Some Discord in the Wintel Duopoly

This is a rather big blow for Bill Gates, especially on his second-to-last day as a full-time Microsoft employee, but rumors have it that Intel has decided to not upgrade its 80,000 employees to Windows Vista.

Coming as it is from one of Microsoft's most important business partners, this is pretty bad PR for the much-beleaguered Vista. According to reports, it seems that Intel has decided not to upgrade for many of the same reasons other large Microsoft customers haven't: Intel's IT staff just hasn't found a cogent business case for upgrading.

Intel has been beta testing the operating system in some departments, but certainly not across the company. This is one more indictment, of course, of the first service pack for Vista that arrived a few months ago -- there was just no there there. So Intel, along with many other larger shops, either waits for a second service pack before it decides again whether to upgrade (which will be unlikely unless major new functionality is delivered), or it waits like everyone else for Windows 7, now scheduled for late 2009 (which is more likely).

It will be interesting to see what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer does about this, given the tight technical connection between the two companies over the last quarter-century. And it might be interesting to see if Mr. Gates' last call going out the door will be a sales call of sorts to Intel CEO Paul Otellini about reconsidering his company's decision.

Alpha Software's Product Eases AJAX Development
I have always admired Alpha Software, a relatively small database and tools developer in Burlington, Mass. The company, founded by brothers Richard and Selwyn Rabins in 1982, has always had a knack for coming up with interesting desktop products.

Those first products, stretching from the early '80s to the early '90s, always seemed to be a step ahead of the offerings from much larger competitors -- including Microsoft, Lotus Development and Ashton-Tate -- and focused tightly on solving practical, everyday problems.

Two in particular come to mind: first, the alphaWorks suite of integrated desktop applications that looked and worked better than Microsoft's Works suite; and second, Alpha Five, a blindingly fast, fully featured, character-based desktop database aimed at small and medium-sized businesses that beat the pants off anything Microsoft or Lotus had available in that market.

While the brothers Rabins still offer their Alpha Five database, their focus this decade is more on helping developers build Web 2.0 applications for that platform. The new Alpha Five Platinum Edition, an enhanced version of its Web-based database development product, is reportedly the first development tool that allows programmers to visually build AJAX-driven applications, as well as give them the ability to integrate SQL databases.

Maybe the best part about it is that programmers can do this without actually writing any code or hiring experts for things like JavaScript or AJAX frameworks. Of course, programmers can write code if they want to for greater customization, but it's optional. Like some of Alpha Software's earlier offerings, this one also appears to be a step ahead and focused on practical solutions.

In a conversation with Richard Rabins, he said one of the goals of Platinum was to allow both technical and non-technical types to produce "both pure Internet and intranet apps" that "look and feel" like desktop applications. He contended that with the new product, developers can produce such applications several times faster than they could with .NET, Java, PHP or Ruby.

This is certainly worth checking out. The complete set of new features in Alpha Five Platinum can be reviewed here.

Enough With the 'Partial' Offers Already, Steve
All this behind-the-scenes back-and-forth between Microsoft and Yahoo is beginning to bug me. Rumors surfaced over the past two or three days that Microsoft has approached Yahoo yet again about buying all or part of its search business.

But less than two weeks ago, Yahoo officials issued a statement that I thought made clear they weren't at all interested in any deal that involved selling off its search business; in it, they said such a deal "would not be in the best interests of Yahoo stockholders." I mean, after all, Yahoo going on without its search business would be like Microsoft going on without Windows and Office. What's the point?

But the latest rumors have it that Redmond is "sweetening" its recent offer to buy a part of Yahoo's search engine business. No specifics have emerged yet, but that would have to be one damn sweet offer (one report had Redmond offering $9 billion for Yahoo's search technologies).

Here's a pretty simple set of options for Microsoft: Either buy the entire company -- or just walk away (no retracing steps) and spend more time and effort building its own set of online strategies. Anything else is simply a distraction to both companies and their ISVs. Meanwhile, Google continues to motor on.

I guess what keeps Microsoft hanging in the shadows is Yahoo's plummeting stock price, now about 35 percent less than it was back in May when Microsoft offered it $33 a share and agitated major investors lobbying for a deal. If I were Jerry Yang, I'd make the best deal possible to protect Yahoo's loyal employees, take the money and live to fight another day for another, perhaps more interesting, startup.

Mailbag: Seattle a High-Tech Hotspot?, Firefox Security, More
Yesterday, Lafe wrote about a recent survey that ranked Seattle as the city with the highest number of tech jobs. That's small comfort for one reader:

As a Seattle resident with a tech job, I'd be willing to consider any opportunity if one of your readers would like to consider a job trade. Preferably to a sunny location. I've been here for 19 of the past 20 years and am unsure how many more gloomy winters (and springs and autumns and sometimes summers) I can take.

Anyway, I'd be curious to know what the "right credentials" are that the Seattle P-I article references as being difficult to find. Perhaps I'll write the author. Eighteen-month-old information in a time of economic transition may not be all that helpful to someone thinking of a regional relocation. Coders, specifically Web coders, seem to have lots of opportunities. System support personnel, such as myself, seem to have fewer opportunities up here.
-J.C.

Bruce responds to a recent comment from a reader who takes issue with Firefox's patching process -- or lack thereof:

Not sure if "Dave" was out to bash Firefox or not, but that issue he describes is true for almost every single third-party app out there. So does that mean he never uses any third-party apps except for Firefox? I find that very hard to believe.
-Bruce

Finally, Doug asked Monday how readers would design their next PC. Bill has something pretty simple in mind:

I'd have fun with the design process. Then I'd buy a Mac of some sort.
-Bill

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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