Category: Microsoft

Popfly mashups

After Steve Clayton demoed it to me last week, I decided to try playing around with Microsoft’s Popfly. Popfly is a tool for creating Mashups in Silverlight, with a drag and drop interface.

Popfly

It comes with a tutorial (on right) and the interface is easy to get used to. In fact it is even easier to use than Yahoo Pipes.

I built the app below in a few clicks. It displays the status of my Facebook contacts.

http://www.popfly.ms/users/TomRaftery/FaceBook%20Bubbls.small

This app was created in Firefox on my MacBook Pro.

One glitch I did note was that you can’t write into the Search box (when using Firefox on a Mac).

Microsoft buys 1.6% of FaceBook for $240m

The New York Times is reporting this morning that Microsoft has bought a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240m, this values the company at $15bn.

This values Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 23 year old founder at $3bn and Accel Partners, the venture capital firm that invested $12.7 million in May 2005 now owns 11 percent of Facebook stock worth a cool $1.65 billion.

The deal must be a huge relief for Microsoft after the stories circulating yesterday that Google were about to beat them to the post (pun intended!) in buying a piece of Facebook.

This is a dream deal for Facebook as they yield only 1.6% of the company and still manage to scoop $240m.

What is in it for Microsoft? Well, on the one hand, as the New York Times reports:

As part of the deal, Microsoft will sell the banner ads appearing on Facebook outside of the United States, splitting the revenue with it. Last year, Microsoft struck a deal with Facebook to run banner ads on the site in the United States through 2011.

but, probably equally importantly, Microsoft has stymied Google’s plans to own advertising rights on Facebook.

Is Facebook really worth $15bn? Who knows. A company is worth as much as a buyer is willing to pay for it. Today, for whatever reason it is worth $15bn to Microsoft. Who knows what it will be worth next week.

Gmail adds IMAP support

I noticed that Chris Gilmer reported this morning that Gmail is now supporting IMAP for getting your mail as well as POP.

I quickly logged into my GMail account and Lo!, there was the IMAP option – wohoo!

Gmail adds IMAP

Why is this a good thing? Well, previously if you wanted to read your Gmail in your email client application (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) you had to use the POP protocol. IMAP is a better protocol for doing that because as Alex Chitu pointed out:

you’re always connected to the server, more clients can connect to the same account, you can obtain the text from a message without the attachments and the state information is synchronized (you can add labels from the client, read or delete a message and Gmail will synchronize).

Of course Hotmail (or as it is now mis-nomered Windows Live Mail) still doesn’t even allow POP access (unless you pay for it), never mind IMAP. This leads to many people’s accounts being deleted and losing all their email (happened to me last year).

Hotmail used to be a ground-breaking product until Microsoft got their hands on it and slowly squeezed the life out of it.

Microsoft needs a new strategy for its Windows platform

I have Vista installed on this laptop. I haven’t booted up Vista in weeks. Why? Because I installed Ubuntu on another partition and it is so much faster, and more secure (since Microsoft instructed me to remove Norton and then failed to get OneCare to work on this laptop).

Many others are eschewing Vista, not just because of the speed and stability issues it has but also because of the steep learning curve on moving from XP to Vista.

On the other hand Apple’s star seems to be in the ascendancy. In their financial statement released yesterday, for the quarter ended September 29th, they report:

Apple shipped 2,164,000 Macintosh® computers, representing 34 percent growth over the year-ago quarter and exceeding the previous quarterly record for Mac® shipments by 400,000. The Company sold 10,200,000 iPods during the quarter, representing 17 percent growth over the year-ago quarter. Quarterly iPhone™ sales were 1,119,000, bringing cumulative fiscal 2007 sales to 1,389,000.

“We are very pleased to have generated over $24 billion in revenue and $3.5 billion in net income in fiscal 2007,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’re looking forward to a strong December quarter as we enter the holiday season with Apple’s best products ever.”

“Apple ended the fiscal year with $15.4 billion in cash and no debt,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.

Why are Apple’s Mac sales doing so well and Vista so poorly?

At least part of the answer has to be in Apple’s strategy of releasing new versions every 12-18 months. Steve Jobs referred to this strategy in a piece in the New York Times yesterday when he said:

“I’m quite pleased with the pace of new operating systems every 12 to 18 months for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We’ve put out major releases on the average of one a year, and it’s given us the ability to polish and polish and improve and improve.”

Apple introduced OS X in 2001 and since then has brought out four newer versions (Puma, Jaguar, Panther, and Tiger) with a fifth version (Leopard – OS X 10.5) due to ship this coming Friday.

Ubuntu releases new versions on a pre-defined six monthly schedule.

Xp was also released in 2001 but the next version of Windows, Vista, didn’t ship until January 2007.

The gently, gently upgrade strategy appears to be working for Apple and Ubuntu as their uptake soars.

Microsoft needs a new strategy for its Windows platform. Its current strategy certainly isn’t working.

Microsoft Licensing blog

Via Martha Rotter’s blog (Martha is Rob Burke‘s replacement in Microsoft Ireland and I bet she hates being introduced that way!), I see that Microsoft Ireland have started a Microsoft Licensing blog.

This is a great idea because licensing Microsoft’s software correctly in any kinds of numbers is unbelievably complex. I often wonder if it is made this way purposefully so that Microsoft can maximise on profit while at the same time Microsoft can say to customers “but if you only took the licensing scheme hidden under all this complexity you could save all this money”! That’s my cynical side coming out again 🙂

Of course, using software licensed under a GPL is far simpler and there are no license fees to worry about!

Are Microsoft trying to sucker the competition?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today claiming that Microsoft are thinking of investing in FaceBook. TechMeme is buzzing with the news.

According to the WSJ article

Microsoft could purchase a stake of up to 5% in the closely held startup, at a cost in the range of $300 million to $500 million

This would value FaceBook at between $6bn and $10bn which seems high when FaceBook expects to have a profit of $30m on revenue of $150m this year, but what do I know?

I don’t suppose there is any possibility that Microsoft are trying to sucker Yahoo! or Google to jump the gun and throw a bucketload of money into FaceBook?

Microsoft will Open Source Windows (or die!)

I have said on a number of occasions that Microsoft should Open Source their Windows Operating System (and their Internet Explorer).

However, it bears repeating.

I realise it is unlikely to happen in the near term but, I firmly believe it will happen in the not-too-distant future (when Microsoft realises that they can’t compete with Open Source).

If you take it simply from a numbers perspective, Microsoft has 70,000 employees. If we say 40,000 are actively programming code for Microsoft (the rest being admin, management, marketing, etc.) then you are looking at a maximum of 10,000 who would have contributed to the development of Vista, Microsoft’s current Windows incarnation. I suspect the number is lower.

Vista is estimated to have cost Microsoft $10 billion and six years to develop and they still shipped a fairly shoddy product.

Presumably Microsoft will want to re-coup that investment before it even thinks about Open Sourcing Windows.

Compare that with the various Linux distros. It is estimated that around 100,000 people have contributed to Linux’ development! I recently installed Ubuntu on my laptop and it simply blows Vista away in terms of performance and reliability.

Why are Ubuntu and the other Linux distros so good?
Lots of reasons but a few jump out:

  1. With open source development, you are getting the “Wisdom of Crowds” – the more people involved in the development, the better the end-result
  2. Open-source development is peer reviewed so bugs are caught earlier in the process and any which make it into a release are fixed quickly
  3. In open source projects the code is written by people who self-select for jobs they have an interest/skillset in
  4. Feel free to add more in the comments!

The upsides for Microsoft of open sourcing Windows are myriad, for example:

  1. If/when Microsoft open source Windows, their Windows piracy concerns will suddenly disappear
  2. Microsoft drastically improves its reputation as an anti-competitive bullying monopolist
  3. The next operating system they write would cost a fraction of the $10bn spent on Vista and would be much higher quality

The economics of Open Source are counter-intuitive. IBM spends around $100m a year on Linux development. If the entire Linux community puts in $1 billion worth of effort and even half of that is useful to IBM’s customers, then IBM gets $500m of development for $100m worth of expenditure.

If Microsoft could, in one fell swoop, get rid of their Windows piracy concerns, write better quality software, improve their corporate image, and radically reduce their development costs, do you think they would do it?

Had a ball at BarCamp Galway

I went to BarCamp Galway over the weekend.

I arrived a bit late because I drove up from Cork on Saturday morning and then spent around 30 minutes wandering around NUIG looking for the DERI institute before I realised it is off-campus!

I eventually made it at 11 – just in time for coffee and muffins. Just as well, I was starving and needed to satisfy my muffin cravings.

I didn’t make it along to many talks because, although I originally only signed up to give one talk, a mis-communication had me down for two talks and a panel discussion! My first talk was about reducing ITs carbon footprint. I uploaded the slide deck to SlideShare. The second talk was more of a conversation around video blogging so no slides.

I did get to hear Ina‘s great talk on Social Networks and Alastair‘s also excellent talk on Internet Marketing.

I also met loads of interesting people there including Martha Rotter, Microsoft’s replacement for Rob Burke. I’m sure Martha is sick of hearing how great Rob was but, in fairness to Microsoft, it looks like they picked another winner with Martha (and if she allowed people to leave comments on her blog without having to register, I’d tell her that!).

The talks, the wifi, the food all worked perfectly – well done John, Aidan and Conor. Guys, you set the bar high.

Are IBM, Google and Sun ganging up on Microsoft?

I see IBM are now jumping into the free Office software arena by launching IBM Lotus Symphony.

IBM Lotus Symphony is a free download from the IBM site (registration required).

Up until now, Microsoft’s competition in this space has come from OpenOffice and Google – neither of whom have a strong track record in the Enterprise Office space! The entry of IBM into this space is game changing.

As well as making Symphony free for download, IBM are also committing 35 developers to the OpenOffice development project. Again conferring the the IBM seal of approval on OpenOffice suddenly marks it up for serious consideration by larger companies.

Seen in light of these recent announcements, Microsoft’s recent move to capture the student market for Office begins to have an air of desperation about it!

Dublin SilverLight event

I have written about Microsoft’s Silverlight environment several times since they debuted it at ReMix07.

For the end-user, it is a Flash-like plug-in which allows viewing of apps and media written specifically for it.

For the developer, Silverlight allows apps written in managed code to be delivered via a browser to Internet users in a platform agnostic manner.

It certainly changes what can be done with a browser and I have no doubt that Microsoft themselves will begin to use it to roll out Rich Intetnet Apps and try to regain some of the lost Internet space (Offlce Light, anyone?).

How do you find out more about Silverlight? Well, Fergal Breen of IrishDev is hosting a SilverLight event in Dublin next week (Thursday Sept 27th in the Cineworld Complex, Parnell Street, Dublin):

Martha Rotter, from the original Silverlight crew, invites you to witness how Silverlight can light up the web with Rich Interactive Applications

The event looks interesting and is free (!).

Registration is required.