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This Lockdown DOES Feel Different

Steve Balmer (Microsoft CEO) Talks Past Me And Directly To Many Many Millions

After the "cloud computing" announcement of Azure from Microsoft yesterday I received an email from Mr Balmer himself (I signed up so it's not spam). In it he describes to the recipients of the email the "brave new world"
What's missing is the ability to connect these components [... massive datacenters, social networking sites, cell phones that double as digital cameras, large flat-screen PC monitors and HD TV screens, hands-free digital car entertainment ...] in a seamless continuum of information, communication, and computing that isn't bounded by device or location. Today, some things that our intuition says should be simple still remain difficult, if not impossible. Why can't we easily access the documents we create at work on our home PCs? Why isn't all of the information that customers share with us available instantly in a single application? Why can't we create calendars that automatically merge our schedules at work and home?


Of course he's not talking to me or anyone currently using an iPhone, Google Docs, Zoho or anything "modern" as, well to be honest, we're doing that already Steve. I mean, "Why can't we create calendars that automatically merge our schedules at work and home?" - where has the man been living? [more on Google Calendar ...]

But we knew that, didn't we?!

So who is he talking to? He's talking straight to the Microsoft Office generation, those many millions that are sitting inside organisations and/or at home with Word installed on their PC. He is talking directly to those that are currently scared sightless at the thought of ever putting up content into "the cloud" - here's what he says to them regarding the new version:
... Office Web applications, which are light-weight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote that are designed to be accessed through a browser. Office Web applications will be part of the next version of Office and will enable people to view, edit, and share information and collaborate on documents on the desktop, the phone, and in a Web browser in a way that is consistent and familiar.

And do you know what - I hope Microsoft succeed for two reasons:
  1. Competition is healthy and the more that Google has the better (no one respects a monopoly, eh Microsoft?)
  2. It will drag a gazzilion users kicking and screaming into the "cloud"
Of course there is a world of difference in approach between Microsoft and Google which I think is highlighted by the SaaS ("software as a service") approach of Google and S+S ("software plus service") of Microsoft. Iin essence Google sees the browser as king whilst Microsoft sees the OS as king ...

Our software plus services approach lets people take full advantage of the incredible power of today's devices. While there are undeniable benefits to being able to tap into the wealth of information and services that can be accessed over the Web through a browser, the interactive experiences that people expect on their PC, mobile phone, and media player depend on sophisticated software running on powerful processors.

The richness of these experiences will only increase as multicore processors expand the computing capabilities of our devices and new programming languages open the door to a new generation of applications that let us use more natural ways to interact with digital technology such as voice, touch, and gestures.


Who will win, ultimately the browser but it'll not be pretty on the way :-)
But why will the browser win - because that's where everyone goes to do their non-work stuff; if they can also do their work stuff in a similar "consumer" (ie, easy) fashion, sweet, game over!

The "cloud computing" world is getting more exciting as we see two large, powerful, influential software companies encroach on each others patch:
  • Google coming in from the consumer cloud into the enterprise (Google Apps)
  • Microsoft stepping into the "cloud space" from within the enterprise
Oh, and one more point - I have an underlying feeling that whilst Microsoft have undoubtedly been working on this for sometime their timing has been forced by the growing tide of major organisations worldwide jumping ship and going to the cloud. Aaaaand, their release of "beta" software has definitely been in response to the perception that they are slow, unresponsive and are getting beaten by Google every time.

My advice to businesses:
  • If you have an immediate need to collaborate inside/outside the organisation then look at Google Apps and/or Zoho
  • If have a business requirement to collaborate internally only think about every non-IT solution first
  • Remember, NO software/vendor fits all needs

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