Microsoft Releases Development Tool for Non-Developers

Have you ever wanted to write code all night long, give up all hope of dating, wear ironic t-shirts and be a PhD-level expert on Battlestar Galactica? Well, Microsoft's Visual Studio LightSwitch might not help you do all that, but it'll get you started on the right path by making a developer out of you, even if you don't have development skills. Skittles and Mountain Dew are not included.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 05, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft Draws Blood in Salesforce.com Patent Suit

At last, a battle. Microsoft has long rattled its patent saber at much of the industry, particularly the open source crowd, but it finally flashed the sword by suing Salesforce.com for patent infringement.

And Microsoft drew blood.

Oh, it's just a flesh would, to be sure. But this week, Redmond announced a settlement of its patent suit with Salesforce.com (as well as a settlement of Salesforce.com's counter-suit), and Microsoft's press release included this key phrase: "Microsoft indicated that it is being compensated by Salesforce.com"

How much? We don't know? For what, precisely? We're not sure about that, either. But other than the fact that the companies have granted each other some patent coverage, the main thrust of this news is that Microsoft actually used patents as a weapon against a fairly big competitor and got a positive result. (A sure sign that Microsoft "won?" There's a press release about the settlement on the Microsoft Web site--but there isn't one on Salesforce.com's.)

For Marc Benioff, the outspoken CEO of the wildly successful Salesforce.com, this week's settlement must come as a bit of an embarrassment. It was Benioff, after all, who referred to Microsoft as "alley thugs" when the Seattleites first filed suit. But a Salesforce.com spokesperson told multiple media outlets that the company was glad to have the litigation behind it, which doesn't sound as bitter or nasty as it might have.

Still, those vendors in the industry that haven't capitulated to one of Microsoft's patent shake-down offers need to sit up and pay attention. There is, apparently, some bite to match Redmond's bark and a little bit of fresh blood on the company's sword. Future opponents beware.

What's your take on Microsoft's patent baiting? Send it to [email protected]. To the faithful readers who have taken time to write, we will run reader e-mails again soon...really. And thank you.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 05, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


The New Face of the Microsoft Partner Network

For nearly a decade, the Microsoft Partner Program, as it was known, was synonymous with Allison Watson, its popular and accomplished leader. Then, right before this year's Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft moved Watson out of her post.

With just one week to prepare for the WPC, Watson's replacement, Jonathan Roskill, was suddenly on stage last month in Washington, D.C., serving as the new face of what is now the Microsoft Partner Network and attempting to calm the fears of many members of Microsoft's massive channel.

How well did he do? It's still too early to say. But there's no question that as Microsoft reshapes its partner program and transitions (or, in some cases, drags) partners toward the cloud, Roskill will face what might be the most daunting on-the-job training of his career. With 600,000-plus members, the Microsoft Partner Network effectively represents Microsoft's sales force, and there is grumbling within the ranks about some of Redmond's recent changes and proclamations.  

In the August issue of RCP the magazine, Scott Bekker and Jeff Schwartz look at the biggest challenges facing Roskill, how he can manage them and what partners should expect from him. The transitioning MPN and cloud technologies figure heavily into the list, as you might imagine.

Microsoft generally has a pretty good track record of appointing executives, and big changes in leadership are not at all unusual in the company. That's part of the reason why Watson's tenure -- a relatively lengthy eight years -- and her departure were both something of a surprise.

She had the opportunity to get settled into a position as few Microsoft honchos can, and her shift away from the MPN has left Roskill with a tough act to follow. In fact, he'll have to lead, not follow, if he's going to succeed in his new post. The old warning about living in "interesting times" seems very appropriate right now. We'll have to see just how interesting things get for partners and for Roskill.

What's your take on new leadership in the MPN? Send it to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on August 04, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Office for Mac Coming in Late October

As the leaves fall and the college football season starts to get serious, Office for Mac 2011 will arrive. We can't wait -- for the leaves and the football, that is. Your editor doesn't have a Mac (anymore).

Posted by Lee Pender on August 04, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


HP Releases Desktop PC for SMBs

In the tablet and smart phone era, the old-school desktop lives. HP came out with a new one this week, the HP Pro 3130. At $569 and loaded with features and storage, it's a solid option for smaller companies looking to upgrade from decade-old machines.

It's content creation that keeps desktops alive and kicking in a world of tiny, content-consumption devices, says Kirk Godkin, manager, Americas Business PCs, at HP. 

"The way desktops remain relevant is you need devices for content creation," Godkin told RCPU in a phone chat recently. "What we will continue to see is that the client in those infrastructures will continue to be a desktop. When we compare this 3130 to a five-year-old PC, it's going to generate 350 percent faster than your old PC. If you're running XP, you're running a PC that's eight years old. Eight years ago, we were walking around with pagers."

Posted by Lee Pender on August 04, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Microsoft's Living Dead: Zombie Products

Yes! Finally, after more than four years, we at RCPU have a legitimate excuse to link to Michael Jackson's iconic Thriller video, and to the Wikipedia entry for it, which is sprinkled with the dust of comedy gold. (Seriously, anything that includes the sentence, "The zombies then break into an elaborate song and dance number..." is well worth reading.)

So, why all of this horror imagery when Halloween is still months away? Glad you asked. There's a feature in the August issue of RCP magazine that's all about the kind  of zombies that roam around Redmond -- and partner shops and IT departments -- terrifying all who come in contact with them.

These are the products that Microsoft has either tried to kill or has left for dead, but they exist in a sort of software purgatory -- unsupported, no longer updated, but not totally buried yet. They're the living dead of Redmond's product lines, and they can cause nightmares for partners whose clients either want them or need to support them.

There are lots of examples of these zombie products, but we picked out eight for the RCP story. Some have hilarious histories (Windows Live OneCare), while others (Windows Essential Business Server) lived hard, died young and actually seemed pretty useful at some point. (That makes the latter category something of a lineup of zombie James Deans, although they're much less cool than the man himself was because they did, after all, come from Microsoft.)

Partners don't have to succumb to these zombies, though. There are ways to ward them off or kill them for good -- Including going outside the realm of Redmond. It's almost a sure thing, though, that Microsoft will continue to repopulate the ranks of zombie products, so it's worth looking out for support details hidden in FAQs or buried on product Web sites -- because having to deal with these living-dead applications is certainly no (here it comes)...thriller.

 Which Microsoft zombie product has given you the most nightmares? How have you handled suddenly unsupported product lines? Tell you scary stories at lp[email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on August 02, 2010 at 11:56 AM6 comments


Ballmer Lays out Microsoft Mobile Strategy

Steve said last week that Microsoft's tactic is to lure everybody to sleep with incredibly dumb ideas like the Kin and then strike when Apple least expects it... OK, not really. Ballmer did try to come up with something to say about Microsoft mobile "strategy" last week, though. As for Microsoft producing a tablet computer of its own... Well, that might not happen for a while (thanks in large part to Intel).

Posted by Lee Pender on August 02, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Windows Shortcut Flaw Gets Patch

Wait, it's not Tuesday! No, but Microsoft is breaking form by rushing out a patch for the now-infamous Windows "shortcut" vulnerability. Oh, unless you have XP SP2. Then you get no patch.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 02, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


WSJ Goes Overboard Bashing Microsoft on Privacy

The venerable Wall Street Journal took a great story on the inner working of Internet Explorer development in Redmond and turned it into a hit piece. The thrust: Microsoft could have made "InPrivate" mode -- IE's non-tracking mode, also unfortunately dubbed "porn mode" -- the default in IE8, but it didn't. Microsoft made InPrivate an option instead.

Oh, and Microsoft and some other Web sites (pretty much all other Web sites, as we know) sometimes install cookies on a user's machine. What? Cookies? Our alternative selves living in a parallel universe in 1993 are shocked by this. Shocked!

Posted by Lee Pender on August 02, 2010 at 11:56 AM3 comments


AT&T on Board with Microsoft for Windows Phone 7

AT&T must be some sort of glutton for punishment. The exclusive provider of iPhone service is now going to be the "premier" provider of service for the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 platform...whatever that means.

Both Apple and AT&T get loads of flack from bloggers and the trade press about the iPhone and Windows Phone 7. Given the recent epic failure of Microsoft's Kin,  Microsoft doesn't exactly have the best image at the moment, either. So, why would AT&T want to get mixed up in another mobile mess?

Well, probably because the iPhone has brought AT&T a whole mess of profits. In fact, the phone itself might actually have improved AT&T's reputation as a carrier, which is apparently pretty good among customers.

Will Windows Phone 7 have the same effect, either on profits or on credibility? Not likely. But it couldn't hurt to jump in on the ground floor or a Microsoft mobile project...right? What's that, Verizon? Surely Windows Phone 7 will fare better than the Kin, which was kind of a dumb idea to begin with. (A social-networking phone? Really? Because other similarly priced phones didn't do that already? Not Redmond's finest hour.)

But how will Microsoft fare with AT&T? Granted, "premier" provider does not mean "exclusive" by any means, but clearly AT&T wants to play a big role in the launch of Windows Phone 7. Can its network, already stretched, handle the traffic? Will users be so happy with their Widows Phone 7 devices that their good vibes will spill over onto AT&T, as has apparently happened with the iPhone? And does Microsoft risk alienating other providers with this "premier" business?

Our speculative answers to those last three questions are, in order: probably not, probably not and probably. It's time for an editorial rant here: Your editor is a smartphone owner and an AT&T subscriber (although not an iPhone user), and he can say with some confidence that AT&T's service has been consistently awful. As soon as the contract expires, it's back to T-Mobile or over to Verizon without hesitation. Remember, that's just your editor's take on things.

Nevertheless, it's worth watching how closely Microsoft and AT&T end up partnering on Windows Phone 7. Microsoft put all its eggs in one basket with Verizon on Kin, and the eggs broke. Windows Phone 7 should be a better platform than Kin was, but carriers matter...a lot. As do hardware partners -- but that's another post for another time.

How satisfied are you with your phone service? Which carrier would you like to see Microsoft work with for Windows Phone 7? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on July 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments


Microsoft Could Turn to Supreme Court in i4i Patent Case

It's Hail Mary time (sorry, Minnesota) for Microsoft, which just keeps losing its now famous patent case with Canadian developer i4i. (Yes, this was the one that led to an injunction on sales of Microsoft Word.) It has gotten so bad that Microsoft is looking at taking this one all the way to the Supreme Court. No word yet on whether Roger Staubach or Drew Pearson will serve as legal counsel...

Posted by Lee Pender on July 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments


Sophos, G Data Seek To Patch Windows Vulnerability

With Microsoft unable to come up with a patch itself, security firms Sophos and G Data (the latter of which sounds like the name of a really nerdy rapper) are offering free patches for a Windows vulnerability that has run rampant in some areas of late

Posted by Lee Pender on July 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments