Ballmer on the Greening of Microsoft

Some have been wondering when Microsoft might have something definitive to say about its plans for a green IT strategy. Well, it took this week's annual CeBIT conference in Germany for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to shed a little light on that topic.

Microsoft is stepping forward on this matter none too soon, as some have criticized the amount of power required by Microsoft's client and server products. Ballmer said that one way Microsoft plans to help reduce the amount of power needed by systems running its products is by making available a set of datacenter best practices to corporate IT shops. Such a list is based on information gained from Microsoft's efforts in its own datacenters. These guidelines will offer up suggestions on a range of different issues, from space optimization planning to power distribution within the confines of the datacenter.

During his CeBIT speech, Ballmer also announced that Microsoft is constructing new datacenters in Dublin and Quincy, Wash., both for environmental and economic reasons. Ireland was chosen, according to Ballmer, because of its year-round climate that's apparently ideal for air temperatures that can be used to cool datacenters. Quincy was selected because of its proximity to a hydroelectric dam.

Ballmer also talked about Microsoft's collaboration with a German-based nuclear power company, Yello Strom, that showed off a Vista-based widget that lets desktop and laptop users monitor their home power consumption using a PC.

It's probably no accident that Ballmer chose CeBIT to discuss the topic of green IT, given the heightened interest among Europeans in energy-saving technologies. Ballmer admitted Microsoft's green IT strategy has a long way to go but believes the company can drive down power consumption needed to run its products by more than a factor of five.

Microsoft Does the Right Thing
Over the years, Microsoft has caught a lot of flak -- largely deserved -- for its inflexible attitude toward open source. But once in a while, the company breaks down and does the right thing by its customers.

Take its relationship with Zend and the joint development with that company on Zend Core, a version of PHP, a server-based scripting language for Web development. By actively working to improve Zend's features and performance, Microsoft is helping larger IT shops trying to improve the interoperability of Windows Server 2008 and PHP-based open source applications. Both companies announced yesterday that Zend Core and PHP are now fully certified for Windows Server 2008 and will be available with the product.

A couple of months ago, both companies announced the general availability of FastCGI, a new component for IIS, which serves as an interface between PHP and the IIS Web server. The new product ensures greater reliability and performance of PHP applications running on Windows Server 2008. The improvements made to the product have been made available to the PHP community at large.

Zend is also working with Microsoft on providing built-in support for information cards in the Zend Framework, which is broadly used in the open source world for creating Web-based applications.

Developers interested in Windows Server 2008 certification, the test framework and the Early Access Program can get detailed information here.

Slicing and Dicing with IE 8
Microsoft used its MIX08 conference in Las Vegas yesterday to show off publicly, for the first time, the first beta of Internet Explorer 8.0.

This comes on the heels of another recent piece of IE 8 news. Just this past week, Microsoft made what appears to be a strong commitment to supporting interoperability, likely doing so as a tactic to win over skeptical developers as well as to make government regulators happy: It said that IE 8 would use its "most standards-compliant mode as the product's default mode."

The upcoming browser contains an impressive amount of new features. One of the more interesting ones is called Web Slices, which allows users to "break apart" a Web site so users get updates only from those parts they want. Onstage at the conference yesterday, Microsoft IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch demonstrated how Web Slices could log on and subscribe to a single eBay auction.

While the first beta of IE 8 -- now available for download here -- is primarily aimed at developers, Microsoft plans to release another beta some time this summer that will be intended for a much broader set of users.

Redmond officials also showed off a new beta of Silverlight 2 that has a feature called "adaptive streaming." This gives client machines the ability to decide how large a streaming it's able to handle based on the chip and network resources available to it at that time. Pretty neat trick. So if your network gets clogged up from heavy traffic, the network senses this and drops down to a lower-bit rate.

Another nice capability in the new beta is that developers can now use the same programming model to create mobile applications.

Bill Drops Down, Warren Pops Up
After 13 long years, Bill Gates has surrendered his title as the world's richest man. According to the latest calculations by Forbes magazine, Gates (with a wealth of $58 billion) has dropped to No. 3 on the billionaires list. He was passed by his pal and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett ($62 billion), and Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helú ($60 billion).

The rising and falling of Gates and Buffett on the list is all about their companies' respective stock prices. While Gates' overall worth rose $2 billion over last year, Microsoft's stock price took a hit when it made its bid to acquire Yahoo. The value of Berkshire Hathaway shares from July to mid-February grew some 25 percent.

But what Yahoo hath taken away, will it giveth back? If Microsoft succeeds in its takeover attempt of Yahoo and Wall Street responds favorably to it, it's possible it could send Microsoft's stock, which has languished during the past several years, markedly higher.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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