Barney's Rubble

Sounds of Silence

Microsoft's habit of pleading the Fifth on key issues has left some IT pros hanging.

I was never a big fan of typical keynote addresses at computer conventions. Most are dull, convoluted marketing blech that last about 45 minutes too long.

Old Bill Gates' keynotes were different. While not the most charismatic speaker (Dick Cheney is riveting by comparison), Gates always had a message that would direct the industry for years.

Bill's company always had a strong overall vision, including some that lasted decades -- like a PC on Every Desk, or Information at Your Fingertips -- and it was never at a loss on smaller issues.

Because of all this, Microsoft controlled the discussion about key software issues -- and, in turn, owned the conversation about the future of software. Lotus, Ashton-Tate and WordPerfect barely got a word in.

Then the Internet arrived and Microsoft's vision was finally fallible. The company tried like heck to recover and establish itself as the Internet thought leader but things were never the same.

Art Barnfunkel

Now the ownership of some important messages is likewise slipping. IBM owns the SOA message, Salesforce.com is a leader in defining SaaS, Google is looked to for Web 2.0 and Web apps and Red Hat, along with others, controls what the world thinks of open source.

IT pros are confused as to where Microsoft stands on these issues. I am too.

Redmond is working on a story that defines and analyzes Microsoft's SOA strategy. The article would have run months ago but we're having a devil of a time figuring out exactly where Microsoft stands on SOA.

We went through similar struggles in doing a recent cover story on Microsoft and open source. After weeks of research, and months after the cover story ran, I'm still not clear on Microsoft's approach.

Microsoft isn't shy about pre-announcing products -- heck, they started talking about Longhorn before Lindsay Lohan chugged her first Grey Goose martini. So why not talk in detail about these new software architectures?

Take rich clients. If you listen to Google and the Web 2.0 crowd, big hairy PC operating systems and productivity suites are as out of date as John Oates' mustache. Microsoft is letting its rivals make this argument and make it stick, when the reality is that large data sets absolutely demand a rich client. When was the last time you ran AutoCAD, sorted a 15,000 cell worksheet or ray-traced a 16 million color 3-D image through a stinkin' browser? Go ahead, if you have a week or so to kill.

I want to hear Microsoft talk in detail about Software as a Service, Software Plus Services and virtualization. What do you want Microsoft to come clean on? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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