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RCP Story Sets Off Fourth of July Fireworks

It's very rare in the RCP Update that we congratulate ourselves, but it's worth noting this week that Executive Editor Anne Stuart's story on dealing with Microsoft haters in the July 2006 issue of RCP has struck a nerve in the IT and partner communities.
http://rcpmag.com/features/article.aspx?editorialsid=603

Not only has the story obliterated all records for hits on a single link on our Web site in record time, it has also made a splash in other places on the Web as well.
http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,2180,1982378,00.asp
http://arstechnica.com/journals/microsoft.ars/2006/6/26/4451
http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/forums?a=tpc&s=
50009562&f=372005082731&m=225000189731&r=225000189731

Unfortunately, because the story also ran on Microsoft Certified Professional magazine's site, a couple of linkers have identified the story as an MCPmag.com story. While that's an easy mistake to make (and while we love MCPmag, too), we'd like everyone to know that this story is all RCP—and it's intended to help Microsoft partners deal with those people who might serve as roadblocks in potential deals because they just can't stand the Pride of Redmond.

What the story is not is pro-Microsoft, as the first Ars Technica link unfortunately suggests. Helping partners overcome anti-Microsoft feelings among customers shouldn't be confused with taking a pro-Microsoft stance. (We strive in the magazine and in this newsletter—although the newsletter is intentionally more provocative—to take a balanced approach to covering Microsoft.) Then again, there are a lot of opinionated readers who consider anything that doesn't use every other word to bash Redmond to be "pro-Microsoft."

And that in itself is an interesting point to ponder. While the reader survey that helped us put together our brand-new (pun intended) July issue (more shameless self-promotion here: http://rcpmag.com/issue/) indicated that the Microsoft hater seems to be a slowly dying (or at least shrinking) breed, it's still no less vocal a breed than it has always been. With Microsoft itself clearly in transition and a new generation of leadership stepping in, it'll be interesting to follow how the image of the company morphs and changes.

Some sort of serious competitor (as in, something more organized than the open-source movement and more pervasive than Apple's wares) in the operating system and office suite spaces would at least give us a basis for comparison as to how well Redmond is really doing in developing the software that runs the world's computers. That could either lead to a greater appreciation of Microsoft's offerings or a mass realization—outside the faithful Linux and Mac communities—that we could have had so much better all this time.

Also, Ray Ozzie and whoever replaces Steve Ballmer when Ballmer does eventually leave will play a huge role in changing the face of the company so closely tied to the name Bill Gates. The new generation in Redmond has an opportunity to soften the still somewhat arrogant, blustery image of the company (often reinforced by Ballmer's personality) and maybe placate some of those who have—in many cases justifiably—been so critical of Microsoft over the years. Plus, we'd like to see Microsoft make a more serious move toward openness and run a little less roughshod over standards and the input of the rest of the industry. Oh, and getting stuff out on time wouldn't hurt, either.

Still, some of the bashing of Microsoft that's out there seems more bitter than useful. And for partners who make money off of Redmond's wares, it can still be poison. Maybe that's why Anne's story got such a quick and passionate response—a few Fourth of July fireworks before the day arrives.

And on that note, there will be only one edition of RCP Update next week, on Thursday. Have a great Fourth. And for our readers not in the U.S., have a great Tuesday of next week.

How would you like to see Microsoft's image change? Tell me at lpender@rcpmag.com

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Maybe The Better Question is Whether Business 2.0 Matters
Only kidding...there's a lot of great content to be found there. But, placing Steve Ballmer at the top of a list of 10 technology executives who no longer matter seems both a little premature and a lot over-provocative. What were we saying about Microsoft bashing? Nevertheless, there's some thought-provoking stuff here:
http://money.cnn.com/2006/06/21/technology/10dontmatter.biz2/index.htm

Office Comes Alive; WinFS is Still Dead
Good news—there's an online preview of Office 2007. I haven't checked it out yet, but I'd be grateful if some of you would and report back to me.
http://rcpmag.com/news/article.aspx?editorialsid=7567

Not so good news—we told you here on Monday that WinFS was on the rocks. http://rcpmag.com/reports/article.aspx?editorialsid=163

Well, now it's official: WinFS really is dead. Really.
http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,2180,1982565,00.asp

Redmond Edges In on Adobe's Territory
After PDFgate (let's see whether that one gets any traction: http://rcpmag.com/reports/article.aspx?editorialsid=157 ), Microsoft has stepped up its competition with Adobe by purchasing a maker of photo management tools:
http://news.com.com/Microsoft+buys+photo+management+tool+maker/
2100-1014_3-6088522.html

Held Up in a Dallas Airport: Best of the Martin Taylor Reader E-Mails
Poor Martin Taylor. He probably doesn't deserve all the speculation that's been going around as to why he's no longer with Microsoft.
http://rcpmag.com/reports/article.aspx?editorialsid=162

And we're not the only ones speculating.
http://it.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=189110&cid=15578748
(Thanks to Andreas for the link.)

But, while we're at it, here's some of your pure speculation (because, again, we don't know what happened) as to why Martin and Microsoft parted ways. (Please note that, thanks to your active participation, I am now getting too many e-mails to run them all in RCP Update. It's tough to pick and choose, but I'll have to do the best I can.)

On a serious note, a former Microsoftie offered this thought-provoking e-mail:

"A quick dismissal at his level is almost always because he took an unpopular stand versus someone with a large ego. There are untouchables at the company and crossing them is never, ever wise. Soon after your windmill tilting you'll find everyone moving away from you, your participation in meetings unnecessary, your direct manager OOF when you need them. With little ability to succeed you simply surrender."

Wow, that's a pretty damning assessment of what's going on inside the ivory tower of the software industry. I have to admit that my thoughts were running along the same lines—but, then again, we don't know what happened.

Another ex-Remonder offered this: "Here's a quote from someone inside: "I am not sure—everything is very hush hush." That usually meant something serious, like an HR violation or something worse."

That was my other suspicion, too. And if that's the case, we'll probably never know what happened.

Back on the "fun" side of things, Jonathan offers a medical reason for departure: "He went for a company physical and it was discovered he had a heart?"

Yee-owch. But that's pretty funny.

Ed gives us a dose of pop culture with his e-mail: "Maybe he watched Toby Keith's "Stays in Mexico" video too many times and got held up in a broom closet in the Dallas airport...."

I'll have to take your word for that, Ed. I'm a bad Texan and not really into country music anymore.

Ilya bought into the classic "held up at a Dallas airport" excuse but had a different notion of what "held up" meant:

"History will show, without a doubt, that Martin Taylor's sudden departure from Microsoft was a condition of his release set by the criminal masterminds who held him up at a Dallas airport. "Leave Microsoft—or else!" they said, and produced some convincing evidence of their resolve to deliver on the "else" part in the form of a recent MSFT stock chart, or perhaps a severed pinky (eyewitness accounts differ at this point). So it seems that Microsoft's initial response to inquiries was truthful about Martin's Dallas misadventure after all."

Hmmm, sinister.

And, finally, in the e-mail that wins the grand prize (my eternal admiration), Bill from Texas serves up a masterpiece: "What happened to Martin Taylor? It is obvious once you realize 'got held up in a Dallas airport' is an anagram for 'Dang, I trip up a lot! A head rolls.'"

Bravo, maestro.

I'll have more of your reactions to the newsletter next week. In the meantime, keep sending your musings to lpender@rcpmag.com.

And thanks for reading.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 28, 2006 at 11:53 AM