Maestro, If You Would

Microsoft yesterday announced a private beta release for a new server-based business performance management application. Microsoft says “Maestro” is intended to make it simpler to pull data from various Office applications and build business scorecards, which help organizations ensure their business strategy and goals are aligned with what employees are actually doing. Of course, when I first heard the code name, all I could think of was the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer’s friend insists on being called “maestro”—because he conducts the Policeman's Benevolent Association Orchestra.

Blow the Whistle, Get Free Software
If you find yourself stuck with a counterfeit copy of Windows XP, you may be able to get an authorized one for free—if you’re willing to blow the whistle on whoever sold you the bogus bits. This is the latest twist to Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage program, which is intended to combat counterfeit and pirated software.

To be eligible, you must submit to Microsoft a proof of purchase, the counterfeit CD and a report with details of the counterfeit transaction. Alternatively, according to a Microsoft spokesperson, you can pay for an electronic key that converts your bogus copy to a genuine version of Windows XP Professional. The key costs $149, about half the $299 list price, and also requires the report with details on the counterfeit purchase.

As of this writing, there’s no mention of the deal on Microsoft’s Web site, but you can find more info on the WGA program here.

Microsoft Offers R&D for Sale
In its 2004 fiscal year, Microsoft spent $7.8 billion on research and development. Given that figure, it stands to reason that more than a few research projects result in technology that effectively sits on a shelf. Last week, Microsoft took steps to remedy that situation, announcing it will license “hundreds of internally developed technologies to entrepreneurs and new businesses.”

The new Microsoft Intellectual Property (IP) Ventures program will initially offer 20 technologies, from audio correction algorithms to WiFi positioning technology, in categories ranging from artificial intelligence to graphics and databases. The technologies are offered under licensing models that “can include royalty payments and equity, and is flexible enough for entrepreneurs raising capital,” according to Microsoft. IP Ventures should breathe new life into research that otherwise would go for naught, give start-ups a technology head start, and provide Microsoft a stake in those start-ups. Sounds like a good deal all around—depending on what the exact terms are, of course.

Dell Makes Big Bet on Red Hat
Michael Dell got rich selling PCs outfitted with Windows software. But that’s not stopping him from investing nearly $100 million of his own money in Linux. News reports surfaced this week that Dell, through the investment firm MSD Capital LP (which was created to handle his dough), in January 2004 invested $99.5 million in Red Hat.

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"It is certainly a good endorsement for Red Hat," Katherine Egbert, an analyst with research firm Jefferies & Co., told the Triangle Business Journal. "Question (for Red Hat) is, did (Michael Dell) himself write a check, or is there a third party that wrote a check," inferring that MSD investment managers pulled the trigger on the investment, not Michael himself. I’m sure billionaires do lots of things a bit differently from thousandaires like me, but I would have a standing order to the effect of, “Please wash your hands before returning to work and remember to let me know before investing $100 million of my money.”

At any rate, Dell’s company already sells machines with Red Hat Linux installed and is an investor in Red Hat, so this investment isn’t exactly out of the blue. But it is indeed a ringing endorsement of Red Hat—and Linux—from Michael Dell personally.

What Triggers Your Spam Filters?
Once again, we need your help with a story for Redmond magazine. I’m looking to put together a Ten column recounting stories of legitimate words that trigger spam filters. Our own editor-in-chief found that e-mails containing the word “barn” weren’t getting to him—which isn’t good when your name is Doug Barney. I’d like to know what similar innocent bystanders have been flagged as sinister by your spam filters. Send your stories to [email protected], with the subject Ten. (Wouldn’t want to put “spam” in that subject line, would we?)

Ballmer Issues Missive on Diversity
Despite some initial hesitation, Steve Ballmer came out forcefully in favor of workplace diversity in an e-mail to employees last week. The e-mail was prompted by a flap over a bill before the state legislature in Microsoft’s home state of Washington that would have barred discrimination against gays and lesbians in areas such as housing and employment. Ballmer initially said Microsoft would take no official stance on the bill, which ultimately went down to defeat. Reports said Microsoft was pressured by an evangelical minister after two employees testified before the state legislator that the company would support the bill. After hearing from employees who support the bill, Ballmer did an about-face and issued the impassioned e-mail to employees. He wrote:

“Since our beginning nearly 30 years ago, Microsoft has had a strong business interest in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest and most diverse workforce possible. I’m proud of Microsoft’s commitment to non-discrimination in our internal policies and benefits, but our policies can’t cover the range of housing, education, financial and similar services that our people and their partners and families need. Therefore, it’s appropriate for the company to support legislation that will promote and protect diversity in the workplace … I respect that there will be different viewpoints. But as CEO, I am doing what I believe is right for our company as a whole.”

Ballmer is spot-on that there will be different viewpoints on this volatile issue. But, as we reported several months ago, Microsoft has been increasingly involved in legislative issues over the years. In that context, it’s entirely appropriate that Microsoft should get involved in this one.

Check out his e-mail here.

About the Author

Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at [email protected].


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