It's heating up and getting really nasty between Cisco and HP, as Cisco said last week that it is cutting ties with its former partner. We could blather on about this, but Jeff Schwartz has done such a good job of analyzing the situation in his blog for RCPmag.com that we're just going to point you to what he has to say.
Posted by Lee Pender on February 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments
Bear with us on this entry, if you would. It doesn't really strike at the heart of what Microsoft partners want or need to know, but it's pretty darn interesting. We just love a scandalous tale. And it does involve Windows...
Back in August 2008, when the getting was good for Vista bashing, RCPU reported some shocking -- shocking! -- numbers about the percentage of PCs being downgraded from Vista to XP. One commenter who identified himself as "Crash" added this bit to the comments section of that entry:
This blog means squat. 2000 is still on servers around the globe. If anyone cares to remember, XP gained no traction against 2000 until after SP2 some three years later. Go find some real news to discuss. This is a red herring smelling up the place.
As it turns out -- although not necessarily for the reasons he mentioned -- Crash was right. The blog (well, that entry, anyway) did mean squat -- or didn't, depending on how you want to use that expression. The 35 percent downgrade number we alluded to in the entry came from an article in Computerworld (the original tech trade publication and a very credible organization), which used as a source a company called Devil Mountain Software. The Computerworld journalist -- who, by the way, is a fine reporter and has written many very good articles over the years -- even quoted the company's CTO, one Mr. Craig Barth. No big deal, right?
Well, cut to February 2010. And cut Craig Barth out of the story because...he doesn't exist. Thanks to some excellent reporting from one of ZDNet's inexplicable and terrifying three-headed blogs, we now know that although Devil Mountain Software does sort of exist, Craig Barth doesn't. He's really Randall C. Kennedy, a now-former writer for InfoWorld and allegedly something of a gigantic con artist.
It appears as though ol' Randy created Craig Barth as something of a pseudonym years ago and then kind of let the character run from there -- right into a bunch of news stories, mainly in Computerworld and mostly written by the same guy. The poor, duped reporter -- hey, it could have happened to any of us -- apologized, and we believe that his apology is entirely genuine. In fact, we at RCPU don't really even think it was necessary, as Kennedy -- or Craig Barth, we suppose -- appears to be the real fraud here.
ZDNet's long, three-headed investigation gets into all sorts of sins that Kennedy (or somebody at Devil Mountain Software, anyway; it's hard to know what's real and what's not at this point) seems to have allegedly committed, including falsifying information about customer implementations. Devil Mountain was usually pretty rough on Windows and Microsoft with its metrics, and its numbers made for some intriguing reading. However, it's probably best at this point just to ignore anything with the name Devil Mountain or Craig Barth associated with it. Craig Barth isn't a real person, and whatever Devil Mountain is, it's hardly a credible organization at this point.
It's easy to point fingers in this case. When we put together RCPU, we do very little first-hand reporting, mainly because your editor is also busy putting out a print magazine and doing a bunch of other stuff. When we do interview somebody, we're careful to mention that the person spoke directly to RCPU. Other than that, standard procedure for putting this newsletter together is to sift through RCPmag.com, Redmondmag.com and Google News for interesting stories, link to them and then comment on them. We're in the commentary game here, not the news game.
As such, we don't spend a lot of time verifying sources because we don't spend a lot of time talking to sources. We kind of have to take what we find at face value -- and, if we're skeptical about something, we let you know. We probably should have been more skeptical of Devil Mountain's numbers back in 2008 given how shocking they were, but we never suspected any fraud there. We're sorry about that.
However, your editor doesn't really blame this fellow at Computerworld for what happened in the Devil Mountain case. Your editor has done plenty of reporting over the years, and having an exclusive source that seems to only want to talk to one journalist can be a gushing oil well of information for the fortunate journalist who's receiving the source's info.
Pretty much every business relationship is based on trust, and while we journalists (and bloggers) need to be wary of our sources, we generally -- and this is especially true for the trades, where sources are usually happy to see their real names in print and pixels -- believe people when they tell us they are who they are. So, if everything in the Devil Mountain fiasco that is allegedly true (according to ZDNet, anyway) actually is true, shame on Randall C. Kennedy. We don't need people in our industry doing what he allegedly did. And, no, "The devil made me do it," while fairly clever in this situation, is not an acceptable excuse.
How much does the alleged fraud committed by Devil Mountain Software make you rethink how much you trust what you read? We'd be curious to know at [email protected]
Posted by Lee Pender on February 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM8 comments
Oh, here we go again. Microsoft has added another anti-piracy layer to Windows 7, which will no doubt lead to complaints from folks that Redmond is collecting too much information from users and sending it back to the mother ship. And, hey, maybe those complainers have a point.
Posted by Lee Pender on February 18, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments
There's life in this old dog yet. With social networking eclipsing e-mail as the method by which folks communicate, Microsoft Outlook might look a little tired, a little dated. But Microsoft knows how to get eyeballs glued to its products' screens.
This week, Redmond decided that Outlook would subsume social networking sites -- and that it wouldn't happen the other way around. Starting with LinkedIn, Microsoft is integrating social networking into Outlook 2010 with the Outlook Social Connector. MySpace (yes, it still exists) and Facebook are next; there's no word yet on Twitter. (Here's an RCPU note: Microsoft, if you accomplish just one thing in the social networking space, please let it be the death of Twitter. We like where you're going with not including it in Outlook. Isolate Twitter, and hopefully it'll starve. Oh, and remember, readers, you can follow RCPU on Twitter at http://twitter.com/leepender. For now.)
We didn't think Microsoft would give up so easily in the battle for screen attention. Everybody's trying to do something in the social networking space -- even Microsoft has some sort of weak effort related to MSN, from what we can tell -- but this move is different because it merges multiple social networking Web sites into good ol', familiar Outlook. There's no need now to go to several different places to find out whether somebody you barely remember from high school has made dinner for his kids yet. Now, that information is right in the inbox you use at home and possibly at work, too.
For partners, the Outlook Social Connector (or OSC) might not lead directly to profits, but it is a good sign that Redmond is serious about keeping users in its clutches and not letting Outlook (or Office) die as a communication paradigm. It's also a sign that Microsoft is not totally in the dark with its social networking efforts. Besides, the single-view (minus Twitter, apparently) approach Microsoft is taking to social networking is bound to appeal to users who are thinking of either re-upping with Notes or bolting to something less familiar, like Gmail.
This is Microsoft's way of keeping Outlook relevant, and it might just have legs. That's good news for any partner who's struggling to place Microsoft in an online world that increasingly revolves around self-serving status updates, nauseating "recommendations" and ridiculous but very popular games. Hey, now folks can have their online time-wasters and keep their familiar, user-friendly interface, too. Not a bad deal overall.
What's your take on how social networking is impacting your business? Do you see the Outlook connector as good news? Tell all at [email protected] And, yes, we're going to get back to running reader e-mails soon -- hopefully next week.
Posted on February 18, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments
This can't be bad news, can it? Tight Microsoft partner HP had rather an excellent calendar fourth quarter of 2009, financially speaking. And the company says that things are only going to get better from here.
Posted by Lee Pender on February 18, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments
Don't you hate it when the cure is worse than the disease? Microsoft surely does, as it's now having to look into a patch for XP that apparently crashes the operating system. How funny is it that both Microsoft's corporate color and its infamous death screen are blue?
Posted by Lee Pender on February 16, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments
A couple of quick things before we begin: First off, thanks once again to Scott Bekker, the Earl Morrall (or Jeff Hostetler, if you prefer) of RCPU, for writing the newsletter last week while your editor was in England watching West Ham beat Birmingham in the other kind of football. And thanks also to Jeff Schwartz, who was busy cranking out stories yesterday while the rest of us enjoyed the day off by watching the Olympics and...well, that's about it, really. It is February, after all.
And while we know that there's a big mobile show going on in Barcelona this week, we did find it a bit odd that Microsoft chose yesterday -- a holiday in the U.S. -- to introduce its completely new, totally revamped approach to smartphone software. Windows Phone 7 essentially (and mercifully) breaks with the old Windows Mobile 6.whatever product.
We kind of wondered whether Steve Ballmer and friends chose a U.S. holiday for this big announcement so that nobody here would pay any attention to it. After all, the whole Windows Mobile franchise hasn't exactly set the world on fire. Upon further review, though, we don't think that was the case.
In fact, Windows Phone 7, if it works the way it's supposed to, could do for the mobile operating system what Windows 7 is doing for the mothership OS -- that is, save it from the ignominy of its predecessor. The technology and philosophy sound solid, at least from what we can read in Jeff's excellent report linked above. And then there's this from Jeff's story:
While companies such as Apple and Research in Motion manufacture their respective iPhone and BlackBerry devices and therefore control all aspects of hardware and software design, Microsoft, by comparison, exerts minimal control over Windows Mobile. The new strategy aims to provide the best of what Apple and RIM offer in terms of control over the hardware, while allowing developers and OEMs to have broader options.
Sound familiar? It sounds to us very much like what Microsoft did with desktop Windows years ago: license it to OEMs and let them run with it rather than forcing OEMs, partners and users to conform to the restrictions of a particular kind of hardware box and development strategy. Granted, people don't seem to mind using the iPhone or BlackBerry, so maybe the old paradigm that held sway on the desktop 25 years ago doesn't matter on the smartphone's smaller screen.
Then again, how would we know? Microsoft hasn't really had a seriously competitive mobile offering...well, ever, arguably. So, maybe smartphone users really are aching for something somewhat less proprietary than what's on offer now, and maybe developers and OEMs will flock to Microsoft's new mobile OS offering in search of a little breathing room. A fair number of OEMs seem to be on board already.
Windows 7 has already started making people forget about the disaster that was Vista. Maybe there's something to this "7" thing for Microsoft. If Windows Phone 7 can replicate the success of its desktop cousin, Redmond might be on its way to dominating yet another facet of the software industry.
What's your take on Microsoft's new mobile strategy? Will it work, or will it flop? Send your thoughts to [email protected]
Posted by Lee Pender on February 16, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments
SAP is having trouble feeding off of its own fat. The big German enterprise software firm has struggled of late, in part because its customers are sick of SAP salespeople repeatedly trying to foist more SAP technology on them. (It doesn't help that SAP's stuff tends to be huge, expensive, and, uh, problematic to install to begin with.)
All of that is a problem for SAP because the company has spent years now largely (maybe mostly) selling back into its existing customer base, which is massive and includes most of the big companies in the world in one way or another. The vendor fell way behind in terms of cloud innovation, effectively scrapping its software-as-a-service Business ByDesign initiative (or so we've heard) and failing to move down market as effectively as it would have liked. Supposedly Business ByDesign is going to make a grand return (entrance, really) in 2010. We'll see. (Incidentally, SAP has been talking about moving down market for at least a decade now and hasn't really ever been able to do it in a significant way.)
The year 2009 was a tough one for SAP financially, so with customers grousing and important initiatives falling by the wayside, a head had to roll. The head in this case was that of Leo Apotheker, whose family name means "pharmacist" in German. (See, Mrs. Fowler? I really am using my high school German in the real world. Danke.) Apotheker resigned -- suddenly, but not at all unexpectedly -- over the weekend.
There is good news and bad news coming from the periphery of this announcement for SAP. As for Apotheker, RCPU had little interaction with him. But your editor knew former CEO (and still founder and Chairman of SAP) Hasso Plattner pretty well some years back, so it's encouraging to read that Plattner will take a more active role in product development as part of the executive shuffle. Plattner is an extremely capable executive (to say the very least) and an experienced leader, and it's our observation here that SAP has never quite been the same since he stepped down from his full-time CEO duties about seven years ago. Think Bill Gates and Microsoft -- there's a similar dynamic there (no pun intended).
The not-so-good news is that SAP has decided to once again pursue a co-CEO strategy, settling up Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe as joint chiefs of SAP. Now, SAP has gone the two-CEO route before, with Plattner and Henning Kagermann serving together in the late 1990s (although your editor kind of had the feeling back then that Hasso was the man), and with Kagermann and the Pharmacist himself teaming in 2008. Even though the model worked the first time -- although not so much the second -- we're not sure that the SAP mannschaft (it means "team" in German) needs two captains.
What SAP needs now is a clear vision of its future and somebody who can smooth relations with angry customers very quickly. Maybe McDermott and Hagemann Snabe are those guys -- but we're thinking that one visionary with a clear plan and more than a little charm would be a better choice than a two-headed leadership team. Maybe Hasso will have some serious influence in the executive's office. That would provide a positive influence for a company that's been floating rather aimlessly for the better part of a decade now.
Do you do business with SAP? What's your take on how SAP's executive moves will affect the company -- as well as Microsoft Dynamics? Send your thoughts to [email protected].
Posted by Lee Pender on February 08, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments