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Thread: Microsoft (Decline Of)

Open the pod bay doors, please HAL

Are Those Clouds On The Horizon?

Chronogical Blog Entries:

Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2009 15:19:10 +1100

As we all realise, dark and depressing clouds are looming on the economic horizon. The most ominous clouds since the 1930s. And many firms are announcing layoffs. Among them, Microsoft, who having made the announcement, then asked some of those very same ex-employees to return part of their severance pay! It seems that an error occurred during the calculation of their final pay cheques. One supposes that it was human error? <sarcasm>With Microsoft's established reputation for quality, surely it couldn't have been a computing error? </sarcasm>. After considering the potential PR implications, Microsoft then told their ex-employees that they could keep all of their severance packages irregardless of errors, human or computer.

In another announcement, Microsoft released details of a new online education initiative, called Elevate America, a type of virtual stimulus package of their own. The new website offers education services either for free or at reduced cost. Depending on your point of view, the prospect of Microsoft offering education is either amusing or alarming, since no other corporation has had a more detrimental effect on education in computing science and software engineering. Their most significant contributions to date have been radical dumbing down of computer user interfaces and subverting open standards. Microsoft running education services is a bit like Dracula running his own blood-bank.

Still, the clouds of depression aren't the only ones on the horizon! Lately there has been quite a lot of chatter about cloudware. Many corporations now see migration to the cloud as a way of saving money. Microsoft also say they have plans for The Cloud. This includes various online services, such as email and messages as well as a new cloud-based architecture called Windows Azure. Getting concrete information about these proposals is quite difficult. Certainly the offerings to date, appear to be light and fluffy, and of a somewhat ethereal nature, if not actually up there in the stratosphere.

To get an idea of how long it might take Microsoft to release a working copy of Azure, we can consider their past record with software releases. If you count the two years it was referred to as "Longhorn", Microsoft have been working on a new version of their flagship OS (aka Vista) for eight years. And yet, they still haven't delivered a working copy! Rumour has it that Microsoft have finally cracked it with their latest effort. Of course they won't call it Vista SP2, because the Vista brand name is so badly damaged, that the public simply will not wear a product bearing that reviled label. And so, if Windows Seven actually delivers the goods, and Microsoft ship it late this year, they will have finally released a working new major version of Windows in just under nine years.

Without labouring the point too much, Google in half that amount of time have delivered Gmail at the centre of a suite of applications including Google Docs, Google Talk, Google Checkout (which admittedly only works in the USA), Google Calendar, Google Notebook, Google Maps (and the truly amazing Google Earth), Android (not just an application but an entire OS), Google Blogspot, Picasa and hundreds of minor applications such as Google News, Google Clocks, Dictionary, Thesaurus, Joke of the day, etc, etc. All of them (with the exception of Android, of course) integrated on the iGoogle desktop and running in the cloud, and all of them free! Apparently Google's infrastructure has so much excess capacity that they can afford to give all this away as a side-line promotional activity for their primary activity of search engine services. And their beta releases are better quality then Microsoft's official releases.

Well, dear reader, I don't think one can question Google's commitment to cloud-based applications.

And so Microsoft are going to deliver a multi-platform integrated cloud application, when exactly? Sometime next decade? Sometime this century?

We note also (with some amusement) that Microsoft are spruiking their "ecosystem". Well yes it is true that (last century) there was an impressive list of third-party co-developers, who really could write software, IBM, Corel, Borland, Lotus, Central Point Software, Quarterdeck, Stac Electronics, etc. But most of them were picked off by Microsoft and ironically, most of them had signed some sort of memo of understanding or partnership deal with Microsoft just before the knife was stuck into their relaxed midriff and given a couple of twists. So one really has to wonder about the health and vigour of the MS "ecosystem". It seems Microsoft are mostly giving money away to the likes of Facebook, LG, etc, while still working on the ambitious project of shipping Vista SP2 (aka Windows Seven).

If Microsoft ever do create anything more concrete and detailed than the vapourware that they have offered under the Azure umbrella, your humble blogger would dearly love to peruse it. It's been quite a while since yours truly had a deep hearty belly laugh. And Microsoft's plans for cloudware, whatever else they offer, will surely generate gusty gales of guffaws.

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