Maestro, If You Would
- By Paul Desmond
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
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.
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].