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Donnerstag, 25. Oktober 2001 link

Microsoft moves again

One should never say that giants can't be agile. Microsoft is on the move and attacking on more fronts and in more subtle ways than ever before.

Part 1 of the show. -- shuts out non-Microsoft browsers

Don't miss the important background. For the past, Microsoft has been under heavy attack for not beeing standards compliant. For doing 'embrace and extend'. For doing what they want but caring for 'industry standards.'

"We do identify the string from the browser, and the only issue that we have is that the Opera browser doesn't support the latest XHTML standard," said Visse. "So we do suggest to those users that they go download a browser that does support the latest standards." (Ed: Visse is MSN's director of marketing)

That has changed. Microsoft begins to strictly adhere to standards, as they now seem to slowly recognize how 'industry standards' are often overly complex. Microsoft is left as one of the few organisations out there beeing able to spend the resources to 'fully support' every upcoming standard. There is simply no need for 'embrace and extend' any more. Spend a few people for fully implementing W3C standards and complain that competitors don't. If a few people won't do, spend some twenty or even hundred - no problem for Microsoft. But a big problem for most of the smaller competitors.

The key here (in Microsoft's point of view) is, support open standards! Fully support them, the more complex the better!

Part 2 of the show. -- Get Ready for HailStorm -- .NET My Services

We (the world) have an open, open, open standard. Let's call it SOAP. (You should know the game about open standards yet, and I think it maps perfectly well to SOAP too.) Now SOAP is just that good! It is far from evil. But Microsoft will do even more, they will openly describe their interfaces. All HailStorm SOAP service interface specifications - it seems - will be openly available.

The SDK includes a copy of the My Services XMI Manual, which serves as both an architectural specification for Hailstorm services and a programmer's reference. XMI is the name for the XML Message Interfaces programmers will use to call the services. (O'Reilly: Hailstorm in Hand)

The same game over here. Take a bit of 'microsoft tailored'-ness and a bit of 'too complex interfaces' and the seemingly 'open' interfaces become everything but really useful.

Storing user information in central servers is a key aspect of HailStorm. The address-book example doesn’t work unless the user’s information is stored in a single location accessible from all the sites, applications, and devices the user wants to access it from. (from "Get Ready for HailStorm")

Further, Microsoft tries to sell that point - the point beeing here, that Microsoft won't offer HailStorm as "a product you purchase and install in your data center." The point beeing, that Microsoft will centrally manage 'My Services' and will offer them subscription based. The point beeing, that if they won't do so, the whole system wouldn't work/make sense.

It sounds quite plausibly, doesn't it? Although it's just plain wrong. Where would be the problem to set some preference in my applications which HailStorm server to use?

HailStorm is technically a quite ambitious project. It seems to be a very straight way to attack convergence problems. It's technical foundation is great. Open SOAP, open interfaces, open everything. It could become a real, great and open convergence solution. Considering the aforementioned politics, it seems that the dream of fine system wide interop won't become reality that soon (at least not through HailStorm).

Parts 3 to n are the usual Microsoft attacks. Hook up and interweave whatever possible. XP and MSN and HailStorm. At every possible point. Make the hooks removable, but let them be default. IE6's default "page not found" hooks up to MSN search. Media Player is full of MSN uplinks. Various XP wizards are as well. In the case of IE6 I know that this "feature" can be disabled, in the other cases I guess it is possible as well.

To sum up - Microsoft is moving. They are changing the rules of the game. They start to play on a technologically impeccable foundation. And on this foundation the argumentation gets harder and harder.

The Microsoft oppostion got used to having a solid base of technical faults in Microsoft's movements. The opposition got used to having good technical arguments against Microsoft. Now the discussion shifts one level up into the political subtleness.

No, Microsoft is not getting any less harmful - they are still the same, in their good and bad ways. Just that their bads will be harder to make obvious.

After reading a few articles swirring around, I felt the strange need to write the above down. It's not that I think that Microsoft will definitively mess it up - it's just that we have to keep the things I illustrated in mind when talking about their technologically quite compelling advances.

Further references:
-- MSDN: Introducing .NET My Services
-- MSDN: Technically introduction .NET My Services
-- MSDN: The Technologies Behind .NET My Services
-- MSDN: .NET My Services and .NET Passport User Authentication Overview
-- A bunch of CNET internal references are in this article

Let me know what you think and comment! ;)

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