Microsoft Drops Hints About SQL Server 2008 R2

There'll be more features and a couple of new high-end versions of the database, but prices are going up. Redmond magazine columnist Mary Jo Foley has details.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 04, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Cisco, EMC, VMware Form Alliance

OK, so EMC and VMware are mostly the same entity, but now Cisco is on board, not as an acquirer but as a partner. The two-and-a-half companies have come together to combat the IBM-HP datacenter powerhouse. The new alliance will focus on virtualization and storage technology as well as networking for datacenters, which seems entirely reasonable given what each company does. The first product is already here: Vblock, a private-cloud offering.   

Posted by Lee Pender on November 04, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Microsoft Partially Funding L.A.'s Switch to Google

We're not sure what noted irony expert Alanis Morissette would say about this, but it turns out that Microsoft is kind of, sort of paying for part of the city of Los Angeles' switch to Google's e-mail platform. Apparently, Microsoft paid the state of California $70 million back in 2006 after the state alleged that Redmond -- get this -- overcharged for its software. L.A., evidently, has $1.5 million of that money left over and will give it to Google for the city's Google Apps deployment.

If nothing else, this is a funny circumstance -- and kind of a painful one for Microsoft, given that Google won the e-mail bid in large part by touting the lower costs of its service in comparison to Microsoft's more traditional offering.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 03, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Office 2010 and Windows 7: Microsoft Is Here To Help

In 1995, when Major League Baseball returned from a labor dispute that killed the end of the 1994 season, baseball players were suddenly everybody's best friend. Ballplayers signed autographs, posed for pictures and high-fived kids as they never had before. They had a reputation to restore. And eventually, they did restore it...before the steroid scandal hit, of course.

But forget about the steroids for now. Microsoft is emerging from a bit of a "baseball strike" of its own with Windows 7 replacing Vista. One of Vista's big problems was that not many applications worked with it; another was that migration to it, especially from machines that lacked the requisite memory, was difficult. Those and other factors frustrated users (to say the least), so not many people migrated to Vista. That was especially true in the enterprise.

With Windows 7, though, Microsoft is showing up early to games to chat with fans, offering enhanced help and support features that include social networking options and built-in, automated fixes. It's also busy trying to sniff out upgrade problems that some users are reporting, although some readers (check out the comments on the two linked articles) are still struggling to get the new OS up and running. (Incidentally, there's also an "application-compatibility" program for the forthcoming Office 2010.)

Of course, any new product -- particularly a new OS -- is likely to be fraught with some danger in the installation process and will always bring out more complaints than compliments from users. But Microsoft seems to taking a different tack with Windows 7 than it did with Vista.

This is just a feeling, not necessarily based on anything but observation, but Microsoft seemed adamant when Vista launched that the OS was perfect and that anybody who couldn't get it to work was obviously doing something wrong or just wasn't smart enough to install an OS. That perceived attitude alienated many users, who ended up shunning Vista and convincing their friends and colleagues to do the same.

We don't get that same feeling from Redmond with Windows 7. Microsoft seems to be a kinder, friendlier software monolith with the launch of its new OS. Even its ads for Windows 7 come across that way. And while it's never been in Redmond's DNA to admit to too many mistakes (especially as far as a new product is concerned), we're getting less of the perfection vibe from Microsoft regarding Windows 7 than we did with Vista. This time, it seems as though Microsoft is here to help, not to berate or belittle users.

Baseball, for all its problems, has turned itself around. This dreadful World Series is racking up huge ratings, from what we're reading in headlines on Google News. So, as you watch the Series (which your editor is not doing, actually), remember that Microsoft is trying to win back your favor, too...and probably without the use of steroids.

Do you sense a new attitude from Microsoft regarding Windows 7? Or is Redmond still just the same old Redmond? Have your say at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on November 03, 2009 at 11:55 AM2 comments

Microsoft CIO Inducted into Unusual Hall of Fame

When we read the news that Tony Scott would be entering the CIO Hall of Fame, we immediately thought, "Wait, there's a CIO Hall of Fame?" Well, there isn't, really. Iit's just an honor bestowed on certain technology executives by one of your editor's former employers, CIO magazine.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 03, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Microsoft Selling 'Signature PCs' Directly

They're PCs that don't have the normal boatload of trial software and other stuff loaded on them. You can get them at a physical Microsoft store or at the company's online shop. But, as far as we can tell, you won't find them anywhere else, at least for now.

One funny note on this little story comes from a blogger named Marcus Yam, who did a fine job with his entry on this issue but worried us a little bit with his opening paragraph:

"There's nothing better than the snappy feeling of a freshly installed operating system -- one that's free from the cobwebs collected and caused by constant use (and perhaps neglect)."

Nothing better? Marcus, if that's the way you feel, amigo, you might want to step outside the cubicle for a while. Just a piece of friendly advice. Other than that, nice work.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 29, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Google Loves L.A.; Microsoft Maybe Less So

Come on back, Randy Newman. Google is singing your tune this week. There's little doubt that the nerds from Northern California love the city to the south of them now that they've won a big contract to provide e-mail for the city of Los Angeles.

That's right. Sgt. Joe Friday will soon be filing his police reports via the cloud -- if, in fact, Google's cloud stuff actually works -- instead of using Outlook and Exchange.

Microsoft pushed hard to keep L.A. from going Google but, as we said last month, Redmond took the wrong tack. Microsoft (from what we've read, anyway) went old-school and bashed the cloud model itself. Whoever was involved for Microsoft on this deal pushed client server as a platform (we've surmised) rather than talking about why, perhaps, a mixture of Software plus Services or an on-premises installation with some sort of migration path to the cloud might make more sense than a pure cloud play. A not unreasonable concept, by the way.

Google went into L.A. during a recession talking about cloud computing to a strapped city in a broke state, touting the overall cheapness of outsourcing e-mail rather than managing it in-house. But whether the cloud model is really cheaper or more efficient long-term than an on-premises e-mail installation isn't the issue here.

The issue is that Microsoft sent a bunch of heavies into Southern California to try to sell "they way you've (or we've) always done it," and Google talked about the future, about a new and exciting computing model with promise and potential. Microsoft, from what we can tell, focused on tearing that model down -- even though Redmond wants and desperately needs to make progress in the cloud computing game itself. Talk about mixed messages.

We said last month that Microsoft was making a huge mistake with its Luddite approach, and sure enough (this never happens), we were right! Hey, there's a first time for everything. Seriously, though, if Microsoft is going to get caught up in trying to preserve its old business and computing models rather than being flexible enough to adapt to new ones, the company really is going to struggle in the years to come. But there's no reason why that should be the case. The cloud race is just starting, and Microsoft has the brains and resources to keep up with and probably beat just about anybody. It just has to want to win. Does it? Right now, we can't tell.

And Google has to live up to its promises, which is not necessarily going to be easy. Consider this not-insignificant paragraph from the L.A. Times story linked above:

"The contract was approved pending an amendment that would require Google to compensate the city in the event that the Google system was breached and city data exposed or stolen. No such clause existed in the contract."

Clearly, there's some caution -- maybe even skepticism -- in L.A. about this whole cloud thing. But there's also the belief that cloud computing will work better and be cheaper than keeping Microsoft's expensive and complicated software around city hall (or wherever the server room for the city of L.A. is). This will be a landmark implementation for Google and for cloud way or another.

What it won't be is a win for Microsoft, which, we believe, has come out of this whole scenario looking stodgy, antiquated and maybe a little mean. Microsoft might not love L.A. right now, but it's going to have to love cloud computing a little more than it did in its L.A. pitch if it wants to succeed in being a leading provider of cloud services. We can understand folks from L.A. not knowing much about clouds, but we really thought a company from Seattle would be more willing to work with them.

What's your take on Microsoft's cloud strategy and Google's victory in L.A.? Will it be a disaster for L.A. and Google or for Microsoft -- or both? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on October 29, 2009 at 11:55 AM5 comments

SAP Earnings Disappoint

Economic recovery? Not in Walldorf, Germany, mein freund, where SAP reported disappointing third-quarter earnings and saw its stock price tumble this week.

We hate to always be nattering nabobs of negativity, but we here at RCPU feel as though SAP's earnings will be the rule and not the exception for a while to come. This "recovery," if it's even happening, isn't going to be a quick one. So, get used to this kind of stuff.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 29, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Ubuntu Honcho Approves of Windows 7

Well, he sort of approves. Mark Shuttleworth thinks that Windows 7 is a "credible release." We can hear folks in Redmond now: "Well, thank you very much, Mr. Single-Digit Market Share. We'll just get back to developing our utterly dominant operating system, if it's OK with you."

Well, they're probably saying something like that, anyway. Or maybe not.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 29, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Microsoft To Open Outlook Data Format

One of our least-favorite leftover phrases from the go-go '90s is "open the kimono," which marketing types used to use when talking about a proprietary vendor revealing the inner workings of its software. It just seemed...well, a little disturbing. So, we're not going to use it here when talking about Microsoft opening the .PST data format it uses in Outlook. If we have to use a hackneyed '90s expression (and, let's face it, we do), we're going to go with Microsoft "peeling the onion." So, there you go, developers and third-party vendors. Microsoft's Outlook onion is -- or soon will be -- open for your dining pleasure.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 28, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Gartner Analysts Down on Microsoft's Future

Everybody wants to douse the Windows 7 fire with cold water. Last week, it was a couple of Gartner know-it-alls, who grilled Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, on whether Microsoft's products still had any value and whether the company was in for a bleak future.

Elop, of course, used a lot of words but said essentially nothing, which is the primary form of communication in Redmond. (It is, perhaps, a trick the Microsoft folks learned from the French, who can use their lovely language to make totally nonsensical sentences sound like a Mozart piano concerto.) Anyway, the Gartner inquisitors fired the same old questions and accusations at Elop as everybody is shooting at Microsoft these days. Check out this blurb from the story linked above:

"[Gartner's Neal] MacDonald said that the upcoming 2010 versions of Windows, Office, Exchange, SharePoint and their respective online versions represent more of the same, one-size-fits-all applications that Microsoft has offered in the past. He predicted that people will not be willing to migrate to these new versions because there are so many new competitors offering commoditized versions that are either free or that come at a very low cost.

"[Gartner's Brian] Gammage agreed, saying that customers are now asking where the business value is in Microsoft's products, especially when there are multiple options available."

Now, we're not saying that the Gartner guys are wrong. We're big cloud proponents here at RCPU, and we feel that Azure in particular and a coherent cloud strategy in general will play absolutely critical roles in keeping Microsoft relevant -- and possibly dominant -- in IT in the years to come. (Already, Amazon is launching a major cloud initiative aimed at Microsoft.) But the cloud isn't yet the de facto choice of IT platform for most businesses, especially not for larger ones, and it likely won't be for a while. It's still a developing model, and Microsoft seems determined, after a few missteps, to be at the forefront of its development.

Also, we're acutely aware, as we've said here many times, that competition facing Microsoft's core products is arguably stronger than ever -- from Linux servers and desktops to cloud-based applications and operating systems to even the Mac, which has started to find a niche in the enterprise. So, again, we're not saying that Gartner's grillers are wrong when they talk about Microsoft's products.

We're saying (again) that they're missing the point. The real strength behind Microsoft is the best and almost certainly one of the largest partner ecosystems in the software industry. (Is it the largest? Probably, but we haven't checked lately.)

Why go with Windows over Linux or with a Microsoft stack over something from a competitor? Because there probably isn't another software company with the breadth and depth of expertise available that Microsoft can offer through its partner channel. And, in the long run, support and maintenance -- and not just license fees -- cost money.

Microsoft's products, we believe, are better than the Gartner folks make them out to be. In fact, word is that Windows 7's launch could lead to a jump in PC sales, which kind of deflates the whole Microsoft-is-irrelevant argument, at least for now. But you, partners, are what keep Microsoft ahead of everybody else in the software industry, and that's what the naysayers don't understand. You do, though, and hopefully your customers do, too.

What's your take on the future of Microsoft? Is it headed for a dark era, or will it stay on top? Send your opinion to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on October 28, 2009 at 11:55 AM3 comments

Microsoft, 'Family Guy' Creators Come to Their Senses

So, had Microsoft's advertising executives just never seen an episode of "Family Guy," or what? We were shocked by the news that Microsoft had bought a whole episode of "Family Guy" -- and that the show's producers had sold it. This week, though, we were relieved to learn that Microsoft has backed off the whole "Family Guy" idea given that some of the show's jokes are, uh, a tad unconventional.

Really, Microsoft, you really didn't know? Or was this all just some sort of weird publicity stunt for both parties?

Posted by Lee Pender on October 28, 2009 at 11:55 AM2 comments