Paul Allen Diagnosed with Lymphoma

RCPU's thoughts and prayers are with the Microsoft co-founder and Pacific Northwest sports investor, who got some bad news this week. We've had enough of bad news and don't want to hear any more for a while after this, thank you.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 18, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Microsoft Opens Windows Mobile Marketplace to More Users

You don't have to be a Windows Mobile 6.5 user to have access to the Marketplace anymore. Anybody on a 6.x platform can now shop for WinMo apps. Granted, given WinMo's market share, that's still not that many people, but hey.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 18, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Windows 7 Under Attack

Already? It's been not quite a month since Microsoft finally let Windows 7 into the wild, and wouldn't you know that hunters are already taking shots at it.

Or, at least, they can see the targets on its back. This week, Microsoft offered advice on how to deal with a zero-day vulnerability that appears to be the new operating system's first post-release flaw.

The problem, as you surely know by now, is with the SMB networking protocol in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Microsoft says that anybody who knows how to put up a decent firewall shouldn't feel the effects of the flaw, which could include denial-of-service attacks. (Hey, where were those denial-of-service attacks on Vista when we needed them? Heh heh. OK, that's the last one. We promise. Probably.)

Perhaps more worrying, though, is the potential for Trojan attacks to follow a Windows 7 activation hack that somebody came up with last week. The idea is -- as it usually is with a Trojan attack -- that Trojans could disguise themselves as Windows 7 activation hacks and fool users. However, Microsoft has said that if the Windows 7 activation Trojans are as harmless as the current USC Trojans, users should have no reason to worry. (OK, Microsoft didn't really say that. But it's kind of true.)

All of this is, of course, pretty much par for the course when it comes to Windows, and nothing here seems serious enough to warrant panic. But these stories are just an example of how complex an OS really is and how quickly and easily ne'er-do-wells can find a way to ruin it.

And they do makes us wonder whether the risks of cloud computing -- so well-documented here and elsewhere over the last couple of years -- are really that big of a deal after all. And it makes us wonder how much longer the huge, complex OS as a concept has to live...but that's another entry for another time.

What's your take on Windows 7 security? Have you had any serious problems with it yet? Send your stories to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on November 18, 2009 at 11:55 AM2 comments

Cloudbursts: IBM, AT&T Unveil Offerings

Remember the old Prudential Insurance ads that encouraged customers to "get a piece of the rock"? (Yes, we just spent about 20 minutes watching old '70s commercials. It's all in a day's work.) Well, the cloud is the new rock, and everybody wants a piece of it.

No stranger to the cloud, IBM enhanced its hosted offerings this week with the introduction of Smart Analytics Cloud, a business intelligence-heavy play that features technology acquired by Big Blue from former BI vendor Cognos.

Armonk (hey, we're always calling Microsoft "Redmond," right?) is setting up Smart Analytics Cloud as being available either in a pure hosted model or as an on-premises "private" cloud with hardware housed inside a company's walls and software distributed to users as a service. Not unlike...well, a mainframe, in some ways.

We're not surprised, of course, that IBM is upping its cloud ante. But this cloud stuff isn't just for traditional technology vendors. Amazon is a major player, and now AT&T, one of the most venerable names in American business (not unlike IBM, of course, except that AT&T isn't really a tech vendor per se) is expanding its cloud products.

Despite battling a cloud-services outage this week, AT&T is touting its relationships with VMware and Sun and moving from cloud-storage offerings to cloud computing; its new product carries the catchy name Synaptic Compute as a Service (SCaaS, we suppose). SCaaS uses Sun hardware and virtualization software from the market giant, VMware.

For Microsoft partners, as if this wasn't obvious enough already, the beefing up of one company's cloud offering (IBM) and the serious entry of another (AT&T) into the game shows that the cloud is going to be a battleground (battle-air?) the likes of which Redmond has not encountered before. This race is wide open, and the old Microsoft pitch of Windows ubiquity and everything working better together won't hold much water (air?) in the cloud.

Redmond, of course, is all over this stuff these days, although it's still working out (and not without controversy) how it's going to share the cloud wealth with partners. Still, though, Azure is no sure thing -- not with everybody trying to get a piece of the cloud.

Who's your choice for the front-runner in cloud computing? What do you think of Microsoft's strategy? Sound off at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on November 16, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Windows 7 Vulnerability Confirmed

And we're off! It looks as though the first Windows 7 vulnerability has arrived, although experts say that Windows 7 was just feeling vulnerable and needed to be held.

Just kidding. Seriously, though, word is that this shouldn't be too big a deal for partners or IT folks who know what they're doing.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 16, 2009 at 11:55 AM2 comments

Microsoft Accidentally Goes Open Source

Microsoft has paid a fair amount of lip service over the years to opening up to open source, while at the same time making patent threats and generally mixing its messages. Well, evidently, Microsoft is more interested in open source than anybody at the company realized.

Apparently, a Windows 7 download utility contains code protected by the open source General Public License version 2, meaning Microsoft can modify the code -- which Redmond says came from a third-party -- but then has to release the modified code to the open source community. Amazingly, that's what Microsoft plans to do.

For more on how this happened and how somebody sniffed it out, check out the Q&A here.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 16, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Microsoft Lays Off a Few More than Expected

We all knew that Microsoft has been systematically getting rid of 5,000 or so employees (while hiring others at the same time). Well, what might be the last of the bloodletting seems to be taking place now. What's interesting about that is, apparently, the total number of layoffs will actually exceed 5,000.

Should we take this as some sort of sign? Or is this just Microsoft carrying out the last phase of its plan to kind of, sort of slim down? The company's latest earnings report pleased Wall Street but still showed (not unexpected) declines in revenues and profits.

Nevertheless, Microsoft is still a big company. Take a look at the chart in this TechFlash article; it indicates that Redmond had not quite 20,000 employees back in 1995 and now has more than 90,000. We at RCPU hate to see people lose their jobs and would never advocate that Microsoft get rid of any more employees. The truth is, though, that Microsoft is still a bloated company, weighed down by its desire to dominate every category in the software industry (and a few others) all the time.

Cutting a little fat in terms of product lines probably wouldn't be the worst thing for Microsoft. And we hope that the new folks who are coming in are at least moving into roles with Azure or something related either to the cloud or to Microsoft's flailing mobile efforts.

We've long heard here and there that Microsoft doesn't recruit the quality of employee it used to get because the company's once-lucrative stock options -- apparently a big chunk of an employee's compensation in Redmond -- aren't so lucrative anymore. The company's stock has been largely flat for years now.

One way to boost a stock price is to cut costs, of course, and that's exactly what Microsoft is trying to do with these layoffs. Again, we hate layoffs, but if there's any silver lining to this scenario, it's that Microsoft might just be able to shrink itself enough to become more focused, more efficient and less bloated and to get its stock price moving up again. That could lead to improved recruitment and ultimately to more innovation and better management. And all of that could lead to bigger profits for Microsoft partners.

Anyway, that's a very long-term take on a tiny news story. But it'll be worth watching Microsoft's personnel moves in the months and years to come as the company seeks to establish a desired level of staff and expenditures. This is new territory for Microsoft. Until now, the company had been all about growth. How Redmond navigates these choppy new waters will have a lot to do with its future and those of its partners.

What's your take on Microsoft's financial condition? How does it affect you? Sound off at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on November 05, 2009 at 11:55 AM1 comments

Microsoft Bringing Cloud to Taiwan

Redmond is setting up a cloud computing research center on the island.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 05, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

T-Mobile Suffers Another Outage

After the Sidekick fiasco, beleaguered T-Mobile had to deal with another pack of angry users this week, although it does seem to have resolved a service outage that affected about 5 percent of its customers.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 05, 2009 at 11:55 AM2 comments

Ingram Micro Beats the Street

In case you missed the earnings announcement late last week, Ingram Micro reported -- like just about everybody else -- quarterly revenue and profit shortfalls, but the big distributor managed to beat Wall Street expectations. So we'll take that as mostly good news.

Posted by Lee Pender on November 05, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Microsoft Dynamics Goes After Oracle, Customers

Now, here's a Microsoft cloud play that could produce some thunder. Microsoft is offering Dynamics CRM Online, its hosted customer relationship management suite, free for seven months to customers of Oracle's and's competing products.

We've long held that Dynamics is a powerhouse-in-waiting in enterprise software, and we think that's especially true for Dynamics CRM, both on-premises and in a hosted model. So, Microsoft partners, set those wavering Oracle and customers up with a little try-before-you-buy and see whether they get hooked.  (Incidentally, Microsoft is now saying that Dynamics CRM Online turns out to be the cheapest of the three options, anyway).

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

Microsoft Cuts Cloud Prices

OK, so the news here is that Microsoft has decided to make its discount on the Business Productivity Online Suite, or BPOS (catchy), permanent. Henceforth, the price of BPOS will be $10 per user per month rather than $15 per user per month.

Hey, if it works, it works, although partners might not be thrilled by this cloud pricing strategy if it ultimately causes their referral fees to shrink. The main point here, though, is that the timing of the permanent price cut is likely not incidental.

As we've been telling you for a while now, Microsoft recently lost a bid to provide e-mail service for the city of Los Angeles. Google and its pure-cloud play beat Microsoft, which spent perhaps too much time (at least publicly) railing against the security and reliability of Google's cloud-based applications -- and, we submit, doing too much bashing of the whole idea of the cloud in general.

Well, today, we read this from a Seattle PI article:

"The Business Productivity Online Suite was one of the Microsoft options that the Los Angeles city government considered while searching for a new e-mail and collaboration system..."

Oh, really? Well, that's even more interesting. So Microsoft comes in, bashes Google (fair enough; that's competition), casts doubt upon the cloud model (not a good idea), talks (from what we can gather) about the advantages of old-school Exchange and Outlook, and then says, "But, hey, our cloud stuff is really great! Even though we're actually behind Google in terms of cloud computing! And we're trying to walk a tightrope between protecting revenues from our traditional products and moving toward a new model! A model that, by the way, we want you to think is insecure and unreliable unless it's coming from which case it's not really, entirely complete yet!"

Granted, it's doubtful that anybody from Redmond used those exact words, but that's probably about how the pitch sounded to the fine elected officials of L.A. It's no wonder Google won the contract. It came in with a clear message, an inexpensive new platform and some sort of vision for the future. Microsoft came in with all sorts of baggage and likely left some decision makers a bit confused.

It's not that BPOS is a bad product. It doesn't seem to be; it's growing in terms of user numbers and capabilities all the time, from what we've seen. And we're sure that Microsoft can and will eventually be a big player in the cloud. It just needs a better game plan right now.

Any more comments to make on this story? Or on the cloud in general, or on Microsoft's cloud strategy? We'd love to hear them at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on November 04, 2009 at 11:55 AM2 comments