mesh synchronization client would be written on top of Silverlight.  I hoped that the next Office Mobile would be too.  Then Live services could serve any device running Silverlight.  And so on.  I’ve written about this previously, so I’ll leave it at that.

Instead, Microsoft is approaching Live Mesh as a set of open protocols that anyone can implement. So, an iPhone version could be written by a 3rd party using the Apple SDK.  Just implement the protocols — of which FeedSync seems to be the major part — and you are all set.  That is very good and much better than requiring the use of a Microsoft runtime to make it happen.

But, in addition to the open protocols, I would still have preferred a vision where the Silverlight runtime lies underneath the Microsoft implementations of the Live Mesh client.  That way, when the next big feature set for Live Mesh is released, the new client code could conceivably run everywhere. 

I want to make one thing clear: I’m not saying that Silverlight in its current form could support this at all.  And I know Silverlight’s (nee WPF/E) genesis emphasized presentation, but at the end of the day, it is a .NET runtime. 

As David says (from the Gillmor Gang transcript on TechCrunch):

Treadwell: I really view mesh and Silverlight as orthogonal and complementary technologies. Essentially what the mesh client does, it’s the runtime for doing synchronization and collaboration those kinds of things. I view Silverlight as a runtime that does the presentation engine. Mesh doesn’t really have anything for presentation, Silverlight doesn’t really have anything for synchronization and mobile communications. Working together I think you have a very good thought there about the combination of these and how they’ll come together. We’re working actively on that but we don’t have all the I’s dotted and t’s crossed.

Yes.  They are orthogonal if Microsoft says they are.  And Live Mesh and Silverlight will somehow come together though this appears to mean in terms of presentation.  Fair enough.

And more than a little cool.

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Gillmor’s Group on Facebook

Recorded a show with Steve and the Gang last Friday.  Steve says,

Last Friday we recorded a new show titled The Gang. I’m initially asking those interested in hearing the results to join this Facebook group. Looking forward to seeing you there.

See you there? 

this is Robert's profile

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