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March 21, 2007

Microsoft News Odds and Ends, March 21, 2007

Posted by David Hunter at 12:48 PM ET.

A flurry of miscellaneous Microsoft News:

Judge backs $1.5 billion patent decision against Microsoft in the first Alcatel-Lucent case decided in late February.

Microsoft joins OpenAjax Alliance standards group as rumored back in January. See also the OpenAjax Alliance website.

Microsoft offers a new Vista discount plan for consumers:

For customers who acquired a full or upgrade version of Windows Vista from retail or pre-installed, we’ve got a pretty sweet deal.  We’re announcing the Windows Vista Additional License program, which provides the ability to install the same edition of Windows Vista on any other additional computers you may own.  The program allows customers to purchase up to 5 additional licenses for PCs they own at 10% off the suggested retail price.

Although slightly more realistic than the Family Discount Plan, it has the same basic problem - the vast majority of consumers will only acquire Vista via a new PC purchase.

Meanwhile, Vista is reportedly bad for the PC business. Wait, someone else says it’s great. Hold on a sec, maybe it’s in between.

Dell launches low-cost PC in China running either Windows XP or Linux. No Vista. Well, Microsoft will still get paid for XP.

Virtualisation causes IDC to cut server forecast. Virtualization allows customers to buy fewer, bigger servers. Both units and revenue are predicted to be down from prior forecasts. There should also be a similar effect on Microsoft’s server revenue.

House Bill Would Free Up TV Airwaves for the Microsoft mystery device.

Microsoft Disappoints Zune Users Waiting For Firmware Update, particularly since it is supposed to fix a “skipping” problem on purchased music.

Windows Live Search Italy gets owned by a truly skillful malware deployment combined with search engine optimization. Check out the screenshots too. The problem of bogus websites in search results is a problem for all search engines though, as some Microsoft researchers demonstrated.

Filed under Alcatel-Lucent, Argo, Coopetition, Financial, General Business, Governmental Relations, Licensing, Linux, Live Search, Microsoft Research, OS - Client, Open AJAX, Open Source, Patent Lawsuits, Patents, Security, Standards, Technologies, Trojan Horses, Virtualization, White spaces, Windows Live, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Zune

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March 7, 2007

Microsoft researchers show off their projects at TechFest

Posted by David Hunter at 11:08 PM ET.

Yesterday was the start of this year’s TechFest where the staff at Microsoft Research shows off their latest efforts:

March 6, 2007 — Whether it’s helping people discover distant planets online, share their favorite digital photos with relatives, or show young kids how fun it can be to program computers, Microsoft Research speeds the way to a richer computing experience. Today the doors opened to Microsoft Research TechFest 2007, the company’s annual showcase of research projects, unveiling more than 100 innovations. At TechFest, researchers and product teams form close and lasting ties to jointly advance the frontiers of computing for the industry and customers.

Speaking today at TechFest before an audience of customers, industry and government leaders and independent software vendors, Microsoft Research Senior Vice President Rick Rashid said, “TechFest is one-stop shopping to see and experience the breadth of software innovations we’re pursuing that will allow people to explore their interests more deeply and share the things they care about more easily.”

Rashid moderated demonstrations of a number of key research projects, including World-Wide Telescope, which allows people to peer deep into the heavens on their PCs; Mix: Search-Based Authoring, a new way to build and share digital content at home and work; and Boku, an innovative way of using Xbox® to teach kids how exciting and rewarding computer programming can be.

There are more details by following the link and at the TechFest Demo site , but while interesting in an intellectual way, there really didn’t seem to be anything particularly earthshaking. Also bear in mind that the real audience is within Microsoft itself with the objective of getting these projects incorporated within a real product, the perennial quest of all corporate research arms:

Microsoft Research TechFest provides a strategic forum for Microsoft researchers to connect with the broader group of Microsoft employees. Hundreds of researchers from Microsoft’s worldwide labs in China, England, India and the United States gather for the annual event at the company’s corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash. They come together to exchange ideas with colleagues, show off their latest innovations, and shine a light into the future of computing. In many cases, the partnerships formed at TechFest between researchers and product teams allow innovations to begin making their way into game-changing products for Microsoft customers.

Also of note was the retirement of Dan Ling, the longtime head of Microsoft Research’s Redmond lab, and the announcement of his successor, Henrique “Rico” Malvar.

Filed under Executives, Microsoft, Microsoft Research, Rick Rashid

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December 5, 2006

Microsoft releases PerformancePoint Server CTP

Posted by David Hunter at 11:21 AM ET.

Last Thursday when Microsoft launched Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007, a number of other products came along for the ride, including some that are quite a ways from availability. One such is Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 for which a CTP was released today:

Microsoft Corp. today announced the release of the first community technology preview (CTP) for its integrated performance management application Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. Scheduled for general availability in mid-2007, Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 brings together next-generation monitoring, analytics and planning capabilities in a complete performance management application. Beginning today, customers can visit to download the first bits of code and test the product’s capabilities in a real-world business environment.

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Reading this you might justifiably think that PerformancePoint had something to do with computer system performance management, but actually it’s a Business Intelligence (BI) offering. And while one hears “get the bits” more often than necessary, “download the first bits of code” seems to have odd connotations. Things improve though:

Office PerformancePoint Server CTP 1 will combine the planning, budgeting, forecasting and financial consolidation capabilities of the product code-named “BizSharp” and the scorecarding functionality of Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager Server 2005. CTP 2, scheduled for early 2007, will incorporate the functionality of CTP 1 and analytics from ProClarity 6.2. Microsoft plans to release either one or two additional CTPs before the general availability of the product scheduled for mid-2007.

Microsoft acquired ProClarity in April and in case it’s not clear, PerformancePoint Server 2007 replaces Scorecard Manager Server 2005. The net is that PerformancePoint is Microsoft’s try for the BI market building on the strengths of SQL Server as the underlying database and Office as the front-end. The PerformancePoint Server website has more details.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Microsoft Research, Office, PerformancePoint Server, Scorecard

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November 21, 2006

Xbox 360 and Microsoft’s midlife crisis

Posted by David Hunter at 11:23 PM ET.

MSFTextrememakeover runs the numbers on Microsoft’s Xbox venture in the videogame console business and it isn’t a pretty sight:

So, actual time to recoup the investment, assuming it ever occurs, will likely be measured in decades.

The real question, of course, is what to make of this and other Microsoft emerging business plays that are, to be polite, a bit on the slow side:

All of which raises the question of what MSFT’s broader strategy wrt emerging businesses is, and how success is measured. Are they worthwhile standalone efforts, meant to be profitable in typical industry 3-5 year timeframes (or less), but MSFT just can’t execute properly? Or are they always, at least in part, defensive plays aimed at protecting the existing crown jewels and only justifiable (financially at least) on that basis? I think the answer is a combination of both, which explains why MSFT’s “investments” continue to be viewed by many externally as hopelessly unsuccessful, especially when they weren’t sold to the street or shareholders on that basis.

Perhaps my view is too pessimistic, but I frankly tend to the first explanation and view Microsoft’s Xbox as yet another instance of the odd actions produced during the corporate midlife crisis that afflicts so many business organizations that have achieved great success in their early years. Would Microsoft’s crown jewels (Client PC OS, Office, Servers) really have been endangered if they had not entered the game console business? The only one you can even make a case for would be game consoles somehow endangering the Microsoft’s PC client operating system franchise and it’s pretty thin stuff.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a flyer in an emerging business, but when the executives of a famously successful company use their hard won bankroll to pursue it beyond all reasonable expectation of return, you have to wonder if they have started believing their own press.

Filed under Financial, General Business, Investor Relations, Microsoft, Microsoft Research, Xbox

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