Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Dare Obasanjo talks about "the thrifty billionaire."

I'm gonna take tomorrow off to be with my family during our Thanksgiving holiday. If you're American, hope you have a great Thanksgiving. If you're not, have a good day too!

eWeek's Steve Gillmor: "Can Microsoft's Longhorn Pull it Off?"

Gregg Thomason: "Scoble Needs a Clue #462"

Dude, why do you assume that everything I say here accurately represents what Microsoft "understands about Linux?" I'm only 1/55,000th of Microsoft and my blog only represents myself. I have ABSOLUTELY NO prior restraint on my weblog. In other words, no one else at Microsoft participates in the production of my weblog. This weblog is my words, and mine alone. They may, or, may not, agree with anyone else's beliefs or understandings, either within or without Microsoft.

I am NOT a Microsoft executive. Any attempt to speak on behalf of Microsoft is just trying to give you my opinions of what is going on inside Microsoft. I make no warranties as to the quality of my opinions or posts herein.

He says that Linus speaks often on mailing lists. That's great, but it's not on a weblog that holds his name.

I was walking around Stanford University on Monday and found myself thinking "boy, aren't the spoils of monopolies nice?" You do realize where the money for Stanford University came from, don't you? That's right, he was the President on the Central Pacific railroad. Now THAT was a monopoly! If you were a farmer in Sacramento in the 1860s and you wanted to get your wheat to the exchanges in Chicago there was only one way to go. No competition at all.

So much of our language. So much of our culture. So much of everything around me in Silicon Valley started with that railroad monopoly. In fact, much of our technology started there too (the telegraph, which was the thing that really made the Internet possible was developed for the railroad).

One of Silicon Valley's first computers, in fact, still sits in a little tower that overlooks Santa Clara's railroad yard. I wrote and took pictures during a tour Patrick and I got of the tower a few years ago. That "interlocker" machine (which is really a mechanical computer) was designed for the railroad monopoly. Our understanding of algorithms and communication greatly advanced during the railroad age.

Think about it. Sun Microsystems. Hewlett Packard. Apple Computer. Cisco. Excite. Yahoo. Google and many others owe their starts to Stanford University which got its funding from a railroad monopoly.

By the way, if you get a chance to visit Silicon Valley, definitely do take a walk around Stanford University. It is one of the most beautiful college campuses I've ever been to. The Canter museum is a great treat and it's free. Oh, and make sure you check out the Golden Spike that's in the museum. It is a great reminder of where the gold came from that built Silicon Valley.

Heh, the FoxPro community is debating on whether the next version of FoxPro will be the "last." Dang, this argument has been going on ever since Microsoft bought Fox. That happened shortly after I started at Fawcette, what, a decade ago?

Today FoxPro retains one of the strongest user communities of any Microsoft product. It still has some of the best database technology known to mankind. It was just a decade ahead of the rest, that's all.

Will FoxPro be rewritten for Longhorn? As a Longhorn evangelist, I will work to try to convince FoxPro's execs that the business opportunities opened up by the Longhorn wave will give them enough new sales of FoxPro to make it worth the investment. Will the Longhorn team win that argument? We can't win them all. But clearly we're at one of those inflection points in the industry's history where product teams need to decide whether they will support the new platform or not. In every platform shift, there've been teams who've decided not to make the shift.

Does anyone remember the Apple II-focused companies who went out of business because they decided not to support the Macintosh? Or, remember Borland? They decided not to support Windows early on and quickly lost market share as the industry moved to Windows. Heck, more recently, QuarkXPress lost market share to Adobe because Quark didn't support OSX for two years after its introduction.

Evangelism isn't easy. Making a business case for supporting a platform with no users today is challenging. I imagine what it was like working at Apple when Steve Jobs decided to bet the company on the Macintosh.

One advantage Longhorn evangelists have over other evangelists who've come before us is that software that is designed for Windows XP will still run on Longhorn (that wasn't true for, say, the Apple OS9 to OSX conversion). So, even if FoxPro doesn't make the leap to a full Longhorn exploitive app, it'll still run just fine.

TechWeb: Microsoft to beta test security update releases on CD.

Hey, my readers have been consistently asking for this. Good news. "the .NET Evangelist."

It's interesting to read about someone who I work for: Sanjay Parthasarathy. Sanjay is my boss's boss's boss.

InfoWorld: "Microsoft retires NetMeeting." Heh, I had one of the first NetMeeting Web sites. I remember the excitement I first felt when I videoconferenced with people around the world. Back in 1996.

It was a nice product. Amazing what they did in 3MB of code back then.

Lionel, in my comments: "the problem is that it's "common wisdom" that Microsoft has more than $40 billion in the bank, so your point doesn't *sound* true. "how can they talk about resource constraints with that kind of safe deposit""

This is a common misunderstanding. First of all. That cash isn't just given out willy nilly. It's NOT our money! It belongs to our investors. They want to see it spent properly. Translation: don't let Scoble spend it on whatever he wants!

Second, you can't throw money at problems. Why not? Cause software is the archetype of human ideas. Can you buy better software? No. Why not? Because there are a limited number of great programmers in the world. Think about it. And, even if you have a ton of great programmers (like we do at Microsoft) then we have to make tradeoffs. Do we take someone like Chris Brumme off of .NET and put him on XBox programming? Yeah, right. Is that gonna be efficient? Will his added help really make XBox programs be built faster or better? Maybe, but at what cost to the .NET program?

Third, you are just ignoring human behavior. Look at RSS. That was popularized by one guy. Maybe worked on by, what, 15 others? And it's getting more adoption than other standards that have been worked on for years. Why is that? Throwing bodies at the problem doesn't help. Throwing money at the problem doesn't help. You gotta throw BRAINS at the problem. Those are limited, even if you work at Microsoft.

Speaking of which, we are hiring as fast as our HR department can move people up to Redmond and get them into temp housing here. Think you are a big brain? Come on up. We have the money. That isn't the problem. We're looking for smart people.

Third, you've gotta understand how Microsoft works. Here's a hint: you sound like what I used to think before I came up here to Microsoft. I used to think that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer ran everyone's lives and sent around memos and micromanaged all 55,000 employees. The truth is exactly the opposite. This is a very decentralized company. They hire very smart people, give them a project or two to work on and then leave them alone.

Let me ask you a question. You think Bill Gates is sitting here editing my weblog posts at 6:43 p.m. on the night before Thanksgiving? OK, now, if he isn't doing that with my weblog, you think he's deciding what my software will look like?

As Dave Winer asked the law class at Stanford on Monday "why does Microsoft let its webloggers publish without prior restraint, but the Sacramento Bee doesn't?"

If you think we are rolling in cash here, you are totally wrong. You totally don't understand why Microsoft has those billions in the bank. Come into our executive offices here. Things look nice, but IKEA nice. Not "palatial" nice.

We focus very hard on spending money smartly here and investing for investor return. At least the group I'm in does.

I invite anyone to come up and see the rooms where we make billion dollar decisions. You'll be sitting on cut-rate furniture that hasn't been replaced recently. My office is spartan. Certainly not what you might expect from a company that makes billions in profits every year (I've been in company offices of companies 1/1000th the size of Microsoft that have nicer offices).

By the way, how many people do you think were on the initial .NET architecture team? (You know, the guys who came up with .NET). Leave your guess in my comments.

That said, there's a lot to be thankful for this year. I have tons of great friends. A great wife who puts up with my weblogging. A great kid who is well-behaved, smart, and funny. I have an interesting job in the most interesting industry around right now. And I have tons of readers who constantly teach me more than I'd probably learn in any university class.

Sad day in the Scoble house. Maryam's mom was MRI'd yesterday and they found a brain tumor. So, she'll be operated on next Friday. Success rate is 95%, but those aren't the kinds of odds I like.

In response to my readers, I've decided not to take advertising. Too many conflicts of interest that come from doing that.

I had lunch with Leo Laporte of TechTV today (here's his weblog and his moblog, which I showed up on today). My son goes to school with his son. That's weird. What's weirder is that they hadn't met until we introduced them today. They both are into Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. But, Leo's son is in the "lowly" third-grade. Patrick said he doesn't hang out with the "primary graders" cause they aren't "cool." Fourth grade class bigotry.

We talked about TechTV (I have been following Leo for more than seven years now and helped run his chat room when he was on KGO Radio) and some projects he's working on.

He recommended that I started taking Google advertisments on my blog. He gets a pretty penny every month from Google. So far I've resisted doing any efforts to make money off of my blog.

But, I could use the estimated $1000 a month I'd make off of various advertising efforts. So, what do you think? Should I start accepting advertising here?

Someone asked me the other day "why do you point at people who disagree with you?"

For a couple of reasons.

1) Any leader who just keeps sycophants around them is headed for trouble. I've been in that kind of environment before where someone didn't want to hear an opinion he didn't agree with. That led to faulty thinking. Hey, we're seeing that with Michael Jackson. Why didn't his circle of advisors and friends lay down the law and say "no kids around you anymore?" Tonight I was sitting next to a guy helping to build Chandler, an open source personal information manager. That probably will compete with something Microsoft does (say, Outlook?). But, I enjoyed sitting next to him and having a discussion with him cause we were so opposed in our world-view. Personally, I learned more there than I did at many other events I've been at. For another example, look at Jeremy Allison (who is working on Samba, an open-source project to compete with Active Directory). He causes me to think more than any most other people I've run into.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately (and the feedback I get from people like Jeremy). It's important to have people around you who'll tell you "you've lost touch with reality, come on back here please." Jeremy does that. He's persistent. Loyal to his argument. Compelling. And he has a world-view that's completely anti my worldview. In fact, in this post, Jeremy admits actively working in the European courts to punish Microsoft. Potentially billions of dollars are at stake here. My career. His career. And possibly thousands of other people's careers are at stake because of the fundamental argument that's playing out here in the comments (and in a courtroom across the Atlantic).

Do the stakes get any higher? Does the disagreement get any wider?

But, I point to Jeremy and other people who dislike Microsoft (and, yes, some even dislike me) because I think it's important for ME to consider the other point of view. Internalize it. Learn from it. Argue with it. Maybe even change because of it. Yes, I do change my mind. Certainly I spend a lot of time thinking about Jeremy's arguments and I encourage other Microsoft employees and executives to do the same.

2) Entertainment value. I listen a lot to talk radio. I notice that whenever someone calls in that agrees with the host, things get boring. But, if someone calls in that totally disagrees with the host, things get interesting. The talk show hosts know this too. They tell their screeners to remove "me too" kinds of calls. In fact, the fastest way to get on the radio is to passionately tell the screener that the host is a nitwit.

Now, the real question is what approach is really best for you, my reader. That's something I'm really grappling with, but so far I see that interesting discussions happen everytime I point to someone who doesn't share my point of view and I try to take them on.

What do you think? Do you like when I point to people who call me names and take me to task?

Aaron Brethorst (who works in the Visual Studio team): "I cannot even begin to describe how fortunate I feel to be at Microsoft today."

Dude, you know those cans of soft drinks in the cafeteria? I discovered they have the "make employees love Microsoft" juice inside. You might want to abstain for a while. Just kidding. I know how you feel.

Mary Jo Foley: another Microsoft blogger to add to the "Microsoft blogger" list (here's his blog that'll focus on Microsoft stuff).

Steve Pilgrim: "By the way, how much better is a $3000 laptop than a $1300 one?"

Steve, that depends on how you answered those questions I asked yesterday. These things increase the price. 1) Better screen resolution. 2) Tablet PC features. 3) Smaller size (if in the 2 lb. range). 3) Better quality over all (quality of keyboard, pointing mechanism, and case). 4) Better battery life. 5) Faster processor speed. 6) Better video card (for video gaming particularly).

So, if you don't care about any of these things, you can get a laptop for about $900 (maybe even less) that will do basic Web surfing and office work, be about four pounds, battery life of about two hours, no Tablet PC features, cheaper quality case and keyboard (at least when compared with, say, a more expensive IBM Thinkpad), and be probably about 1GHz in speed and have a low-quality video card that won't play 3D games.

If you go up to $3000 you would expect to get at least five of the above dramatically improved (Tablet PC being the one option you'd need to decide on). Oh, and I forgot about better hard drive speed and capacity and increased RAM and also increased peripherals (the better ones are coming with DVDs). There are indeed quite a few differences for the dollar. Gotta shop carefully.

Traction claims to have the best Enterprise Weblog software. One problem: the price. Enterprises aren't ready yet for wholesale weblogs. They need to be evangelized. I can't afford $250 to put something in place for myself inside Microsoft (and I don't think I'd get that approved cause there are already good free tools available). Plus, what happens if I'm successful at evangelizing this? Oh, then you gotta spend $5000 (actually more). Oh, wait, UserLand's Manila costs $900 (and you can create an unlimited number of sites with that). Moveable Type is free (well, once you buy a server). And if I'm gonna spend $5000 why not buy Sharepoint, which is a product from a huge company (er, Microsoft) with known support?

Not to mention, I visited the product page and can't figure out whether or not the product supports "the five pillars of conversational software" that I laid out the other day? You know, is it: easy to use, discoverable, expose community behavior, build permalinks automatically, and build RSS syndication services?

OK, looks like it has ease of publishing, permalinking, and syndication. Doesn't look like it has a discoverability system. (ie, if I'm Bill Gates, how can I see when every weblog inside Microsoft's firewall has published?) I'm not sure it has a community system either. For instance, can I tell who is linking to my weblog? Can I see how much traffic they are sending me? Anything else? These features are very important for weblogs inside your corporation.

Hint: my "internal blog" inside Microsoft's firewall doesn't have these features either, and that's one reason I don't use my internal blog. Any blog software that doesn't have these five things built in really isn't blogging software. At least not blogging software that'll be useful in 2004.

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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; 3:21:21 AM.