Anti-Virus Vendors Just Keep Having Problems

McAfee's recent XP-crashing patch got a lot of press, but the anti-virus vendor is hardly the only one in the category that has had trouble doing what it promises customers it will do. In fact, as this long report notes, the anti-virus game seems to be getting more difficult -- and worse -- all the time.

Posted on April 28, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments


Free Tool Checks Application Compatibility for Windows 7

Hey, do you think this might have been a good idea for Vista? Yeah? Well, a very wise Microsoft partner called ChangeBase has come up with a service that tests whether applications will run with Windows 7. Microsoft, pay attention -- people need stuff like this.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 28, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments


Convergence: Microsoft Dynamics Is All about CRM

Microsoft Dynamics is a lot of things -- really, a lot -- but it seems more clear than ever that the hook for selling the enterprise package isn't one of its four enterprise resource planning suites but rather its customer relationship management offering, Dynamics CRM.

Sure, Microsoft gave details last week about Dynamics GP 2010, one of the four suites, but when RCPU spoke to Brad Wilson, Microsoft's general manager of Dynamics CRM, guess what the first thing he mentioned was? A hosted adapter that links Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft's hosted CRM service, with GP 2010.

And here we were thinking that Dynamics CRM Online already had native integration to the ERP suites. Actually, it doesn't, as partners have been providing adapters up to now. Wilson, though, said that native integration between CRM Online and the four ERP suites will be the way forward: "Now we're delivering native adapters both on-premises and in the cloud, and we'll be bringing them out for other Dynamics products."

At Convergence this week in Atlanta, Dynamics CRM -- and particularly CRM Online -- has been the star of the show. The four ERP suites kind of orbit around it now, though they are (little by little) more directly connected to CRM than the used to be.

Still, it's Dynamics CRM that gets the glory -- as well it should. Microsoft has priced the Online service aggressively, including offering licenses to GP customers for just $19 per user per month. (For the record, that's way less than what Salesforce.com, Dynamics CRM Online's main rival, charges for its comparable suites.) Microsoft will also roll out Dynamics CRM Online to 32 new counties later this year.

And Microsoft executives are now hyping up the enterprise applications and the cloud, talking about many of the same value points that their competitors stress. (Of course, all of this cloud talk still doesn't apply to the ERP suites, which partners host but Microsoft still doesn't, and doesn't want to -- at least as far as we know.)

Still, there's one thing that Microsoft has going for it that other companies can't offer. Well, two things, actually. One is integration -- the next version of the Dynamics CRM code base (which is the same for Microsoft-hosted, partner-hosted and on-premises offerings), currently dubbed CRM 5 and due at the end of 2010, will have native integration into Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, Wilson said.

And then there's that old Microsoft trump card, user and IT familiarity: In the CRM market, "I think it's probably down to us and Salesforce.com," Wilson said. "We have a different value proposition. That value proposition is based around being able to use what people already have. Salesforce.com is a rip-and-replace product. If you've got some on-premises-based software, we'll work with that. We're helping a lot of businesses integrate more easily into what they're running today as opposed to doing a complete paradigm shift in IT."

If any paradigm has shifted, it's Microsoft's own; Dynamics has moved in recent years from being an ERP-centric, on-premises product line to being led by a hosted CRM service. With the momentum cloud computing seems to be building, that's probably not a bad shift for most partners. We want to know, though—is anybody actually selling Dynamics CRM Online? Or is it more hype than revenue stream at this point? Tell us at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on April 26, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft Earnings: Good But Not Good Enough

Microsoft blew away Wall Street expectations with its earnings report last week -- but that didn't help its stock price much. Windows earnings were strong, backed by the performance of Windows 7. However, the critical Server and Tools division showed a bit of weakness quarter-over-quarter, and the Microsoft Business Division (think Dynamics) actually recorded a small revenue shortfall compared to the corresponding 2009 quarter.

All of that sent Microsoft's stock price down late last week, although it did gain a bit of a bump today. Still, it closed Monday down from where it was prior to Thursday's earnings announcement. Such is the price of success, we suppose -- when very good is still not good enough.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 26, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Sony Buries the Floppy Disk

Weep (or stock up), nostalgia fans, for the venerable floppy disk (which Sony still makes!) will be no more after March of next year. Sony is the last company making the old disks, and it just isn't getting enough demand from people who have been living under rocks for the past 10 years to keep production going. This would be sad if floppies hadn't always been largely unreliable and surprisingly easy to lose. Oh well -- another part of computing history fades into the sunset.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 26, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments


Ten Nations Criticize Google on Privacy

Ten countries -- including the U.K., France, Germany and Canada -- have sent a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt taking him to task for what they believe to be lax privacy standards practiced by the search giant. Most of the complaints center on the thus far ill-fated Google Buzz, which Google is no doubt pretty sick of talking about by now. (Think of Buzz as Google's mini-Vista.)

We're still working on a story about Microsoft (and now Google) and privacy. What are your concerns? What kind of experiences have you had? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on April 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft Office Moves into Facebook

Great, now we'll never escape this social-networking stuff. Users will soon be able to (the tool is in beta) create and share Microsoft Office documents in Facebook. Seriously, this is probably a really good idea on Microsoft's part, but we're a bit less than thrilled at the prospect of writing RCPU while getting bombed with messages about what a bunch of people we went to high school with are feeding their kids for dinner.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM1 comments


SQL Server 2008 R2 Serves Ups Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence has been floating around as an industry phrase for more than a decade now, and yet many partners or IT pros would likely be hard-pressed to name 10 people who actually use BI tools.

The promise of BI -- essentially the idea that non-technical users should be able to easily get to and manipulate information that's buried in a database somewhere -- has actually come to fruition. BI software, as overcomplicated as much of it has become, has basically worked pretty well for a while. Some of it isn't even that hard to use. And, yet, BI hasn't really trickled down into organizations the way vendors, partners and IT folks would like to see it trickle.

With this week's release to manufacturing of SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft hopes that it's creating a product that will finally play a major role in bringing BI to the masses by linking it tightly to SharePoint and Excel. R2 is really about bringing BI to average users by embedding it in familiar tools. Office 2010, for instance, will include a feature called PowerPivot -- which ships as a free download with R2 -- that will let users manipulate BI data in Excel and share it via SharePoint. No strange interfaces, no special training -- just familiar tools for normal folks. That's the idea.

"If we truly want [BI] to be for the masses, the masses can't be the power users," Herain Oberoi, group product manager, SQL Server Business Group at Microsoft, told RCPU recently. "We know BI is pervasive when people like you and me are using BI without knowing we're using it. It's not about 10 million users. It's about 500 million users."

Oberoi said that SQL Server 2008 R2 is all about bringing BI to users through "the ubiquity of Office," something he says Microsoft has thus far underutilized on the BI side. "Microsoft has never really gone after that," he said of Office's massive market share. "[BI] has to become part and parcel of what Office means for productivity and information workers over time."

When it comes to democratizing BI, many have tried, and few -- arguably none -- have succeeded. But Office has always been an ace up Microsoft's sleeve, and Redmond really should have a big advantage over competitors given the familiarity users have with the suite. Plus, Microsoft's BI capabilities, which trailed those of rivals for years, are looking very solid these days. So, partners, you should be able to allay customers' fears about giving up BI functionality for a more familiar interface. Microsoft's BI technology is pretty impressive.

Will SQL Server 2008 R2 be the product that finally pushes BI into the everyday life of average office workers? Well, if anybody can do it, Microsoft can. Now, we'll just have to see how well all of this stuff actually works.

How do your customers or office workers use BI? How important is it to your business? What would you like to see from Microsoft or other BI vendors? Send your thoughts to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on April 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Another Editor's Note: Software Licensing Nightmares

We're putting together a story for Redmond magazine about the worst experiences you've had with software licensing. Has the Business Software Alliance or Microsoft ever raided your office? Have you had trouble clearing your name? Have you actually had to deal with a problem you didn't even know existed? Send us your worst tales of licensing woe --confidentiality guaranteed, of course. The address, as always, is [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on April 22, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft Intune Gives Small Companies Enterprise Capabilities

It's about PC security and management; it's really powerful, and it's cheap. Plus, it's a hosted offering from Microsoft (which is, you might remember, “all in for the cloud.”) Pretty interesting stuff, actually.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Hackers Get Way Up Into Google System

Convinced that cloud computing is secure? We're rethinking our position on it, too, after reading this week that hackers who hit Google last year stole the company's source code for its global password system. That's kind of like stealing the Colonel's secret recipe of herbs and spices or swiping the keys to Fort Knox. Point is, what these hackers were able to do was get to the very heart of what makes Google… well, Google. And that's a much bigger deal than just being able to siphon off some user names or personal information. They didn't nick the hubcaps off of the car; they took the engine. Wow.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Editor's Note: Microsoft's Greatest Comebacks

We've said many times here that even when Microsoft is down, it's never out. Redmond might be behind rivals right now in, say, consumer search or mobile operating systems, but Microsoft has been down before and come back to dominate markets. In fact, we're writing a story about that right now: Microsoft's greatest comebacks. For better or worse, which comebacks in Microsoft history have impressed you most? Maybe Internet Explorer burying Netscape? Something else? Send your thoughts to [email protected] Thanks!

Posted by Lee Pender on April 21, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments