Microsoft, IBM Spar over Panasonic Deal

Well, this just doesn't seem like friendly competition at all. After IBM announced last week that Panasonic was ditching Exchange for the hosted LotusLive e-mail offering, Microsoft started grousing about the deal.

An Exchange product manager at Microsoft claimed that fewer than 4 percent of Panasonic employees had been using Exchange before the IBM deal, anyway, and that Lotus was still getting clobbered in the collaboration market. IBM responded with something along the lines of "nuh-uh," saying that more than 4 percent of Panasonic workers had been using Exchange...and the back and forth just kind of went on from there.

What was the point of all of this bickering? We're not sure. It's true that IBM's win represents a big victory over Microsoft and a triumph for the cloud itself, but why would Microsoft want to start publicly picking it apart? To us, grumbling from Redmond about the deal not only sounds like sour grapes but also calls attention to a high-profile customer loss, something Microsoft and its channel probably don't want to do.

From what we've observed, Exchange really is taking it to Lotus Notes in the collaboration market. (Anybody with numbers to the contrary should send them to us.) Maybe Microsoft should talk about that -- which, to be fair, the product manager tried to do -- rather than moan about the details of a deal lost. And maybe pushing hosted Exchange and talking about Azure in more specific terms (the latter of which Microsoft is starting to do) would also be good ideas. Sometimes Redmond just baffles us.

How do you handle the loss of a big account? Send your answer to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on January 21, 20100 comments

There's a Date for SQL Server 2008 R2

The title of this entry would have rhymed had it not been for that pesky "R2" at the end. But that's kind of the important bit, isn't it? Anyway, Microsoft says that the latest version of SQL Server will be available in May, just in time for partners to start selling it before Microsoft's fiscal year ends at the end of June.

Posted by Lee Pender on January 20, 20101 comments

IBM and Lotus Storm into the Cloud

Just when you thought Lotus was becoming as distant a memory as Jeff Papows' term there as CEO, Big Blue and its collaboration company have come storming back. This time, the cloud is the battlefield.

This week, Panasonic ditched exchange for LotusLive, IBM's hosted e-mail system. And Lotus is also playing a key role in the launch of a collaboration-equipped BlackBerry. Suddenly, the cloud is giving way to a Big Blue sky. (OK, we'll keep working on those metaphors.)

Posted by Lee Pender on January 20, 20100 comments

Microsoft and Europe Just Don't Get Along

After settling the long-running IE antitrust mess by compromising on a browser menu, Microsoft and European officials are going at it tooth and nail again. And, as usual, the Eurocrats are the party on the attack.

This time, though, it's just bizarre. And the Euros have way overstepped their bounds. In light of revelations that hackers used a security flaw in IE to attack Google and other firms, the French and German governments -- get this -- officially recommended that users move away from IE and employ some other browser.

Not surprisingly, IE, which is struggling to hold market share worldwide and especially in Europe, has taken a hit as a result, to the advantage of its rivals. For its part, Microsoft says that the only successful attacks thus far have come though IE 6 and that it's working on investigating the hacks. Redmond is also recommending (not surprisingly) that users upgrade to IE 8 -- although exactly how that would help is unclear, given that IE 8 seems to be vulnerable, as well. Check this out from's story (second link from the top) on this incident:

Most versions of IE have the vulnerability. IE 6 Service Pack 1 on Microsoft Windows 2000 SP4 has the bug. Moreover, the flaw exists in IE 6, IE 7 and IE 8 on supported editions of Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, plus Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Strange, but never mind all that. What the French and German governments have done goes way beyond what their purview should include. It's one thing to warn consumers about a faulty product -- especially if it's one that can cost lives, such as a leaky gas tank on a car, or flammable baby clothes, or an exploding MP3 player or some such. But as far as we know, a hacker attack on a corporate target has never killed anybody. Caused some damage, sure (mainly financial), but not left a trail of casualties in its wake.

Beyond that, pretty much every piece of software in existence is vulnerable to attack somehow, especially browsers and operating systems. Microsoft gets hit more often and more publicly than most other companies because many of its products tend to be ubiquitous around the world. But other browsers have security holes, too. IE isn't the only victim -- or culprit, depending on your perspective. We don't know, though, of any other case of governments warning people this strongly not to use a particular application.

And it's not just a warning, either. This is where what France and Germany are doing really goes over the line. They're actually suggesting that users switch to another browser. That is simply astonishing. Once again, all browsers have vulnerabilities of some sort -- or can, at least. Furthermore, to reiterate what we said earlier, while governments might play a legitimate role in letting citizens know that there's a problem with a particular product (although it still seems overblown in this case), suggesting that people use some competitive product is way out of the range of what governments should be doing.

Just look at what the French site actually says:

Dans l'attente d'un correctif de l'éditeur, Le CERTA recommande l'utilisation d'un navigateur alternatif.

That translates to, "In waiting for a correction from the publisher, CERTA recommends the use of an alternative browser."

Wow. This isn't "be careful" or "watch out for this" or "you should be aware that this is happening." This is "switch products." There's a robust technology press in France and Germany (not to mention here in the U.S.) that serves the purpose of delivering technology news, dispensing warnings about certain products and giving advice about what to do in a particular situation. If (that's fictional -- there isn't one) wants to tell folks to move away from IE, fine -- although, even as Firefox users here at RCPU, we'd still consider it unnecessary advice.

But for the government to tell people to switch products? Legal or not, it's too much. We've said here many times before that the EU's pursuit of Microsoft on antitrust grounds smacks of resentment about a big American company being so powerful across the pond. What France and Germany have done this week sends even stronger signals that Europe just doesn't like Microsoft.

Maybe Microsoft should just pull out of the continent and leave the Europeans to fend for themselves on Linux and and open source server software. For some people (who will surely comment on this entry in some way), that would be utopia. But we're guessing that for most folks, it would be a nightmare.

Do you think governments should tell people which products not to use? Sound off at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on January 20, 20105 comments

Google, Microsoft Square off Over Cloud in NYC

Jeff Schwartz takes us inside the pitched battle between two companies and two very different models.

Posted by Lee Pender on January 20, 20100 comments

Microsoft, HP Expand Partnership into Online Services

The two longtime, long-term partners plan to spend $250 million over the next three years on cloud and virtualization technologies. This is an important story, actually...but we're not going to tell it. We'll leave that to Jeff Schwartz, who covered the announcement for here and in his blog. So, yeah, if you want to read about Microsoft and HP, you're just going to have to boost our hit count. But it's worth it!  

Posted by Lee Pender on January 14, 20100 comments

CA Buys Oblicore

Oblicore is not only a fun word to say (roll it around a few times); it's also a business-performance management vendor that measures IT performance...and now belongs to CA.

Posted by Lee Pender on January 14, 20100 comments

VMware Makes E-Mail Play with Zimbra Buy

VMware is all up in Exchange's grill now with its purchase (from Yahoo) of open source e-mail vendor Zimbra.

Posted by Lee Pender on January 14, 20100 comments

Google Docs Opens Up

Google's online productivity suite isn't just a nifty little tool for storing documents and spreadsheets anymore. It's wide open now -- sort of.

Google revealed this week that Google Docs will now store more than just documents (we'd call them Word documents, but that's like saying "Kleenex" instead of "tissue") and spreadsheets. The online suite will now accept and store any type of file, including photos and the like.

It's kind of a mundane thing for now, and as the Wired story linked above indicates, the actual storage space offered is pretty disappointing: Google's giving up 1GB for free, with extra space going for $0.25 (or 25¢ -- the "cents" symbol is so underused these days) per GB per year. It's not a super-competitive offer at this point, but the opening of Google Docs looks like another step in Google's vision of crushing Microsoft Office and taking over the productivity-suite world.

Of course, it probably won't do that, as Office has a massive lead in market share and Microsoft (finally) has online Office offerings both available and in the works. But Google's move, and the moves competitors might make to counter it, could help hasten the (very slow) death of the PC hard drive and client-server model.

That's fine with us, actually, as we at RCPU already use Google Docs to back up files. The whole Google productivity thing needs to work better, though. Google's word processor is at about a 1999 level in comparison to Microsoft's whiz-bang (albeit bloated) Word 2007.

The battle for online-suite supremacy is going to be fought with small steps and mundane announcements such as this one, partly because this stuff is hard for vendors to set in motion and partly because users (and especially enterprises) are still getting used to the idea of actually using cloud technology for important purposes. It's all a trickle now, but cloud technology will eventually become a rushing river. A river of clouds. Or something like that. We'll keep working on our metaphors in the meantime.

What's your take on cloud computing and who's got the most to offer? Sound off at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on January 14, 20101 comments

Microsoft Allows for Software Rentals

Want to rent Windows or Office 2007 (if anybody can even legally offer Office 2007 right now)? Well, you can do it thanks to Microsoft's change of heart on rental restrictions for those products.

Posted by Lee Pender on January 13, 20100 comments

Forrester Says Tech Downturn Is Over

Is it safe to come out now? Forrester says it is, and that a long period of growth in technology spending is on the way. We'll see. The big target spending areas, according to our neighbors in Cambridge? Virtualization, cloud computing and unified communications. We're down with the first two, but we'd have to know exactly what UC is before we'd believe that anybody is going to buy it.

Posted by Lee Pender on January 13, 20100 comments

Microsoft Volume Licensing Sites Cause Problems

In a classic improvement-that-actually-made-things-harder story (hey, it's a category), Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service Center is...well, kind of a mess for some users right now.

Posted by Lee Pender on January 13, 20101 comments