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
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.
Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.