Cisco and Microsoft Battle Over Web Conferencing

The battle between network giant Cisco and software colossus Microsoft over video and Web conferencing has been brewing for a while. Last fall, for instance, Microsoft announced plans to build a mobile video conferencing device. That same week Cisco jumped in, announcing a product that increases the frame rates of Web video so we won't get a headache watching herky-jerky video.

Now Cisco is really getting serious, vastly overpaying for the privilege of owning WebEx, which competes with Microsoft's Live Meeting.

WebEx made less than $50 million in profit last year, but somehow the math whizzes at Cisco reckon the company is worth north of $3 billion.

That's, what, 60 times earnings? I hope WebEx has some hot stuff in its labs!

Which do you like better, WebEx or Live Meeting? Let us know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Windows Apps Builders Get a New Tool
Microsoft is close to shipping Expression Blend, a tool to help developers more easily design and build Vista and XP applications. The software works with Visual Studio.

By the way, did I tell you that my group now owns Visual Studio Magazine? Take a look at it here and don't be afraid to bookmark this puppy.

And if you're a software developer, or just like to tinker, check out our new Web site and twice-monthly magazine Redmond Developer News. Don't be afraid to bookmark this bad boy, too.

IBM Reaches Out to 5.7 Million Developers
I never thought of IBM as a leading company for developers. Sure, it has all the Cobol code-monkeys pretty well sewn up, but it doesn't have the footprint of a Microsoft, Borland or Sun.

Yet somehow, IBM managed to get 5.7 million people to register for its developerWorks Web site, which it revamped last week. The new news is Developers Exchange, a set of areas where coders can share code and programmers can share programs.

We're looking to add some of these features to Web sites for Redmond Developer News and Visual Studio Magazine.

Is this a good idea? And if so, how should we do it? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Doug's Mailbag: FoxPro, We Hardly Knew You; More
Microsoft announced last week that Visual FoxPro 9 will be the last of the database developer tool. Not surprisingly, the news didn't go over very well with some readers:

A few comments about the Visual FoxPro notes the past week or so: VFP 9.0 was released in 2005, so the upcoming 'release' of SP2 and Sedna will be the final bits shipped by Microsoft. Until now, Microsoft has made no public statement as to whether Sedna would be released as VFP 10.0 or, as it turns out, as a free download and final update to VFP 9.

As a former beta tester for Microsoft on VFP and a longtime developer and past president of a formerly large Fox user group, my opinion is that most of the angst by VFP developers over its demise is not because its adherents cannot or will not learn the language du jour (C# or VB.NET); rather it's simply the fact that writing data-centric applications in .NET, even for an experienced .NET developer, takes considerably more code and more time than it would if done in Visual FoxPro. This fact has been conveyed loudly and clearly for years by Microsoft Visual FoxPro MVPs, among others. Were it not for the obvious loss of developer productivity when switching from VFP to .NET, Visual FoxPro would likely have been axed years ago by Microsoft.

Microsoft has responded to the productivity gap in recent years with improvements to the .NET framework and Visual Studio languages, but its efforts have fallen short. .NET was apparently designed by C++ and VB developers to answer the threat of Java, to be easier and more productive than C++, and technically superior to VB 6. To that end, I believe .NET is a resounding success. But Visual FoxPro developers already had a far more productive language and IDE than Java, C++ or VB6 developers. For us, Microsoft's .NET is a lower-level language with far more depth and capability than VFP, but which is frustratingly inefficient at the tasks so common in data-centric and rich-client application development. To developers, productivity is king, and FoxPro users hate being told to give it up. Have you noticed what little talk of Rapid Application Development (RAD) there is these days out of Redmond? I am faced with breaking the news to my customers that the cost to build applications just went up because I'm having to use the latest product from Microsoft, and it's more tedious and time consuming to use than the one it replaced. My customers think I'm nuts. They don't understand Microsoft's ulterior motives.

There are two sides to every set of facts, and having worked daily in .NET for many months now, I know quite a few pros and cons to the two languages. My feeling is that by discontinuing all languages except .NET-based dialects, Microsoft is essentially telling SMBs that custom developed software is now out of their reach, and they should run their businesses using packaged software and SaaS. Custom development is for the Fortune 5000 set. It would be like Ford Motor Company discontinuing all vehicles except the F-150 pickup trucks (bye bye, Mustang) and telling all customers that regardless of their needs or budgets, an F-150 is the best tool for the job. They ought to know -- after all, they ARE Ford Motor Company.

-Anonymous

I'd like to thank you for your "FoxPro Lives!" article.

Please read this article -- this is the latest MSFT news about VFP's future. They are still killing us. The Russian VFP community at http://www.foxclub.ru is going to write a letter about our deep mourning concerning this latest news. Please, ask MSFT why they are doing this.
-Vladimir

And last week, in the wake of Microsoft's acquisition of voice recognition vendor Tellme, I asked readers if the built-in voice recognition feature in Office was any good. Here's one reader's less-than-enthusiastic response:

A five-year XP Pro annoyance: If you install a Dell computer without using an image, the language bar is automatically enabled, along with voice recognition. It has been a pain over the years to always have to turn those off.

Once in a while, we forgot to turn it off and after a new computer was deployed in the warehouse, we would get the help desk ticket, "I was typing and suddenly my computer started typing wildly and uncontrollably!" (because a forklift was driving by behind the
person at the computer).

-Brent

Here's your chance to sound off! Comment below or send me an e-mail 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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