Bow Down to Steve Jobs (and His Logo)

Interesting little piece here in Fast Company about how logos can serve almost as religious symbols to folks who aren't religious already. Do you figure anybody has the same loyalty to the Windows logo as adherents of the Church of Apple have to their fruity symbol? We're thinking probably not...

Posted by Lee Pender on October 04, 20101 comments

Goldman Sachs Masters the Obvious with Microsoft Rant

It's one of those head-slapping moments. Some guru from Goldman Sachs comes out and makes a bunch of suggestions about how Microsoft should run its business, and we at RCPU sit here and slap our heads saying, "Why didn't we think of that?" Except we did...and we weren't the only ones.

Goldman downgraded Microsoft's stock at some point over the weekend, and, in doing so, a Goldman analyst went off on a rant about what Microsoft needs to do to get itself out of the decade-long stock-price slump it's in. As Todd Bishop's always excellent blog reports, Goldman had three suggestions for Redmond. And we quote, from the Goldman report as quoted on Bishop's blog:

"(1) A materially increased dividend beyond the recent 23% increase, moving Microsoft into the top 20 dividend-paying companies in the S&P 500 in terms of dividend yield. We believe this would open the door to a larger investor base and keep the company more diligent from a spending perspective. (2) A coherent consumer strategy that could involve paring back investments and/or divesting more peripheral assets such as gaming. (3) Market leadership in Cloud. Microsoft has a strong portfolio of enterprise data center assets and could become a leader in Cloud deployments, but the competitive environment remains highly in flux, with Microsoft still not a clear 'winner,' in our view."

We'll toss out the first suggestion as being sensible enough but a little too insider-Wall Street for our purposes. It's the last two that have caused the self-inflicted red marks on our collective RCPU forehead. Basically, No. 2 is talking about Microsoft focusing on core products and either spinning off or paring down its flailing consumer businesses, including the money-losing entertainment division.

What a radical concept! We've only been banging on about that topic here in this newsletter for, oh, four years or so. If you've read RCPU at all over the years, you've noted our warnings to Microsoft that that the company should stop trying to be cool, stop trying to be everything to everybody and start honing in again on operating systems, servers and other long-time moneymakers as well as on cloud technologies (more on that in a minute).

To be fair, Microsoft has taken that tack to some extent—Windows 7 and SharePoint are good examples of enterprise technologies that are both useful and successful (or, at least, Windows 7 will be successful given time). But Redmond remains entrenched in trying to be an entertainment titan, a mobile developer and possibly still some sort of advertising agency. And all of that stuff is either a brain drag or a financial drag on the company -- or both. Microsoft should spin off, wind down or just ditch a lot of its consumer-focused efforts. But haven't we all known this for a while? And by "we," we mean most industry observers, not just RCPU? For heaven's sake, how long has Mini-Microsoft been around, anyway?

The mobile space, in particular, has been tricky for Microsoft -- as evidenced by the company's desperate Android patent lawsuit and its repeated failure to regain mobile momentum. Here again, Goldman states the obvious in observing Microsoft's place in that market. The Financial Post quotes Goldman's Sarah Friar thusly:

"'We believe that top-line momentum and hence investor sentiment on Microsoft's core Windows and Office franchises is unlikely to improve until the company gains a firmer [read: any] foothold in the growing migration to mobile devices – both smartphones and tablets,' said Ms. Friar. 'We don't see this happening this year, as Apple's iPad and iPhone plus Google's Android operating system are well established,' she said."

My goodness! What an eye-opener! We do wonder, actually, why Microsoft absolutely has to have its own mobile operating system. Is there no room for some partnership here with a more established developer? Don't Windows and, in particular, Office, still carry some weight in the marketplace?

It seems as though Microsoft would be better served to scrap plans to rely on Windows Phone 7, a mobile OS that will be obsolete the minute it comes out next week, as its candidate for entry back into the mobile market and instead maybe find a way to get other Microsoft technologies licensed onto somebody else's platform.

Sure, that's not the Microsoft way -- the company would have to (gasp!) actually cede ownership of a market. But Microsoft isn't a serious mobile competitor now, and its path toward becoming one seems quixotic at best. Maybe Microsoft has hacked away at mobile windmills for long enough.

Back to Goldman's revelations, though -- and they only get better. Dig suggestion No. 3. Here it is again: "(3) Market leadership in Cloud. Microsoft has a strong portfolio of enterprise data center assets and could become a leader in Cloud deployments, but the competitive environment remains highly in flux, with Microsoft still not a clear 'winner,' in our view."

What? Microsoft needs to be in the cloud? And nobody has claimed the cloud space yet? Geez, even Microsoft gets this one. Azure and the constant "all-in-for-the-cloud" messaging coming out of Redmond are a pretty good indication that Microsoft wants to position itself as a leader in the cloud and is making positive moves toward doing so. But, hey, Goldman, thanks for the heads up.

As expected, Goldman's rant has led to another nice wave of articles talking about how Microsoft is finished...and basically saying the same thing that Goldman said this week and that we've been saying for years. Again, it's not that we disagree with Ms. Friar or with Goldman Sachs. We actually agree, for the most part -- and maybe these words coming from Goldman will actually get somebody's attention in Redmond.

Please forgive us, though, if we say that we've heard all of this before -- because we've written it, over and over again, in this newsletter over the last few years. Then again, on second thought, Goldman might have some credibility here that we don't have.

After all, the firm is warning Microsoft about potential failures -- and nobody knows failure like Goldman Sachs, a company that likely wouldn't exist today had the U.S. government not covered it with a big TARP. So, keep preaching, Goldman. We'll be sitting behind you in the choir, which apparently either isn't singing loudly enough or is reaching the wrong members of the congregation.

What's your take on Goldman's suggestions for Microsoft? What should Microsoft do to get itself back on track? Send your thoughts to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on October 04, 20105 comments

Microsoft Responds to Patch Tuesday Post

Last week, we mentioned that Microsoft's last Patch Tuesday wasn't as all-inclusive as it might have been regaring the Stuxnet worm. Well, late last week, we got an update from a Microsoft spokesperson who wanted to tell us that Microsoft hasn't just buried its head in the sand on Stuxnet. We quote:

"I just wanted to clarify that in total, the Stuxnet malware exploited four vulnerabilities. Microsoft has now issued security bulletins for two of those issues (the two most serious). For the Print Spooler vulnerability, addressed by MS10-061 this month, Microsoft collaborated with Kaspersky and Symantec to issue the security bulletin. For more information, please feel free to reference the MSRC blog post."

So, Microsoft did, at least, issue a couple of security bulletins in response to Stuxnet. They don't patch all the problems, but they're something. If you didn't know, you do now.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 20, 20100 comments

Google Fires Allegedly Creepy Engineer

File this one under "E" for ewwww. Google back in July fired an engineer, which wouldn't normally be news except that he was evidently fired for spying on teens' Gmail and Google Voice accounts. We're talking minors here. Now, apparently, the fellow isn't accused of having done anything, you know, perverted or whatever. But still -- ewwww. Also, this isn't exactly an endorsement for cloud computing. It's just kind of creepy, really.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 16, 20102 comments

Microsoft Says It Can Prevent Adobe Exploits

The Enhanced Migration Experience Toolkit, or EMET, is apparently the magic elixir that can stave off hacker incursions. And if you've ever been incurred, you know how important that is.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 16, 20101 comments

Reader Feedback: Windows XP Lives!

As expected, our entry last week about Windows XP slowly dying brought XP fans out with claims that the operating system is very much alive and well. (And it must be, considering your editor is using it right now.) Frank writes:

Hey, I'm running XP until I can't. Vista and Windows 7 both have network issues connecting to multiple domains. Until someone can tell me how to:

1) Login to one domain
2) Connect to file shares in another domain
3) Did I forget to mention that the domains cannot directly trust each other or become part of the same tree, directory, etc.? (Whatever the new buzz word is for Active Directory, NDS, etc...)

I haven't played with the Windows XP compatibility in Windows 7 yet, but it would not be enough to allow all applications to see the drive shares. Ah, the fun of having someone else in charge of a large part of my work space and the ability, or rather lack thereof, to do something about it.

I hate the control changes when browsing files. I used to be able to use backspace (very fast and quick 'look Ma, no mouse needed!' in Windows XP) to change up directory levels. In Windows 7, it gets into a round-robin and doesn't come out! And don't get me started about that horrid ribbon in Office 2007 and 2010. Yuck to the core! Dang, Microsoft, just pull the rug right out from under me and give me nowhere to land. I do like some of the speed differences in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 to get to a desktop. But that's about it.

Maybe Linux desktops will be a thing of the future.

Frank, we know that you meant that last line as a joke... (Seriously, he originally put a smiley on the end of it.) As great as Windows 7 is, it can be, as the English say, too clever by half. Many of the new capabilities are great, but the OS also breaks processes and shortcuts that are familiar from XP -- and that did and do still work just fine. It's hard to undo nearly a decade of OS habits.

As for Mike, he'd love to move a client to Windows 7, but it's not going to happen:

I would love to move my biggest client to Windows 7, but here's the catch: My client is running SBS 2003 and with the economy, especially in California getting ready for another down-turn, we will continue with SBS 2003. It is working just fine; we have had no issues and no security threats (like everyone else, so far). But the biggest thing is that Windows 7 does not function with SBS 2003 \\servername\client\setup.exe, which must be run when connecting a machine to the SBS 2003 domain so that it provides the necessary hooks into the desktop OS for Exchange, MS Fax and the intranet Web page.

Even with the users as member of Windows 7's local "Administrators" group, that SBS client setup.exe will not run. I have been working with Microsoft now for more than three weeks for a solution and based on most things I read, I am not the only one having this same issue. The standard answer is upgrade to SBS 2008. But wait, wasn't one of the big soap-box shouts that Microsoft touted was that Windows 7 is more backward-compatible than Vista?

Here is also more proof that this is statement is incorrect. You set up your users to have a home directory "\\servername\users\%username%" (which is also where their roaming profiles are located). You have a Windows 7 machine join the domain, log on as a user and try to get your roaming profile, but all you get is a temporary profile. You look at the server, and guess what? Windows 7 has created a new home folder called "\\servername\users\%username.V2%" and that folder has NO permissions assigned to it.

We are looking at replacing 23 machines. Guess we will have to go out and dig up copies of XP that are still available since Windows 7 won't work.

Mike, that sounds frustrating beyond belief. As you said, you surely aren't alone in having that kind of problem. Sometimes, Microsoft forgets that businesses don't just move to the latest version of a product as soon as it comes out. Microsoft has gotten much better about backward compatibility, but clearly there's still work to do in that area.

Thanks to Frank and Mike for their contributions and to everyone who has taken the time to write recently. We're going to get back to running reader e-mails more often, so send your thoughts on all and sundry topics to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on September 16, 20105 comments

Editor's Note: RCPU To Have Guest Writers

Faithful readers (and those of you who only check in once in a while), your editor is expecting a major life event that could happen at any moment. As such, RCPU may suddenly be taken over by guest writers for a week or more. Not to worry, though. These folks are the Earl Morrall of RCPU writers. (Of course, you know that Earl Morrall was the greatest backup quarterback of all time. He led the undefeated 1972 Dolphins to nine of their 17 wins…at the age of 38.) Scott Bekker, Jeff Schwartz and Doug Barney are all prepared to strap on the helmet in case your editor has to spend some time on the sidelines. Just don't start liking them more than you like the "normal" RCPU... Also, other than this entry, RCPU is going to be pretty short the next couple of days. So enjoy that while it lasts.


Posted by Lee Pender on September 15, 20100 comments

Microsoft Releases Beta of Dynamics CRM 2011

This is the release that's meant to be a killer. Wonder what Marc Benioff ('s CEO, of course) will have to say about that...

Posted by Lee Pender on September 15, 20100 comments

An Imperfect Patch Tuesday

Apparently yesterday's patches were not quite good enough. Four zero-day bugs from the infamous Stuxnet worm seem to have gone un-patched.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 15, 20100 comments

Group Reports Growth in Tech Jobs

Is the recession over? Does it feel over? It doesn't really matter all that much what the stock market is doing or what leading economic indicators say as long as the job market is still lousy.

Fortunately, though, a group called TechAmerica says that tech jobs actually picked up a bit in the first half of 2010... by 0.5 percent. But hey, a bump is a bump.

Considering that the year-over-year numbers from TechAmerica, which sounds like the name of a nerdy 1970s singing group (remember Up with People?), show a gain in hiring in 2010 versus a loss of jobs in 2009, things are looking better.

But they're not looking that much better.  Dig this quote from Chris Paoli's story on this whole deal:

"'Though the tech industry was among the last to feel the effects of the economic downturn of 2008-2009, it was not immune to job loss and is only slowly showing signs of climbing out of it,' said Josh James, vice president for research and industry analysis at TechAmerica Foundation, in a press release. 'Tech employment as of June 2010 stood at 5.78 million, compared to 5.99 million in January 2009. So there is still a way to go before we've made up for lost jobs, and continued recovery is by no means certain.'"

Way to be a floater in the punch bowl there, Josh. Seriously, would it kill somebody to deliver good news without dropping in a heavy dose of caveats? Oh, well, a little good news is better than more bad news we suppose. And for about 30,000 people in the tech industry (according to TechAmerica), the recession "ended" in the first half of 2010. We like hearing that.

How worried are you about your job? If you're not working, how tough has finding a job been? Tell all to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on September 15, 20100 comments

Redmond Fights Russian Trickery

So, those darn Russians are at it again, infiltrating dissident groups and confiscating their computers in the name of...checking for pirated Microsoft software. Redmond, blissfully unaware of this sort of thing, is now familiar with the law of unintended consequences.

But in fairness to Microsoft (and we're not suggesting in any way that Microsoft was complicit in this Russian stuff -- in fact, we're sure that it wasn't), Redmond is trying to sort the situation out so that this sort of thing doesn't happen again. If the Russians are going to run a police state, couldn't they at least go back to using their old logo? It was way cooler than anything they have now.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 13, 20103 comments

HP Buys Security Firm

HP got its spend on again this week, dishing out $1.5 billion for security company ArcSight after beating out Dell in the 3Par sweepstakes earlier this month. (And, apparently, security is not a bad place to be these days…)

Posted by Lee Pender on September 13, 20100 comments