Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Sunday, September 21, 2003

Bill and Melinda Gates were in Mozambique today where they announced that they were giving $168 million to fight malaria -- giving more money than US or European governments have given to fight the disease.

Tablet PC rumors from Chris Coulter.

John Porcaro talks about the phenomenon of the handwritten email.

I too, appreciate the personal touch. It's weird, but when you get a handwritten email, it feels like more thought went into it than a typed one.

By the way, anyone can email me, or IM me, at I do answer my email.

Hmm, I'm trying to get ahold of the guys at Skype and they aren't returning their emails -- I bet email just isn't a good way to try to talk with these folks right now. With 500,000+ downloads in less than a month, I have a feeling they are snowed under. Anyone know someone over there? Tell em to email me at

Good luck to Rob Fahrni in your future endeavors (he left Microsoft recently to work at Paramount Farms -- the US's largest Pistachio producers). Hey, that's where Richard Caetano works. They are using Microsoft tech in very interesting ways -- Richard showed me how they run the entire factory from a Tablet PC.

Don Box pointed us to eWeek's interview with Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems' executive vice president for software. Interesting indeed. Here's an interesting quote: "Also, let me really clear about our Linux strategy. We don't have one. We don't at all. We do not believe that Linux plays a role on the server. Period."

Hey, Jonathan, you positioning for getting a job at Microsoft? Heh.

CRN Magazine's 25 top innovators.

Hey, Marc Canter, is the PIM space really dead? In a few days Microsoft will release Outlook 2003, which I've already hyped up. But, our competitor IBM is releasing Lotus Notes 6.5 too. Seems we have a PIM war on our hands!

Microsoft Monitor's Joe Wilcox: Why Microsoft is all about the Web.

Real interesting article. Especially the last paragraph where he says that our next dilemma will be content. Couldn't agree more! Longhorn has a ton of innovations for developers to build content production and delivery features into their apps. See ya at the PDC...

Netscan also has an extensive privacy policy, which also has a way to keep your messages out of the Netscan system.

In Dan Gillmor's comments, someone attacked Microsoft for doing research in Usenet (on the Netscan project) that this commenter says could be used to help governments track certain kinds of users (he misses all the good things this software does and what it lets all of us learn about communities and the patterns of things done in Usenet).

Keep in mind that Netscan does NOT look at the content of any message on Usenet. It only looks at patterns! The commenter totally missed that.

Here's more about Netscan.

This is the kind of over reaction that I've grown used to seeing since joining Microsoft. Marc Smith's usenet research is great. Can it be used for evil? The commenter thinks so. But can it be used for massive good? Yes! In fact, I've used Marc's program a lot lately to learn about Usenet and Microsoft's newsgroup communities. Marc Smith rocks in my book.

I was just talking with another blogger who got flamed by Dave Winer and I told him "if you aren't getting flamed by Dave, you aren't doing anything important or interesting."

Did somebody say I was full of s#$t? Heh, why not brag about when Dave Winer tells you you're full of it?

Marc Canter says that the world of PIMs has been stagnant for years. Dude, you are absolutely 100% wrong on this point. You obviously haven't seen Outlook 2003. It simply kicks ass.

Sunday essay: Why Microsoft won't beat Six Apart.

I have been asked by several teams and people here at Microsoft about weblogging and what I'd like to see in a weblogging tool or service. I can't give away too much details, cause that would help our competitors. But, if I were a Microsoft competitor (like Six Apart), I wouldn't worry too much yet, because no team has asked me the important question yet.

What's that?

"How do you get the A-list bloggers using Microsoft's stuff?"

For why that's important, let's go back to the desktop publishing market. Let's go back to 1987. Aldus Pagemaker, along with the first Apple Laser Printer, ruled the roost. If you wanted to do desktop publishing, you needed Pagemaker and a Laser Printer.

When I started getting into publishing at the camera store (I did all the ads for the store that ran in the San Jose Mercury News) that's what we used.

Later, when I went to West Valley College, they were using the same thing to produce their school's newspaper.

But, then, I saw Quark XPress. Man was that an advanced tool. Faster refreshes. More control over positioning. Worked with boxes that made more sense than the metaphor that Pagemaker used.

Quark built a sizeable business around advanced users. Today most newspapers and magazines use Quark. Well, they did until Quark fumbled the football (even then, most are still on Quark -- due mostly to the influence of advanced users).

The first crack in Quark's dominance came in the early 1990s. I, and other employees, were trying to get Jim Fawcette to switch to Quark. We almost had him convinced, too, but then Quark did something really stupid.

See, there was a big hurricane in Florida. I forget the name now. But some gentleman had written into Mac User magazine and said that his house had been totalled and that his copy of Quark had been destroyed and that he wanted a replacement copy (he had a receipt and serial number, if I remember right). Quark was forcing him to buy an entirely new copy. But, not only were they taking that position, but that was their position in response to a letter to the editor of one of the biggest Mac magazines. I remember that Quark told him to see his insurance company and get them to pay for it.

Jim Fawcette threw down the magazine during a meeting and said "this is exactly why we will never use Quark here."

The crack got a lot larger lately. Why? Because Quark took forever to get a version out for Mac OSX. Adobe was ready with a new, written from scratch, program called InDesign.

Yeah, Quark still owns a lot of market share, but they gave away a significant part of their market in the past two years.

So, what happened? Connectors (those folks who we all look up to) decided not to wait for Quark. Most early adopters went to OSX right away. When Quark didn't show up, these influential users started looking at the alternatives.

It's funny, but for my PDC resource cards, I've been using Microsoft Publisher. Hey, I'm trying to learn all of Microsoft's programs (I'm still partial to Adobe's stuff, by the way). It's a real nice program, but it isn't the most advanced program out there. It wasn't aimed at connectors and influentials. Instead, it was aimed at mom and dad.

Publisher has lots of ease of use features that neither Quark nor InDesign has. Tons of pre-designed templates. Tons of wizards and instructional aides to help "regular users" to get through the task of building traditional publishing things. You know, letters, memos, invitations, business cards, etc.

It's understandable why we do that. After all, there are many many times more "regular users" than there are "influential, or advanced, or professional" (I call them connectors) users -- so we design programs for "everyday users" rather than "connectors". For every page designer at the San Jose Mercury News there's millions of people who could do publishing tasks.

One problem, though. It's the connectors who influence what the rest of us buy. Why? Well, they did the early work of convincing all the print shops to support their tools. I ran into this this week. I had to talk a printer into accepting Microsoft Publisher files for my job. They were used to Quark or In Design users.

How many of you use Photoshop, even though you don't use 1% of its features? Why do you do that? Because of this effect of influentials who've told you Photoshop is the best.

I saw this in my camera store too. I sold many many Nikons because "that's what the pro at the basketball game was using." (Back in the 1980s nearly every pro photographer used Nikons). In fact, that's why I bought my first Nikon back in high school. I had met several pro photographers and asked them what they used and why and I set my mind on getting the same camera. Worked an entire summer to get to that goal too.

So, now, what happens in the weblog world? Same thing. New weblog readers come in because someone told them to start reading Glenn Reynolds or Cory Doctorow or Leo Laporte or Chris Pirillo or Dave Winer or Mark Pilgrim (or put in your favorite "big name" weblogger here) and if they get interested enough in weblogging to start their own blog, they'll ask the pro. "How do I get started, what tool do you recommend?"

Lately, I've been doing my own asking and more and more of the "A listers" are answering "Type Pad" from Six Apart. Clearly Six Apart has figured out what the advanced users want and will recommend to their friends.

Anyway, Microsoft tends to focus on the mass market, not the connectors. I think in the weblog world that's a mistake. But, maybe it doesn't matter. How many AOL'ers are there now? How many people using Live Journal?

And I still like my Radio UserLand. If some team here at Microsoft gets me to switch, you'll know they started asking the right questions.

Harry Pierson says he's the second person at Microsoft to get a job because of his blog (he already worked at Microsoft, though, but is taking on a new community role).

Mitch Kapor noticed that Bill Gates and Joel Klein are now on the same team (due to Gates' philanthropy). One thing I've already learned at Microsoft: be nice to your enemies. They could very well be your friends tomorrow.

For those of you who don't follow the tech industry, Klein was the lead lawyer in the DOJ case against Microsoft.

Update: I misspoke (thanks to the guys in my comments for straightening me out). Klein was the head of the anti-trust division at the Justice department.

Microsoft Monitor: Microsoft security, it's all about dry ice.

I agree that we need to do even more about security. I'm hearing that over the next few months you'll hear a lot more about security from us.

That said, I was one of about 1000 employees who answered the telephones and I was told that we were not charging anyone for help with the virus problems. So, we already are doing one of the things that Joe asked for.

But, I appreciate the constructive criticism. Internally we're discussing this a lot and any good ideas are appreciated.

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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; 3:06:32 AM.