Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

same old microsoft - take 3

Okay, last one on this subject for a while-- I don't want the blog to turn into a pro-anti-or-whatever-microsoft discussion. BTW, Murph emailed me a pointer to this article from The Register on the default setups of OSes, and how they affect security. Very interesting, particularly the MS-vs-Solaris comparison.

On to the subject, Murph made more comments to my previous reply:

But they don't bundle the things that they're talking about leveraging (SQL server and exchange) and that's why its a bad article. Is novell going to be any different for packaging the AMP from LAMP into Netware?? Only because its not MS.

OTOH talk about the added value of combing (say) Outlook and Exchange and how that in turn stuffed Groupwise I'll be cheering you on...

Or, to come down a step, about the way they roll UI changes round between office and the desktop.

Two points I want to make here.

1) Murph says "Is novell going to be any different for packaging the AMP from LAMP into Netware?? Only because its not MS." Exactly!Microsoft holds a monopoly. Holding a monopoly in and of itself is not illegal; using it in predatory fashion is. Monopolists have to abide to more stringent set of rules than non-monopolists, as far as I'm concerned. If Novell was holding 90% of their market, then we'd be discussing their moves too.

2) Regarding "OTOH talk about the added value of combing (say) Outlook and Exchange and how that in turn stuffed Groupwise I'll be cheering you on...". I think Murph's point was how Microsoft's bundling in the Outlook+Exchange combination made others consider bloatware a good strategy. That is indeed another of the bad sides of massive bundling (even loose bundling, ie., not built-in but easy to integrate).

I just want to make another clarification: I have argued before (in a discussion similar to this one with Murph, actually :-)) that I am not anti-microsoft, or pro-microsoft either. Maybe I haven't made it explicit enough, but my mention in the previous entry of how they could, if they chose to, compete on the merits on their software, was along those lines. They have one of the best software engineering organizations in the world. Their products sometimes are not to par (well, okay, their first releases rarely are), but nobody else has to deploy millions of copies on their first release either. As far as I'm concerned, if they accepted that they are a monopoly, and behaved accordingly, they would be ok in my book. Bundling nonsensically just for the sake of grabbing market share wouldn't matter much: people would choose other products if they thought that was best. The best approach would win.

Agreed, that's a bit idealistic. But these are just ideas anyway. No one gets hurt by saying them out loud. :-)

Enough of Microsoft for a while though. There are a ton of other cool things happening--and who knows, if they get to have enough impact, this whole discussion might be rendered moot anyway! (That's the idealist again talking! :-))

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on April 28, 2003 at 4:42 PM

same old microsoft - take 2

Murph commented to my previous link to an article on the Economist on the recent Microsoft moves on the server side and opening up the code. He said:

Bad article... as far as I'm aware there is nothing new in terms of what is included with the various 2K3 server packages.

Very questionable stats about level of server o/s shipments as I'll bet there are a /lot/ of unix type boxes out there for which ther o/s was not purchased.

As I've said before (and will say again) this is not to say that MS are going to behave themselves - but the products that are listed have to be paid (except in the case of small business server) for and that contradicts the initial assertion.

Bad, bad piece of analysis.

My take, since I didn't really make any comments on the article. First, what I find interesting is that it is The Economist who is making these comments. It's not as if they are the "defender of the working man" or something. They're fairly conservative. They stand for the pure "free markets philosophy", but they tend to be consistent, so so they also reject predatory monopolistic behavior, which is what Microsoft often engages in.

Second, regarding the specific assertions in the article, I don't think it is wildly off the mark, although I'd agree that it's not really new either. Murph's comment of "the [additional] products have to be paid for anyway" is accurate only in some cases. As examples, let me list Active Directory and IIS, both products that before had their own markets and that Microsoft successfully integrated into their server offering, built in, and for free. In the case of Active Directory, they've essentially killed off the competition (which was mostly Netware Directory Services, and, by the way, the product was invented by Novell too), and in the case of IIS the only thing that has been stopping them from owning the web server market is Apache/Linux.

Whether the products have to be purchased separately or not, however, is not the issue IMO. The article doesn't talk about the price, but about bundling, since the problem is not whether you're providing new products but whether you're using dominance of one market to leverage into dominance of others.

Regarding the server shipments stats, that Murph questions, I think he is right, there are many UNIX boxes that are not being paid for. But the fact that, even with that factor in, even considering it's a down market, they are still increasing their dominance is what counts.

In the end, it really comes down to whether Microsoft behaves or not. There is a fine line between doing "just bundling" and leveraging dominance in one market to conquer the next. As the article notes, Microsoft has had less success with XBox, and clearly the fact that they didn't have a market to leverage for that has been a factor.

I really think that Microsoft has what it takes to compete fairly so it's sad that they feel they have to revert to those kinds of tactics to ensure dominance. If I was an engineer at, say, the SQL Server group, I'd be pissed off that management thinks that they have to resort to these tactics to ensure the product wins, since apparently it can't win on its own merits. But maybe they feel they have no choice: given that they already dominate the PC/OS and office applications market, they have to move aggressively into other markets or their growth rate will stall. Oh well.

PS: Murph, you really should get a weblog! I think your comments would be a valuable addition to the blogsphere. :)

Posted by diego on April 28, 2003 at 2:30 PM

clevercactus: the UI changes

I've been meaning to post this since friday. So, finally, here it goes!

Some comments by email (particularly on the dev-list) had to do with the new UI of clevercactus. I want to talk a bit about that. But first, a screenshot:


(click on the image to see a larger version)

The difference that can be seen right away with respect to the alpha is that the tabs are not there anymore. This is temporary--let me explain. I have already talked about it on the dev-list, but I thought it was useful to do it here as well.

Apart from the "navigation bar" and more filters (to, say, "see only the messages received in the last week") The new navigation interface includes the back and forward buttons. The buttons get activated when switching any of the parameters (say, going from Messages to Contacts, or changing the sorting, or, again, viewing only messages from last week), letting you navigate quickly between views. The buttons don't keep state between runs (although if it makes sense they could do that eventually), and they maintain state when switching between spaces. Soon, each space will have its own navigation history. Additionally, the tabs will be back, but they will be dynamic. The final result will look very much like a modern browser interface: the back/forward and the view filters define the current view, and you will be able to create multiple tabs dynamically, making it look like "the old spaces" if needed, or maintaining multiple views that you normally use, for example, view all Unread messages, and view all contacts.

The tabs are, IMO, crucial, and as I said they will come back, but improved. The default setting of the tabs will make it look like the spaces alpha, and you'll be able to ignore the navigation features if you want, or use them. The idea would be to move further into the concept of information as something dynamic, "browse-able", in a sense your own personal web of data, rather than the more static view that Folders provide today in other programs.

As always, comments most welcome!

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on April 28, 2003 at 1:58 PM

tracking SARS

From The New York Times: an excellent article on SARS, and its lessons for how diseases jump species and spread in the modern world. Reminds me of The coming plague.

Categories: science
Posted by diego on April 28, 2003 at 12:38 AM

a long day's journey... into the night

I found this a few days ago... a short article on a professor of history at Virginia Tech that is writing a book on how our perception of what is the night (in terms of how it affects ours activities), and what we do with it has changed over history:

Normally a morning person who thinks best before noon, Ekirch spends a lot of time these days thinking about night, particularly night as experienced by people before the coming of artificial light. "Along with changes in diet, dress, and forms of communication -- all nearly as different as night and day -- variations occurred at night in popular mores, including attitudes toward magic, sexual relations, social authority, and the nocturnal landscape," he says. Nighttime back then was "a rich and complex universe in which persons passed nearly half of their lives -- a shadowy world of blanket fairs, night freaks, and curtain lectures, sun-suckers, moon cursers, and night-kings," Ekirch says.
I find this fascinating. Many times I do my best work at night, but I've been able to work well at any time. I also enjoy early afternoon, especially in the summer, and early-early morning. I wonder: I know of many programmers who also do a lot of work late at night. If working a "nightshift" was almost unheard of, say, in the 17th century, I don't think it's a coincidence that the very things we are creating at these late hours are what ... enables us to work on them. Like electricity. And so on.

The concept of "what's normal" is something that I usually talk about with friends or family, since I my hours are really strange. For example, the "weekend" such as it is, has no meaning for me. Of course, I am affected since the rest of society does care. But for me, personally, a day is a day is a day.

I suddenly remembered I've talked about this before. Instead of repeating myself, I'll just let that entry do it for me. :-)

Categories: science
Posted by diego on April 28, 2003 at 12:34 AM

trackback trouble

Koz apologizes for the multiple trackback pings to my previous entry on clevercactus beta 2. Apparently movabletype is responding that the ping failed, even if it didn't. Weird. Koz, don't worry, especially since it wasn't your fault! Good to know that can happen though.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on April 28, 2003 at 12:21 AM

same old microsoft

From The Economist:

Microsoft has said that it will make it easier for rivals to design software to connect with its Windows operating system. However, the company is also about to launch another server operating system that will be bundled and integrated with lots of other Microsoft products: exactly the sort of behaviour that got it into trouble in the first place.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on April 28, 2003 at 12:15 AM

WiFi and phones: coming together


Slightly old news--I'm still catching up on some things I wanted to comment on.

A few days ago cisco announced that it would release a WiFi Phone in June. Quote:

The 7920 phone is essentially a wireless version of Cisco's 7960 IP (Internet Protocol) phone, which uses a wired Ethernet connection to make and receive telephone calls. However, the 7920 will have a wireless handset that uses an office's Wi-Fi network to connect. The device will start shipping in June, executives said Friday. Its price has not yet been disclosed.
Now, this is definitely interesting, but the real test will be when one of the cellphone carriers comes out with a (four-band?) 3G-GPRS-WiFi Phone. One of the problems of WiFi is, besides its limited range, its power consumption. A WiFi phone would need to be huge for its batteries to last more than a few hours of use (of standby mode, with active transfers it would last even less). While one would imagine that WiFi in phones won't take us back to the brick-cellphones of the 80s, and certainly at some point WiFi will become less power-hungry (probably in one of the derivative transports) in the meantime, it makes a lot of sense to have a phone were WiFi can be activated if we know we're in presence of a hotspot, and transparently route the calls through it, hopefully making them cheaper, and then revert to GPRS or whatever when out of range. Certainly this affects the business models of the carriers, but hopefully they'll see that if they don't do it, someone else will. Just like IP phones have been growing and long-distance carriers have had to take notice, so will the cell phone providers. The next couple of years will show whether they have learned that they can't fight a trend like this, but they could reap the benefits if they jump on it.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on April 28, 2003 at 12:07 AM

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