Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I got a few IMs from people about Jeff Key's Snippet Compiler. This thing looks awesome for people who just wanna do quick and dirty things with .NET. I'm starting back trying to learn a little bit of coding, and this looks perfect.

Slashdot reports there's a new SSH exploit in the wild (Linux, not Microsoft).

David McNamee has a pre-PDC look at the next version of Visual Basic.NET.

Remember when you saw Star Wars for the first time in 1977? I do. I know many of you weren't even born then. One of the things I thought was really cool was the floating TV screens where images would be broadcast by R2D2 into thin air. Well, science fiction is now reality, Wired Magazine says.

Someone just told me Loren wrote the InkWalker too -- it's a circuit recognizer software for the Tablet PC. How can one guy do so many cool Tablet apps?

John Robb got a new HDTV. I'm jealous. I won't be able to make any purchases like that for several years. Divorce isn't fun, and it ain't cheap!

The Green Button is a community of people who love Microsoft's Windows Media Center Edition. I wish I could afford one of those.

If you have a phone, this ( is the coolest service I've ever heard of.

One nice thing about weblogs is that customers can talk with us, and we can answer them. I saw this post earlier today on Ron Green's weblog, and sent a note to Matt Carter, who is a program manager/developer books for MSPress, who then answered Ron within minutes. Think that weblogs aren't helping us improve customer satisfaction? Plus, now Google will have the answer for anyone who searches on a topic about MSPress.

In fact, whenever someone asks me how they should give feedback to Microsoft, I say "write it on your weblog."

Speaking of which, I heard a rumor that Robert McLaws is working on some Longhorn blogs. Hmmm, I wonder what those will be like. Robert, I want in!

Microsoft is running a contest for employees only -- to come up with some cool Tablet PowerToys. Loren has a free idea for us to, erm, use.

I wish I had a budget to hire Loren. He's doing some killer stuff for the Tablet PC. Look at his editing in ink stuff.

Heck with it, just read his whole blog. Think innovation is dead in IT? Obviously you haven't looked into the Tablet PC movement.

While there, though, I ran across this post, where he acknowledges that he's scared of posting his best ideas on his blog (and gets close to accusing Microsoft of stealing ideas from another third-party developer). We certainly do have that reputation, don't we? Many think it's deserved, I don't know.

One thing I do know is that when ICQ was released I wrote to Microsoft execs and said "you need to either buy them, or do something like this." No one answered me back, but it took three years to get out an instant messenger, and another three years to get one out (version 6) that I really like. That's a six year window.

Someone who is fast-moving like Loren could spin circles around most Microsoft teams. If I were talented like Loren, I'd deliver everything on my blog, get marketshare, get a business going, show there's a market, and let the cards fall where they do.

If someone does steal your idea (Microsoft isn't the only one accused of stealing, by the way -- have you noticed all those operating systems that look a heck of a lot like Windows?), it's very easy to prove you were first, but really, does it matter? Look at Skype. They released 15 days ago with an idea that's been done many many times before. Even by Microsoft. But, they did it better. And got 240,000+ downloads in 15 days.

Sorry, but those 240,000 people won't switch to something Microsoft does unless Microsoft proves their idea is way way better.

Translation: kick our ass and don't look back. Deep translation: we're a platform company and we only win if developers like Loren get passionate about shipping software on our platforms. If I see anyone hurting our third-party developers I will personally go ballistic and call Steve Ballmer myself.

And, yes, Scott McNealy, Steve Ballmer does answer his own email too!

OK, Skype has 240,000 downloads in just half a month. It took ICQ 60 days to get that many back in 1996. What's different? Well, for one it was an established company that released Skype. ICQ was released to 40 users and no one knew anything about ICQ. But, remember, back in 1996 no one had weblogs. In fact, I had one of the first five public pages up about ICQ, while Skype has been talked about everywhere.

Anyway, Skype is now my new bar of release excellence for a small-company software product.

Hey, during that Sun keynote this morning the IP telephone from Vodaphone failed on stage. They shoulda used Skype. Hasn't failed for me yet and the audio quality is unbelieveable.

People are asking me "you were the NetMeeting bigot, why you so excited about software that just does audio?" (NetMeeting was Microsoft's audio/video/collaboration product that was released in 1995). For one, it works. For two, its user interface is clean and uncluttered. Don Norman would love it. For three, it makes you feel good using it, and makes you want to use it with your friends and family. (Translation: the audio quality rocks and is better than NetMeeting, or even MSN Messenger 6.0).

Chris Sells and team's work is soon to become public: "Welcome to the Future Longhorn Developer Center."

Jesse Ezell pointed me to afirst look at ADO.NET 2.0 document for those of you who do data access (they were always the most popular sessions at VBITS).

I just got done watching the Sun Microsystems announcements and video. Randy Holloway and Microsoft-hater Russell Beattie commented on them too.

As you might remember, before I was a Microsoft employee, I often attacked Scott McNealy for not putting forth his vision of what the industry should do. That has completely turned around, and for that Scott deserves credit.

It's quite a server-centric vision. Didn't Microsoft try that at the last PDC? Didn't we call that "Hailstorm?" Still, Scott's vision is different than mine and most of the people I talk to in Microsoft. Take the Smart Card concept he showed off. Did you know that every Microsoft employee badge is just like that? I stick it into my Tablet at home to get to my corporate data (er, VPN). The problem is, what happens if you have a dumb terminal, like what they showed on stage and your network is unreachable? Yesterday I was in a plane at 30,000 feet. My Tablet still worked, and all my data was local. What happens when you are stuck at a public library and they don't have a Smart Card reader (installed base is a pain, isn't it Scott?)? My little old password lets me get to my email while my son Patrick looks for the latest Lord of the Rings books.

But, I have one of those Target Visa cards in my pocket that they showed off on stage. Who knew a Microsoft evangelist would carry Java everywhere he goes? Heh.

Will Microsoft have an answer? Hint, there's three little letters for that: PDC.

But, I wanna talk to Microsoft's employees now for a moment. OK, the rest of you can listen in since there's only 18 of you anyway. Scott has a point. Our licensing agreements need to get simpler. Our security must become best of breed. Our user experience must deliver value (and ease of use) far far beyond what Sun and the rest of the industry is trying to do with Linux/Unix (cute 3D tricks aren't gonna hack it). Yes, even better than the Mac. Our interoperability plan better go beyond just being able to stick a smart card into a PC and having your email and files pop up from some server somewhere. Our pricing must reflect the value our software delivers.

If it isn't perfectly clear to all of us that our customers now have several good OS and Office choices (and, despite what Sun said on stage, I think there still is a company named Apple that's coming after us too -- my spies at Apple tell me that G5's are selling so fast they can't make enough).

Sun says we're in a price war. I don't believe that for one minute. We're in a value war. Which system delivers more value for the buck? Sun clearly laid down the gauntlet and said they do. They aren't the only ones doing the low-cost thing, either. Here's Lindows trying to do the Lindows Rock.

We need to deliver more value than all these other guys. If not, we indeed will soon be in a price war. (Hint: I joined Microsoft because I saw great value in what Microsoft is doing, so you know where my thoughts lie on the issue).

To everyone else: I think this new competition is great. Why? Because, now we really have to WIN your business and we have to respond to your needs and if you buy Longhorn, it'll be because it meets your needs, not because "it's the only thing out there." I like having customers who say "I choose you because you're the best, even better than those guys who are free or cheap."

That said, I can't wait to get to the PDC...

Sorry I was away for so long. The PDC effort is really getting intense. Lots of work. Only a little more than a month away and already have lots of blogs up.

Lots of book authors on campus for an educational event. Last night I talked with Gary Cornell, founder of APress, and he said that their aquisition of Wrox Press's titles has gone very well.

Tomorrow night we're having a geek dinner. Everyone is invited. Gary will be there, along with lots of other interesting people. It'll be at the Crossroads in Bellevue. At 6:30 p.m. I'll be leaving from the briefing center on Microsoft's campus sometime between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. -- meet me there if you need a ride.

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 3:04:55 AM.