Microsoft: Pirates of Technology

Miguel de Icaza, founder of Ximian and now lead Novell developer recently posted about Microsoft’s partnership with Novell. Specifically, Moonlight, Novell’s free implementation of Microsoft’s Silverlight is now the official Linux version, sanctioned by Microsoft.

  • Microsoft will give Novell access to the test suites for Silverlight to ensure that we have a compatible specification. The same test suite that Microsoft uses for Silverlight.
  • Microsoft will give us access to the Silverlight specifications: details that might be necessary to implement 1.0, beyond what is currently published on the web; and specifications on the 1.1 version of Silverlight as it is updated.
  • Microsoft will make the codecs for video and audio available to users of Moonlight from their web site. The codecs will be binary codecs, and they will only be licensed for use with Moonlight on a web browser (sorry, those are the rules for the Media codecs).
  • Novell will implement Silverlight 1.0 and 1.1 and will distribute it for the major Linux distributions at the time of the shipment. We will offer some kind of one-click install for Linux users (no “Open a terminal and type su followed by your password…” as well as RPM and DEB packages for the major distros and operating systems.

When Sun wanted Java to become a standard language, they made it free (and eventually open source). Microsoft is following Sun’s example and trying to remove all the stops on the path to Silverlight overtaking Flash. Why is such a big company trying to commoditize markets that have already been commoditized? To summarize a post I wrote six months ago:

What is Silverlight? Flash.
What is a Zune? iPod.
What is Live? Google.
What is Vista? Compiz.
What is Spaces? Myspace.
What is Internet Explorer? Netscape.
What is C#? Java.

Before products like the iPhone and iPod, if someone asked what an iPhone was, the closest answer was just a generic cell phone. Clearly the iPhone is not just a cell phone. It just has phone capabilities. Before Flash, how would you describe Flash in one word? So why is Microsoft wasting it’s time in predefined markets? While talking about this with one of my friends, he pointed out that Microsoft is really just reimplementing products and forcing it’s current users to use their reimplementations. I suppose there is money in this but it seems like the big bucks is in the niche creating similar to what Apple does these days.

Why isn’t Microsoft creating niches?

I’d like to augment this post with some amazing research acquired by Microsoft. 698 visits to my site this month are from Google searches. 11 are from Live.
    None Found

Viewing 2 Comments

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    money is. Apple has surpassed IBM in it's market cap as well. Microsoft made its money in niche creation (office apps and OSs) and was innovative in their own way. You say that "they [Microsoft] won’t succeed by moving away from their core competencies at this late stage" but that's not what I'm suggesting. On the contrary, I'm suggesting this is what they are trying to do by modeling all these other "hipper" products and they are failing at it.

    My point wasn't to show that Apple is better than Microsoft because that's like trying to compare Apples to oranges ;). I'm merely trying to point out that Microsoft is suffering with their new products and that continuing on the same path will not save them. Microsoft had flown so high in the past, though, that they have a long fall before it's too late to find it's parachute.
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    I followed you up until the last two sentences. First of all, Apple has a long way to go to prove that that's where the money is in comparison to Microsoft.

    Microsoft have put out some good software over the years, but they've never innovated. Their biggest claim to creating a niche was actually IBM's biggest gaffe in the early 80s. These days they are collapsing under the weight of their own beauracracy, but even without that, they're strength has always been business and positioning, not innovation. They won't succeed by moving away from their core competencies at this late stage. If thousands of younger and hipper companies can't be Apple, how the hell is Microsoft gonna have any chance.


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