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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Vista / Office Launch

Some thoughts I had during the keynote at the SF launch today:

Much different than the last big launch event: VS2005/SQL Server/Biz Talk.  No Cheap Trick, but the CEO of Sierra Nevada Brewery spoke.  That was cool: their Pale Ale is a real winner.

Things I like about Vista:

  1. User Account Control (UAC).
  2. I like the new UI and search capabilities.
  3. Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager.
  4. Reliability Manager

I am excited about this upgrade, but I’m still waiting for the final VS2005SP1 for Vista patch and the Netgear VPN driver upgrade.

About Office

Office looks cool and certainly offers the enterprise real benefits, but I’m just not personally excited about the upgrade.  The main reason, compatibility: I just don’t want to be bothered with making sure my files are compatible with co-workers, partners, family members, etc.

I left the launch a bit early — too much actual work to do.

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Might Softricity enable a real Office Live?

Many people would like to see an online Office product. Bill Gates says that what people really want are online documents. That is, if Office is available everywhere (with a full-desktop license or through some other interface) then the users need to get to their documents from any machine.

Setting aside this storage requirement (and the services to support it) for a moment, making Office available everywhere requires one of two things:

  1. An Office Live strategy that actually includes Office products — meaning re-writing or newly written Office applications for the Web (which is apparently what Bill Gates doesn’t think people want); or
  2. Easy deployment of the existing Office desktop products anywhere.

Isn’t that what Softricity’s SoftGrid product does? From their site:

All applications are instantly available anywhere in the world – from a user’s desktop or a browser . . . whether the machine is the user’s own computer or a device shared by many users; or whether the user is on a high-speed or dialup connection — or even completely disconnected.

In addition, they claim that they can rapidly pull just the part of the application needed by the user (again, from their site):

. . . the Softricity client rapidly responds and “pulls” only the code necessary to start the program from a central Server — typically 20-40% of the total code. This happens without any degradation in functionality or response time; applications launch within seconds, based on application size and connection speed.

So, Office 2007 + Softricity = Office Live?

Is this the real reason Microsoft is buying Softricity? Is this the Office Live strategy? Mr. Ozzie, is this your online strategy? Robert, do I have it right?

Yesterday I wondered about the overlap between Softricity and FlexGo. So, alternatively, Office 2007 + FlexGo = Office Live.

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Time is on our side

Steve Gillmor posts provocatively about attention, standards, timing, and Office, in Time is on our side.

I posted before that the work that the AttentionTrust is doing is very interesting with powerful connotations.

One valuable, pragmatic, insightful (and inciteful) thing they’ve done is to put together a way to track attention without standards bodies. Sure, those can come along, but nothing revolutionary happens through standards bodies. First you show it is interesting by doing real work (e.g., the AttentionTrust Extension, ATX; or ROOT Markets). Then let the interested (and threatened) get involved. Even in this case, the first format for attention data will soon be superceded by OPML.

I do want to point out, though, that I wasn’t slamming Steve for saying office is dead, exactly. It was I who brought up Office at the TechCrunch party. I was trying to poke fun at Steve about Office “already being dead”. This came from our earlier argument at the Berkeley Geek Dinner. He has been arguing this and Robert Scoble refutes it. I think what it comes down to is that Steve is saying that Office is dead (see Office Dead) meaning that the writing is on the wall for Office. I don’t think he isn’t saying people won’t upgrade to Office 12 (though he probably doubts that the numbers are significant); however, I see plenty of sales and opportunities for Office for both Microsoft and ISVs regardless of the Office Live strategy. In the mid+ enterprise.

Anyway, I think that Steve’s post supports that he views time differently then many. For example:

. . .when someone tells you how long something is going to take to make a difference, divide by 10. 10 years, 1 year. 5 years, 6 months. A year, a month and a half.

Most of us think in opposite terms: we tend to under-estimate how long something will take to make an impact. And I think the difference is, again, that Steve is talking about the implication of the “something” versus the practical, mass adoption of that “something” (or irrelevance of the alternative). I’ll leave that to him to refute, agree, or ignore.

And, I wish I hadn’t brought up Office, because we were having a much more interesting discussion about attention . . .

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Dave Winer’s Geek Dinner for Scoble

Last night, Dan and I went to the geek dinner Dave Winer hosted for Robert Scoble. While I’ve been to many parties and dinners full of geeks, this was my first “geek dinner.”

There was an interesting mix of people: entrepreneurs from Web 2.0 startups, various software developers, many bloggers, and other assorted geeks.

The highlight of the evening for me was the discussion that started just before the restaurant closed. We adjourned to the parking lot to continue until it became too cold and too late (although, apparently Robert and Steve Gillmor kept it going for another hour and a half, see Geek dinner Gillmortastic). It was a little challenging to get Steve Gillmor’s entire point, although I guess Robert finally got it after we all left.

The conversation was, I think, a typical one: why Microsoft doesn’t get Web 2.0 (i.e., how Google will beat Microsoft). Steve Gillmor has some pretty strong views about the mind share that Google has regarding applications. Yet he believes that Office will lose (or has lost) the battle. It appears that he wants to see AJAX-enabled interfaces to everything. All browser-based, all thin-client.

I think the major point of disagreement between Gillmor and many others in the crowd had to do with the utility of browser-based software models. For example:

  • Gillmor wants to do all of his RSS reading on the Web. I don’t. I prefer a model with the advantages of a smart client (rich UI and disconnected operation) that also allows me a surely Web-based interface. Newsgator is a perfect example of this. Both Robert and I use NewsGator in Outlook and from the Web. I also use it from my WM5 device. Even better, they are all synchronized.
  • Gillmor wants to write all his articles in e-mail. He said something to the effect of “e-mail will supplant the use of Word in the next six months”. This comment nearly resulted in a wager. I believe he is talking about a very small group of technologically-savvy early-adopters.

If Gillmor prefers Web-only, then more power to him. And he is right, there are many like him who feel the same way. But there are also a huge number of people (and these are not just corporate users) that prefer the installed-software model.

Google has enjoyed a great deal of popularity as an answer to Microsoft’s dominance. They have a stockpile of goodwill and trust from people simply because they are not Microsoft. This is not permanent. The bigger they get, the more profitable they are (if that’s possible), the more people they piss off with their own kind of over-reaching, the more this is going to wane.

And Microsoft is not standing still. Certainly, they’re concerned about Google (and I hope more concerned about supporting different models of user interaction than just Google). Next year is going to be a big year for Microsoft. I am not ready to count them out of this “Web 2.0” market.

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