September 24, 2009

Concern over Microsoft Windows 7 launch party

Well I have been taking quite a bit of crap from my developers for even having a Windows box.  Now I am hosting a Windows launch party just to get the funny hats from Msft.  But now with those totally terrible videos and the bad party themes, I am having second thoughts.  I am going to have to be drunk for this one.  Man, Msft should NOT try to out cool Apple on a product launch. 

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May 28, 2009

Windows 7 RC quick review

I installed because i had heard it had good performance and crashed less.  FAIL.

Windows 7 is no faster than 64 bit Vista that I had on my Dell XPS M1530

It broke Chrome (twice)

It broke all my printers (had to re-install)

Outlook, IE, and Explorer regularly crash now.

Outlook no longer recognizes the security certificate of my Exchange server. 

The gadgets are placed on the wrong monitor in a dual monitor set up by default and no way to change.

 

Overall Windows 7 is a FAIL but I can’t go back.

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February 3, 2008

Steve's love letter to Yahoo

Wish I had seen this one coming.

January 31, 2008
Board of DirectorsYahoo! Inc.701 First AvenueSunnyvale, CA 94089Attention: Roy Bostock, ChairmanAttention: Jerry Yang, Chief Executive Officer
Dear Members of the Board:
I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of Microsoft to make a proposal for a business combination of Microsoft and Yahoo!. Under our proposal, Microsoft would acquire all of the outstanding shares of Yahoo! common stock for per share consideration of $31 based on Microsofts closing share price on January 31, 2008, payable in the form of $31 in cash or 0.9509 of a share of Microsoft common stock. Microsoft would provide each Yahoo! shareholder with the ability to choose whether to receive the consideration in cash or Microsoft common stock, subject to pro-ration so that in the aggregate one-half of the Yahoo! common shares will be exchanged for shares of Microsoft common stock and one-half of the Yahoo! common shares will be converted into the right to receive cash. Our proposal is not subject to any financing condition.
Our proposal represents a 62% premium above the closing price of Yahoo! common stock of $19.18 on January 31, 2008. The implied premium for the operating assets of the company clearly is considerably greater when adjusted for the minority, non-controlled assets and cash. By whatever financial measure you use - EBITDA, free cash flow, operating cash flow, net income, or analyst target prices - this proposal represents a compelling value realization event for your shareholders.
We believe that Microsoft common stock represents a very attractive investment opportunity for Yahoo!s shareholders. Microsoft has generated revenue growth of 15%, earnings growth of 26%, and a return on equity of 35% on average for the last three years. Microsofts share price has generated shareholder returns of 8% during the last one year period and 28% during the last three year period, significantly outperforming the S&P 500. It is our view that Microsoft has significant potential upside given the continued solid growth in our core businesses, the recent launch of Windows Vista, and other strategic initiatives.
Microsofts consistent belief has been that the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! clearly represents the best way to deliver maximum value to our respective shareholders, as well as create a more efficient and competitive company that would provide greater value and service to our customers. In late 2006 and early 2007, we jointly explored a broad range of ways in which our two companies might work together. These discussions were based on a vision that the online businesses of Microsoft and Yahoo! should be aligned in some way to create a more effective competitor in the online marketplace. We discussed a number of alternatives ranging from commercial partnerships to a merger proposal, which you rejected. While a commercial partnership may have made sense at one time, Microsoft believes that the only alternative now is the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! that we are proposing.
In February 2007, I received a letter from your Chairman indicating the view of the Yahoo! Board that now is not the right time from the perspective of our shareholders to enter into discussions regarding an acquisition transaction. According to that letter, the principal reason for this view was the Yahoo! Boards confidence in the potential upside if management successfully executed on a reformulated strategy based on certain operational initiatives, such as Project Panama, and a significant organizational realignment. A year has gone by, and the competitive situation has not improved.
While online advertising growth continues, there are significant benefits of scale in advertising platform economics, in capital costs for search index build-out, and in research and development, making this a time of industry consolidation and convergence. Today, the market is increasingly dominated by one player who is consolidating its dominance through acquisition. Together, Microsoft and Yahoo! can offer a credible alternative for consumers, advertisers, and publishers. Synergies of this combination fall into four areas: 
Scale economics: This combination enables synergies related to scale economics of the advertising platform where today there is only one competitor at scale. This includes synergies across both search and non-search related advertising that will strengthen the value proposition to both advertisers and publishers. Additionally, the combination allows us to consolidate capital spending. 
Expanded R&D capacity: The combined talent of our engineering resources can be focused on R&D priorities such as a single search index and single advertising platform. Together we can unleash new levels of innovation, delivering enhanced user experiences, breakthroughs in search, and new advertising platform capabilities. Many of these breakthroughs are a function of an engineering scale that today neither of our companies has on its own. 
Operational efficiencies: Eliminating redundant infrastructure and duplicative operating costs will improve the financial performance of the combined entity. 
Emerging user experiences: Our combined ability to focus engineering resources that drive innovation in emerging scenarios such as video, mobile services, online commerce, social media, and social platforms is greatly enhanced.
We would value the opportunity to further discuss with you how to optimize the integration of our respective businesses to create a leading global technology company with exceptional display and search advertising capabilities. You should also be aware that we intend to offer significant retention packages to your engineers, key leaders and employees across all disciplines.
We have dedicated considerable time and resources to an analysis of a potential transaction and are confident that the combination will receive all necessary regulatory approvals. We look forward to discussing this with you, and both our internal legal team and outside counsel are available to meet with your counsel at their earliest convenience.
Our proposal is subject to the negotiation of a definitive merger agreement and our having the opportunity to conduct certain limited and confirmatory due diligence. In addition, because a portion of the aggregate merger consideration would consist of Microsoft common stock, we would provide Yahoo! the opportunity to conduct appropriate limited due diligence with respect to Microsoft. We are prepared to deliver a draft merger agreement to you and begin discussions immediately.
In light of the significance of this proposal to your shareholders and ours, as well as the potential for selective disclosures, our intention is to publicly release the text of this letter tomorrow morning.
Due to the importance of these discussions and the value represented by our proposal, we expect the Yahoo! Board to engage in a full review of our proposal. My leadership team and I would be happy to make ourselves available to meet with you and your Board at your earliest convenience. Depending on the nature of your response, Microsoft reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that Yahoo!s shareholders are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal.
We believe this proposal represents a unique opportunity to create significant value for Yahoo!s shareholders and employees, and the combined company will be better positioned to provide an enhanced value proposition to users and advertisers. We hope that you and your Board share our enthusiasm, and we look forward to a prompt and favorable reply.
Sincerely yours,/s/ Steven A. BallmerSteven A. BallmerChief Executive OfficerMicrosoft Corporation

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September 20, 2005

Microsoft reorgs

Microsoft Reorgs

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 In the name of agility and services, Microsoft has reorganized into three core divisions, each with its own president: a Platform Products & Services Division under Kevin Johnson and Jim Allchin until Allchin retires at the end of next year when his baby, Vista, materializes; a Business Division under Jeff Railes and an Entertainment & Devices Division under Robbie Bach.

Needless to say Microsoft has never done such a thing before, the world being convinced its masters are greedy of their power. It is assumed Microsoft is girding its loins for mortal combat with Google, Yahoo, Linux and folks like salesforce.com.

Microsoft also said that Ray Ozzie, the Lotus Notes wonder whose Groove Networks start-up Microsoft bought in March, will expand his role as one of Microsofts three CTOs and drive the company software-based services strategy and execution across all three divisions.

In a canned statement, CEO Steve Ballmer said, These charges are designed to align out business groups in a way that will enhance decision-making and speed of execution... Microsoft is currently the subject of a BusinessWeek cover story basically saying its lumbering bureaucracy is driving off its best people.

Ballmer also said, We see a new era of opportunity to provide greater value to our customers by weaving both software and services into forms that suit their needs. By bringing together the software experience and the service experience, we will better address the changing needs of our customers
digital lifestyles and the new world of work.

The new Platform unit, which will fall solely to Johnson when Allchin leaves, includes the Microsoft client, servers, tools and MSN, which is cast as delivering software-based services at scale.

David Cole will continue to run MSN. Eric Rudder, whos been running servers and tools, will go off and work directly for Bill Gates on some unidentified advanced development projects and overall technical strategy when Visual Studio and SQL Server 2005 later this year.

The new Business unit, which will compete with Oracle and SAP, combines the old Information Worker, a k a Office, and Microsoft Business Solutions.

The new Entertainment & Devices unit, which gets the Xbox and phones, combines the current Home and Entertainment Division and the Mobile and Embedded Devices Division and is supposed to bring more focus to Microsofts sometimes floundering efforts in the segments. The head of Mobile and Embedded Devices Division Pieter Knook will report to Bach.

The three units will report to Ballmer.

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August 23, 2005

Microsoft gets patent on iPod menu interface

In the "oops" column for Steve Jobs has GOT to be not getting a patent on the iPod interface. My bet is that it will go down as one of the biggest gaffs in technology history. Here is what the "official" microsoft line is as of today:

"We have a longstanding practice of licensing things to Apple and licensing Apple's patents to use in our products. Our approach is to recognize that, frankly, we're both mutually dependent on the good ideas of one another." - David Kaefer, business development director, Microsoft's intellectual property and licensing group, on MS getting a patent to an iPod menu interface.

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February 28, 2005

Microsoft remote desktop software a treat

I have been tinkering with VNC, IP Dynamics, and other remote desktop/VPN types of clients for quite some time. JohnLu suggested that I look at Working Remotely with Windows XP since it was free with XP Pro. So over the weekend i did. Got the server configured correctly I thought. Then tried to get the web client to work (as the help file suggested). I never could get it to work. I talked to John this morning and found out that there is in fact a Remote Desktop client under start/communications. Not in two hours of reading the Microsoft helpfiles was this mentioned. Microsoft helpfiles still suffer from the fundamental problem that they are written to explain functions and not to solve user problems. They can explain what every menu option does, but not how or when or why you might want to use any of them.

Now that I got it working, it is a breeze. Just type in password and I have full desktop control of my RAID machine in the basement. Now I can set it off to do things from three stories up. Nice trick... And FREE as part of Windows!

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August 30, 2004

Microsoft pulls file system from Longhorn as predicted

As I have been discussing, Microsoft is parting out Longhorn. On Friday another piece fell on the floor officially: Microsoft Announces 2006 Target Date for Broad Availability Of Windows "Longhorn" Client Operating System. The file system is out. Leaving one to wonder what is in? I don't call what they are targeting in 2006 Longhorn. I would call it ShortHorn.

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August 4, 2004

Microsoft launches Blog service in Japan

Reuters.com reported today that Microsoft in Japan has launched a blog service with target of 1M users by year end. I wonder why they are doing that in Japan and not MSN in America. Maybe it is really beta.

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July 23, 2004

Mark Cuban on the Microsoft Dividend

In Microsoft, Dividends and Stock Buybacks - Blog Maverick - www.blogmaverick.com Mark does a good job with the issue. He loves dividends (as I do) and hates buybacks (which I disagree with). In the end buybacks drive up the stock price. I know they are contrary messages, but they work. The problem with this one is that it is over 4 years and there is no way to game its impact. Microsoft has been buying their stock to fund the option pool for a long time. They typically do it one day in the market and tell the market when they are doing it. The price usually goes up a little that day. For this buyback I don't think they will do it that way. Their objective here is to get the most shares off the market for the lowest price. Not pay shareholders money, that is what the dividend is for. Not sure the stock will really feel this buy-back. I am a seller.

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June 1, 2004

Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President, MSN speaks at Goldman Sachs event

Want ot know how MSN sees the future? Check this out from the horses mouth... Yusuf Mehdi Address to Institutional Investors at Goldman Sachs 5th Annual Internet Conference

Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President, MSN

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May 13, 2004

Longhorn goes to pieces officially

Today in Longhorn goes to pieces | CNET News.com Muglia admitted that the vision of Longhorn won't be delivered till 2009 at the earliest. There will be an interium release with some portions of it as I have predicted earlier. Too bad.

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May 3, 2004

MSN beta site

MSN is trying to be more like Google every day. They have a "sandbox" site were their beta ideas go. Here is the pointer. MSN Sandbox So far nothing really interesting there. Waiting for them to officially post BlogBot.

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April 10, 2004

Want inside the Longhorn dev team?

Channel 9
is a blog/wiki/mblog from a couple of the dev leads on different parts of Longhorn. Quite entertaining reading.

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Longhorn Alpha due next month

Client Server News is reporting that attendees at the upcomming WinHEC will get a new Longhorn Alpha release in their fancy little conference bags. That will make the grandski they spent for the show go down a little easier. It will basically be a refresh of the developer preview released at the PDC with a few more bells and whistles. CSN also pontificates that the much touted Beta release thought to be maybe end of this year will probably be summer of 2005 due to developer re-assignment to XP and windows Server Service Packs. CSN also confirms that more and more features are slipping from Longhorn to the next Windows release, Blackcomb.

So my predicted feature retreat is in fact starting to become public. The three support legs of Longhorn, WinFS (storage), Avalon (GUI presentation), and Indigo (message bus) look to be intact, although in some diminished form yet to be determined.

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March 22, 2004

The fine is 497M euros

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage Wow. And ship a windows without windows media player. To be appealed of course. But Wow.

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March 3, 2004

Whidbey design goals revealed

I am thinking alot about how to take advantage of the architecture shift coming with Longhorn. On the dev tools side, there is an interium step from Visual Studio 2003 called Whidbey. Whidbey basically uses existing architectures but is more productive. Next step after Whidbey is Avalon which leverages all the new file systems, databases, forms, etc. The design goals for Whidbey (out early next year) are:

Reduce coding for common tasks > 50 %
Full access to .NET framework
Dramatically reducing programming errors at design time
Simplifying data access
Improving the RAD debugging experience
Delivering high-end features for advanced Visual Basic developers

These would be a big improvement. Microsoft continues to be the best, most integrated development platoform. So a 50% coding reduction is coming soon. What if another 50% comes in 2007? How many developers will be using Linux and it's tool set when they have to write 5-10x the code?

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February 24, 2004

Microsoft's consumer electronics aspirations

A decent article laying out microsoft's aspirations in the Consumer Electronics space. Electronics companies play defense against Microsoft The problem with the analysis is that is says all the oposition is from entrenched vertically integrated consumer electronics companies not wanting to adopt MS's architecture. The problem is that the MS horizonital architecture is fundamentally a superior way to deliver a rich, value priced mass market experience. The PC industry hardware guys are working on single digit margins. The CE guys are working on double digit (high double digit) margins. For the PC hardware guys, anything is an improvement, so they will drive relentlessly into the CE market. And the fundamentals of the PC economics are just WAY better than proprietary CE. In the end, Sony may end up like Apple. A nice little niche player for stalwort true believers. The rest of us will pick the cheaper more rhobust platform. The CE guys are used to delivering single funciton devices that are highly reliable. The PC guys will deliver multifunction devices that have some bugs, but in the end are more valuable due to their multi-funciton and field upgradability.

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January 20, 2004

Time to short Microsoft?

Had an interesting drink with a Microsoft friend last night. He re-iterated the concern others have pointed out that Microsoft is having trouble getting renewals on many of their Enterprise agreements. Upgrade Advantage is especially troublesome being as that Microsoft is pushing so many things into Longhorn and that keeps getting delayed, there are few new products coming out to support the cost of those agreements. The fear is that there will be a significant fall off in those agreements in June and Sept of this year. Deferred revenue has always been one of the big strengths of Microsoft. It allows them to smooth out their earnings as they please. Now that bucket is emptying out. And what if Longhorn gets pushed too far out? Will the people who have been paying for upgrades hoping for Longhorn get anxious and complain? What if they want a refund for the years when Microsoft didn't ship any new products? I believe Microsoft is in for turbulent waters.


From the latest Goldman Sachs report on Microsoft:

Changes to our model: 1.) we have presumed the $770 million decline in deferred rev from $9.0 bil at the beginning of the year will fall $200 - $300 mil further in each of the next two quarters, followed by a moderate seasonal increase in the June quarter. This will likely hurt EPS about $0.02 per share this year and $0.04 next year. 2.) Also, we have made a separate change in the model to reflect the presumption that with no major new products (except for the Yukon release of SQL Server a year from now) shipping over the next 2 1/2 to 3 years, that customers currently under multi-year license agreements may become more reluctant to renew their maintenance agreements. The category most at risk is the Upgrade Advantage contracts, the bulk of which come up for renewal in June and September. As we detailed earlier (Oct 20th comments), we believe the Upgrade Advantage contract renewals could hurt fiscal 2005 EPS by about $0.08 per share if none renewed. We have now assumed that two-thirds do not renew, or an impact of about $0.06 per share. We might have been more optimistic were deferred revenues to show better near-term results, but it does not appear we will be getting any near term offsets to this exposure so we have now baked this into our 2005 forecast. 3.) The third change we have reflected in our 2005 model is a more optimistic assumption of PC demand given the strong showing in MSFT's consumer business this past quarter and the anticipation that PC demand in the corporate sector should also begin to show signs of stronger recovery.

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January 15, 2004

The future of IM and SIP etc...

ACM Queue - A Conversation with Peter Ford - The IM world according to a Messenger architect
Very useful to see where Microsoft is driving IM and SIP through Longhorn, etc.

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January 6, 2004

My notes from Microsoft VC summit 11/19/03

Here are some of my notes from the Microsoft VC event, November 19, 2003

Favorite comments:

"What the hell are you leaving us?" Chad Waite, OVP

Notes:

Big bets at the platform layer:
1. For interoperability web services
2. Data store XML unified
3. Smart client
4. Trustworthy computing, security.

What do we do in those bets.

On Interoperability:
1. Web services 1.0 in standatrds now
2.0 later
Then longhorn with Indigo

Unified data store path:
1. SQL server
2. Yukon
3. Longhorn NFS new file system

Smart Client, presentation layer:
today: Web Forms
Whidby implementation of visual studio
Longhorn Avalon and Aero Tui)
Longhorn API is all .net framework

Trustworthy computing:
1. Not as clear a path

Last quarter .NET usage surpassedJjava usage for first time. 38 percent vs 24 percent. We turned the corner in terms of platform, developers and customers. Now drive momentum.

Win XP was not a dev platform. We are putting all dev platform stuff in Longhorn. 10 years of it. The rate of cloning of windows apis by linux will slow with longhorn. The intergrated platform is hard to replicate. Longhorn is a platform for development. That will compete against linux os only.

Go to longhornblogs.com and pdcbloggers.net

Longhorn API or WinFS is the next step of Win32. It is that simple.

Longhorn has
Aero UI
Avalon, the database
Indigo, the XML interconnect
Win FS
RTC
Fundamentals
All wrapped in APIs.

Longhorn does not require new Hardware, but could take advantage of new HW for trusted computing portions.

Microsoft Business Solutions, Darren, Mbsisv@microsoft.com

First MBS application ships 6 months after Longhorn ships. This is the Great Plains, etal group.

Targeting Small biz to corporate.
Four acquisitions integrated into one unit.

Msft will build the pieces everyone needs.
Four industry solutions, mfg, distribution, prof serv, retail.

MS will build, ERM, CRM, SCM, Analytics.
MS will do 2 digit SIC codes, not do 4 digit or 6-8 digit SIC code industries. The 2 digits that ms will do is four industry solutions above. Will not today do state and local gov, telco, energy finance, etc.

Anoop Gupta, VP RTC group.

RTC is in JeffR's Information worker group (office).

RTC business unit has two products, Live Comm Server 2003, Live Meeting. These products are about presence based multi-modal collaboration with context and seamless transitions between real time and non real time.

Partners:
IM Logic for name space and compliance.
Descartes vertical ap for truckers.

Areas for future RTC enhancement. PC and phone integration.
Enhanced meetings.

Roadmap
Live meeting 2004
Live communication 2004
Softphone and OPA 2004

Presence + I'm + av + web conf 2005
Iworker comm client 2005
Ringcam

RTC goes into Office Longhorn

For all this to work, ms will have to work with Cisco, Nortel, Nokia and others who are not friendly. This is going to be hard. Microsoft will not adopt CCX from Cisco. Msft wants standards.

Conclusions:

I left after the first three presentations. It was clear that Microsoft was there to sell their vision of the platform to VCs. When we asked the obvious questions of "what should we invest in" they said what they always do: "Reportind and Vertical Applications". Outside Crystal Decisions, I haven't seen any really valuable companies created at that layer. They are going to do the big verticals and leave the small ones to the start-ups. Many start-ups that are partners today (like IM Logic) will be road kill when Longhorn comes along. Microsoft is going directly after the businesses of Oracle, IBM, BEA, PeopleSoft, SAP, Macromedia, Borland, RedHat, even Google. They are sucking so many things down into the OS that there is little left.

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Microsoft's description of the main components of Longhorn

From one of their MSDN articles
It is important to understand the capabilities of three key innovations in "Longhorn"—Presentation, Data, and Communications—and then work to determine how an application can take advantage of them. By analyzing an application from these three perspectives, one can best understand how an application can benefit from the new features of "Longhorn." Consider the following questions with regard to a given application:

Presentation. How is the user interface currently rendered? Can users navigate this user interface adroitly? Is the interface pleasant to interact with? Is data visualized in a way that is tangible to the user? Would it be appropriate to provide different skins on the user interface for different audiences?
Data. How is data from the application stored on the local PC? How does the application expose metadata to other applications and to the operating system about files it has encountered? How easily can users search for this data?
Communications. How does the application communicate to the server? Are there security or reliability enhancements that could be made to this communication pattern? Can the application work offline? Are there third-party services or services that could benefit the application?
The following three sections ("Avalon," "WinFS," and "Indigo") provide a brief summary of the innovations in these areas. Again, further information about the capabilities in "Longhorn" is available in the "Longhorn" SDK documentation.

Avalon (Presentation)
"Avalon" is the code name for the presentation and media technologies in "Longhorn." "Avalon" represents a significant evolution of presentation technology, with the goal of allowing developers to easily build rich and compelling user interfaces that can seamlessly integrate high-quality document and multimedia content.

The presentation technologies in "Longhorn" enable developers to deliver an exciting and compelling user experience by providing a full set of the prepackaged UI components, multimedia support, and smooth integration of applications into the user interface. "Avalon" is designed to take advantage of the capabilities of local hardware, so that all applications use the power of the graphics processing unit, rendering high quality, next generation user interfaces.

WinFS (Data)
"WinFS" is the code name for the new file system that provides data and storage model for "Longhorn." "WinFS" simplifies the process of finding and storing important user data. In addition to streamlined APIs for accessing relational data, "WinFS" introduces a new centralized storage subsystem and API for storing and searching documents and contacts.

By defining common schemas and a centralized API for metadata access, "WinFS" enables different applications to access each other's data in a previously unrealizable way. Metadata, including categorization and linking across items, can be added to any object in the file system, allowing for more powerful search and organization functionality.

This new storage system builds an everyday information schema describing the items stored in the computer and allows users to organize and relate items based upon attributes represented in the schema. The schema describes entities such as images, documents, people, events, tasks, and messages. These entities are combined in meaningful ways through relationships. For example, a document and person may be related through an authoring relationship.

By using the schema and attributes present in items and relationships, a user can pose questions to the system to locate information rather than trying to search various folders as they do today.

Indigo (Communications)
"Indigo" is a set of technologies for developing connected applications on the Windows platform. It provides a complete and flexible messaging platform for building connected applications independent of network topology. It is based on broadly-adopted XML Web services protocols, thus fostering interoperability with other XML Web services platforms.

Developers can write applications on a simple yet powerful programming framework to use these communication features that exchange information across clients, services, and devices.

Summary
"Longhorn" is an important release for Microsoft that lays down a solid foundation for building the next generation of applications. It features WinFX, a set of managed APIs for developing this new type of smart, connected applications. WinFX provides advances in presentation, storage, and communications that enhance the writing of these applications. Existing applications will be able to take incremental advantage of the new capabilities in "Longhorn" through a range of different approaches depending on the scenario and feature.

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Microsoft best of PDC highlights

Near the end of last year, I went over to Microsoft for a one day Best of PDC seminar. Basically a shrunk down version with all the smart guys from Microsoft. Here is a link to all the presentations: best of the Microsoft PDC 2003

As expected, this was all about Longhorn and how to get there. What the platform looks like today, what the interim steps are and how we get to Longhorn. All the heads were talking in sync, so it shows that Microsoft knows how to keep it's boys on message. Here are my impressions of the day along with some high level summary points:

Lightbulb moments:

This is the single most aggressive expansion of a software development platform in the history of the world!

I do not say that lightly. The entire thrust is how does Microsoft add more value to the OS and make it easier to write applications using their tools for the Microsoft platform. Multiple examples were given of applications that today required thousands of lines of code and under Longhorn would require a handful. I could actually hear the giant sucking sound pulling functionality down from the graphics, data, communication, and even application layer into the OS. If Longhorn gets traction, the biggest losers will be anyone in graphics software (Macromedia), middleware (BEA, IBM), database software (Oracle), Developer tools (Borland), or any other "value added" function today that is not a true end user application. Like the security, VPN, gateway, message bus, single sign-on, web services, or integration guys. At the end of the day, the only way to "add value" to the OS is to take it away from someone else.

Longhorn is Microsoft's Linux Strategy!

Linux is still trying to replicate 20 year old features of Unix. They are doing a great job and are getting lots of traction from people switching over from higher prices proprietary UNIX implementations to lower TCO Linux builds. But there is still allot of work to do to get it up to enterprise grade on many levels. Meanwhile, Microsoft is offering a completely new and different programming model. Write less code. Use a generation of tools way more advanced than anything available on Linux or Unix. The investment in developing this model and getting it to scale is enormous and the open source community will be hard pressed to follow. Microsoft realizes a fundamental truth about IT development: The largest cost is in programmer and tester time, not in the tools or platform. If they can present a programming platform the performs satisfactorily and requires an order of magnitude less time to develop on, they can charge whatever they want for the platform. And we will all buy it.

Longhorn is a fundamental redefinition of what an OS is and does

Traditionally Operating systems have simply dealt with the lowest level interfaces between hardware and software. Allowing a developer to write to a (fairly thin) abstraction layer to get access to the hardware resources. Maybe you put in a few higher level functions in software that accessed multiple hardware resources (like a data get) but you were still at a pretty low level. Data that is used by applications was stored outside the OS in a database. Communication between software programs is done with middleware. Security is programmed in the application. Backup/restore is an application. VPN is an application. Network management is an application. Display and rendering of images is an application. User Interfaces require allot of coding.

In Longhorn you can do almost all this stuff directly in the OS. It is all in there. The level of abstraction has been raised significantly. The OS now is primarily an abstraction layer for software functions versus hardware functions. THIS IS A GIGANTIC FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE. The major architecture change Microsoft is calling Services Oriented Architecture (SOA). Nearly everything you need as an application developer (local or across the network) will be a "service" that you can call with a few lines of code. I know lots of developers who will not want to re-write their applications because 90% of their code (read value) will go away. This puts application developers in a conundrum. Do you rewrite your app and lower it's perceived value or face a competitor who develops one on Longhorn quicker and cheaper? Tough times ahead for app developers.

Some data on Longhorn:

Hardware Requirements:

Minimum requirements for the Longhorn preview call for
800-MHz Pentium III processor,
256MB of memory,
and a graphics card with 32MB of video RAM

The actual configuration they are building for is MUCH more beefy and pretty damn unbelievable today, although I am sure you could get one for under two grand in 2006.

Bill Gates showed a slide in his PDC keynote a month ago that they were targetting the following (desktop) hardware configuration for Longhorn when it ships in 2006:
4-6 GHz CPU, dual core
1 GB RAM
1 TB Hard disk
Radeon 9800 style graphics (all the PDC Longhorn demo's were on a 9800)


What is Longhorn?

Microsoft's high level description of what Longhorn is can be found here. Some of my impressions of each piece include:

Microsoft has defined there to be four main parts to the new OS. Presentation, Data, Communication, and Fundamentals. That is how they are now talking about all their OS's and how their current product plans migrate to the new architecture. In each bucket, the migration paths are roughly:

Presentation: Today Smart clients, Webforms, 2004 Whidbey Visual Studio, 2006 Avalon in Longhorn

Data: Today SQL Server, application specific data stores (Exchange, etc.), 2004 Yukon for SQL Server, 2006 WINFS in Longhorn

Communications: Today application specific protocols (IM, email, application) and middleware, 2004 a bunch of patches and little things, 2006 Avalon in Longhorn.

Fundamentals: Today API's in Windows and core stuff, 2004 various subsystem updates, 2006 Longhorn new kernel and Service Oriented Architecture.

Presentation:

What is the problem today?

There is no standard way to easily write a user interface separate from it's application. If you have to access resources in a local database and some across the net with web services, it gets even harder. You use HTML or Java/.NET for web front-ends and C for local application front-ends.

How does Avalon solve it?

Avalon is a single architecture for development of application User Interfaces, document viewing and media presentation. There is a new vector-based composition engine. There is declarative programming. There are security APIs in the presentation layer so you can handle access control with one line of code instead of a whole separate subsystem. Visual Studio will be the development environment of choice for all presentation layers. In VS you can develop front-ends seamlessly to local as well as network applications. Visual Studio will come with IIS built-in so in development you won't have to be running separate servers (this actually comes in in Whidbey VS). Expect allot more XML support and extensions to XML. Microsoft says Whidbey (2004) will allow you to write UI's with 2/3 the code you need today. Expect a further decrease in lines of code and a significant increase in what you can address with Avalon.

Data:

What is the problem today?

There is no unified file system. Search is different by application even within Microsoft suite. You search differently in Internet Explorer than inside Excel or Word, or SQL server or your local hard-disk. For applications, databases are very complex things. You need DBAs. Separate whole companies to support them. Many applications have their own data stores (Exchange). Everybody handles record locks differently. Cross datatype searching is a pain in the ass. Metadata is usually stored separate from the actual data and is usually easily accessible. Writing and retrieving data is non-standard. Why isn't there a unified way to find, relate to and act upon data?

How does WINFS solve it?

It is a unified file system. Documents, data, metadata, multimedia, custom datatypes all in the OS. Lots of data functions as well like sync, Transaction SQL, and many traditional DBA functions. You will be able to search ALL your data and datatypes local AND remote (tied with Active Directory of course) through a single interface. The OS will come with many pre-defined data abstractions that you can access through your application very easily. Like Contacts and Calendar. These will no longer be in your Outlook.pst file. That means that applications other that Outlook will have easy access to them. Great for Microsoft! The pitch from Microsoft is that now that you can access data through the OS, MORE applications can be written which are impractical today due to the amount of gluecode that must be written. As a VC investing in application companies, I hope they are right.

Communications:

What is the problem today?

There are tons of incompatible messaging protocols. Even within windows. The Instant Message protocol of MSN is not even the same as that in Outlook. There are various e-mail protocols. And application incompatibilities have given rise to a whole category of companies that focus on middleware. The other issue is trustworthy computing and the nature of trust between applications and systems. One of the main functions of middleware is to authenticate users and transactions between systems. And to handle things like transaction integrity, restart-recovery, presence, transaction state, message encryption/decryption, etc. The problem becomes especially acute if you have two applications talking with each other and maybe sharing executable code? How do you know you can trust the other system? Or the code? What level of authentication and authorization is required for what functions?

How does Indigo solve it?

Everything in Longhorn is a transaction. There is a unified messaging bus. Remember it has a Services Oriented Architecture. That means that every time you want something you send a message to a service that will provide it. Presence management is built in as well as state management. So is authentication and authorization. So when you sign-on to a device, any device, all your profile goes with you (think Active Directory +++). There is allot of stuff happening at the hardware level (through WINHEC) including new hardware encryption chip and secure memory subsystem that will be exploited by Longhorn to provide the improved level of authentication. Two Indigo servers will be able to exchange messages securely, quickly and reliably allowing them to share applications, resources, data, services, everything. Non-Indigo servers will be outa luck. Or have to write to the new message formats.

Fundamentals:

What is the problem today?

The basic things that an OS is supposed to do are at times shaky. Like stability. Think Blue Screens. Handling memory locks, record locks, application failures. Security, back-up and restore, network interfaces. There are many protocols that require add-on applications like HTTP (IIS) and IPSEC (a VPN server). Think about all those buffer overflow bugs.

How does Longhorn solve it?

Tons of focus on security and stability. A new transaction engine. Upgraded back-up and restore. More comprehensive support for network services. Many more protocols supported in the core like HTTP and IPSEC. There is also something happening with addressable memory and disk space (basically making them much larger). Remember, now under Longhorn your APIs won't just get you access to low level abstracted hardware resources, now you will have a couple levels higher up of abstraction and MANY more software services available!


Conclusions:

Longhorn is a bet the company strategy. It is a real innovation in the programming model. Only someone like Microsoft could come up with it or have a chance in hell in getting it adopted. But it grabs stuff pretty far up the stack. Will developers be willing to give ceed yet another major chunk of functionality to Microsoft. In the end, I don't think it matters because if current developers are not, competitors will be. Microsoft has enough resources to wait it out and fund plenty of upstarts in the ecosystem. Change is a'come'n. Now we gotta figure out how to deal with it.

Posted by Martin at 1:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack