September 26, 2005
Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, aka the Mac BU, just released the long - awaited Service Pack 2 for Microsoft Office 2004 Macintosh. In recent months, they announced their commitment to not only the next version of Office, “Office 12” for the Mac, but also to supporting the new XML formats that Office 12 on Windows will have. (Note that you're going to have to go to Mac news sources on the Apple 2005 WorldWide Developer Conference to get the annnouncement from Roz Ho about Mac Office 12, and to Rick Schaut's blog to get the XML announcement. Finding information on the Mac BU from Microsoft is like finding out about that brother that no one in the family likes. I'm kind of surprised the SP 2 announcement even made it into PressPass. The Mac BU tends to get ignored by the rest of the company.)
That last statement The Mac BU tends to get ignored by the rest of the company is a critical one, and the reason for this article. The Mac BU, and Microsoft's treatment of them, are at a crossroads. Yes, they've made some good announcements, and yes, I think they'll deliver as much as they're able, or allowed to. I know some of the folks there, and who have worked there in the past, and they are brilliant, focused, and do the best work they can for the resources they have. The Mac BU's problems aren't caused because they don't care about their customers. The Mac BU's problems are caused because, from what anyone can see, Microsoft doesn't really care about the Mac BU, and doesn't really consider the Mac BU's customers to be “real” Microsoft customers. (Note: Obviously, I don't work for Microsoft. So the viewpoint you get here isn't an “insider's”. It's the viewpoint of a long time Microsoft Mac software customer (pre Word 5.1 even), and someone who's been a part of the Mac news community since about 1999. The customer viewpoint is probably the important one.)
First, it's not like the Mac BU is even considered to be a producer of business software. The best evidence? They're not even in the same division as the main Office team. They're in the Home and Entertainment division, which was subsumed into the Microsoft Entertainment & Devices Division with the recent MS reorg. Where is Windows Office? In the new Microsoft Business Division, which inherited the Information Worker division, Win Office's former home.
So let's look at that: According to Microsoft, Win Office is a business software product, Mac Office is home and/or entertainment software. Mac Office is in the same division as the Xbox, Windows Mobile, and embedded software/devices. What's the mission of the Entertainment and Devices Division? From the press release:
The new Microsoft Entertainment & Devices Division, which combines the current Home and Entertainment Division with the current Mobile and Embedded Devices Division, will consolidate Microsoft’s industry engagement around devices to deliver even richer and more relevant scenarios for individuals at work, at home and when they’re mobile. It will also bring more focus to the company’s efforts in entertainment and related devices and services. Accordingly, the senior vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile and Embedded Devices Division, Pieter Knook, will report to (Robbie) Bach.
Anyone care to take a guess as to who is going to be the begging orphan of this division? Even worse, once again, communications between the Windows and Mac Office units are going to have to cross major division boundaries. Anyone who's lived in corporate America knows how difficult that is on a good day when you don't have to do it a lot. When you are talking about the level of communications required between the Mac Office and Win Office teams, the...wrongness of this decision jumps out at you.
But the truth of it is, Microsoft doesn't take the Mac BU's work seriously. It's a throwaway division. In its 2004 annual report, the Mac BU is only mentioned in passing, in the sense that its profit acted as an offset to the Xbox losses of that year, and that revenue from Office 2004 was expected to increase in 2005. It creates a business product, Mac Office, yet it lives in, and competes for budget dollars and resources in the same division as the Xbox and joysticks, and now, Windows Mobile.
If you want another example of how little respect the Mac BU has from the senior leadership at Microsoft, read this transcript from an internal Microsoft meeting talking about Apple as a competitor, and in theory, the Mac BU. Did they take any time at all to talk up the Mac BU and all the work they do? No. Not a single damned word. They took a lot of time to slam on Apple, but the Mac BU means so little to them, that they weren't even worthy of some form of faint praise. Even Ballmer makes sure to quickly push the Mac BU to the end of the line behind “Let's rag on Apple”:
Steve Ballmer: We'll let Jim talk about Apple in general as a competitor, and then we'll go from there.
They had a great chance to talk about their fellow Microsoft employees first, (or at all for that matter). They had the chance to talk about how, in spite of competing with Apple, the Mac BU does great work, and will continue to do great work. Heck, one of the harshest critics of Apple in that article is Robbie Bach, and he is now running the division that the Mac BU is a part of. He's their boss. Did he say a damned thing about them? No. Instead, they slagged the iPod, and ignored the Mac BU. That happens a lot when you talk to senior Microsoft leadership about the Mac BU. Nervous laughter and “oh look, a shiny new change of subject!” Maybe if you're lucky, some mumbled stuff about how they're the largest set of Mac developers outside of Apple, (although the number of times you hear Microsoft management outside of the Mac BU say that probably only take 3 bits to count), and the Mac BU is an important division for Mac users. That's not the attitude I want from the company providing critical software for me and my company. It speaks of a lack of real commitment to the product from the people making the decisions. It shows the lack of confidence and support the rest of the company has for the Mac BU. It also has to make the Mac BU feel really good when Microsoft senior management won't ever talk nice about them in public. Kind of like being pretty enough to sleep with, but not pretty enough to be taken anywhere that someone might see you together.
Which now, with Office 12 coming up creates the question:
With Microsoft senior management almost ignoring the Mac BU, why should I upgrade to Office 12?
This has nothing to do with what the Mac BU will turn out. I know they'll do quality work with the resources they have available. They always do. I still have yet to find anything that makes me want to give up Entourage, and that's before I started using it with Exchange. I know how hard they worked on Service Pack 2. I admire that group, I respect that group, every one of them. Some of the smartest people ever to write Mac software work there, or have worked there.
But outside of Entourage, why do I use Office? It's not because it's easy to use. It's really not. Not even close. Word has a clunky UI, especially for Styles, but I despise how Cocoa applications deal with certain text features I use, and nothing for me comes close to Word's “Track Changes” feature. Keynote is a really nice product, but has a lame AppleScript dictionary, and gets boggy to use as your presentation gets bigger. It also creates massive files, and I'm really happier with how PowerPoint does things. I still don't use Excel more than maybe twice a year, so that's a non-issue.
But the primary reason is that you just can't reliably round trip Office files through non-Office applications and not have them fall to hell. However, thanks to the rather cavalier treatment of the Mac BU and Mac Office by Microsoft, you can't reliably round trip files between Mac Office and Win Office either. It's better than say, through Open Office, but it's not as effortless as it should be. I mean, they're both Microsoft Office, right? This stuff should just work. But it doesn't. As well, did you save that Word 2003 file as XML? Good luck round tripping that through Office Mac. In Office 2004, only the Mac version of Excel supports XML right now.
Now, a lot of this is due to that nasty OLE - thing that is the current Office file format. Microsoft has never made it easy to handle that format, and it shows in the problems that non-Microsoft software has in dealing with it. But in Office 12, we get XML on the Mac and Windows, right? So the round tripping will be no problem between Mac and Windows Office, right? In fact, it should be easier than ever to round trip through things like Open Office too, right?
Well, that should be right, however, that creates its own problem. Let's take a look at the primary reason for using Mac Office: File Format Compatibility and Entourage. Well, if everyone can read and write those file formats correctly, why are we using Mac Office? Entourage. Eventually, someone's going to make a decent Entourage competitor. Then why should you spend hundreds of dollars on Mac Office?
Well, if you're talking about Win Office, it's easy. There's a plethora of Windows server functions that make Office more attractive. IRM, (as distasteful as it is, there are cases where IRM is useful), Live Meeting, OneNote, Enterprise Project Management Solution, SharePoint, Content Management Server, and others. These things all work with Office Win to add value to Office far beyond any individual application within Office.
Out of all of those, how many can Office Mac integrate with?
Zero. None. The closest you get are the ones like SharePoint that happen to partially work with a web client that isn't IE 6 on Windows. Most of them don't.
So we come back to the question...other than file format compatibility, what does Mac Office do for me or my business? Entourage?
(Note, if it seems like I'm ignoring Microsoft's other Mac products, I am. Messenger is, with version 5, no longer quite as crippled as it once was, but it's still a weak, wavering shadow of its Windows counterparts, and the Mac version of Windows Media Player isn't done, as far as I know, by the Mac BU. That's a good thing, because WiMP Mac is the biggest embarrassment for Microsoft since Bill Gates tried to get a court to believe he only pretended to be a genius, and was in fact, a blithering idiot. That worked about as well as WiMP Mac does. Virtual PC is a bright spot in this, but I'm waiting to see what they do with VPC on the Mac next. Besides, you use VPC because you have to run Windows applications and Remote Desktop Connection won't cut it. You don't run VPC because it's fast or convenient.)
The fact is, that if Office 12 Mac is just a new version of Office 2004, but doesn't do anything more on the back end, if it doesn't provide better integration with Microsoft's server backend products, then why do I, or anyone else need to buy or recommend it? We won't need it for the new file formats, heck, they're XML, and reasonably open, so everyone will be able to deal with them. If someone comes out with a good Entourage competitor, like a version of Evolution that runs as a native OS X application in the Aqua environment, then all we need Office for is legacy documents. We already have that solution: Microsoft Office 2004.
If Microsoft wants people to buy Office 12 in any quantity it has to become, as much as technically possible, the equal of Office 12 on Windows. It cannot be this thing with the same name, yet none of the enterprise features, otherwise why lay out the money? I know I'm going to need a lot more than an update to Office 2004 to get me to recommend that my company, or anyone I'm working for or with to lay out the cash on this update.
Now, some folks won't have the option of running an Office competitor on the Mac. They'll need Office because they need that integration. So they'll go with Windows, probably via Remote Desktop Connection, until it's time for hardware upgrades. Then they'll just buy a Windows box and run Office 12 natively. Now, in that scenario, Microsoft ends up winning more. Okay, so eventually, under this scenario, they'd kill the Mac BU because no one's upgrading to Office 12 Mac, but they'll have more Windows and Windows Office sales. But they'd eventually lose, because these won't be happy, willing users. They'll be using Windows and Office because they were forced to. They're captives, not volunteers. Eventually captives escape. They'll dump Microsoft the first chance they get, and they'll never look back. Customers that hate you are bad customers. Really. For exhibit one, I give you the State of Massachusetts.
Please note that I'm just echoing what has been said for years by folks doing Mac IT work. From a post on the MacEnterprise list:
I've been doing some thinking at work and I might have some problems keeping the Mac user group on Macs in the coming years. Why? A lack of feature parity in MS Office.
There are two main things that are going to kill us here. The main one is Office DRM.
There is a brewing proposal here that Office document rights management become part of the business requirements here. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with it it allows you to set rights on documents so that you can control things like who can edit, print, etc. I could send an e-mail with confidential data in it and specify that the recipiants could not print it.
The lesser issue is sharepoint intergration. As our company tries to standardize how information is shared, Sharepoint is probably going to be the path we take. I know it works on the Mac, but the lack of intergration
in Mac Office makes it really klunky to do.
I just wanted to share these concerns and to get everyone thinking about things like the rights management. This is exactly the sort of feature that management loves to make manditory. If they do that, then say , “Bye
bye Mac!”. I've expresed my concerns to our MS rep. I suggest you do the same.
In either case, without something more than “It's Office, it opens Office files and talks to Exchange”, there's not a lot of reason to to lay out the cash for another version of Mac Office, and if that doesn't happen, kiss the Mac BU and any non-windows software from Microsoft goodbye.
If this sounds a bit Cassandra-ish, well, maybe it does. But that doesn't change the reality of the situation. However, I'm not alone in this. Even various Mac Office MVPs say the same thing. That the Mac BU doesn't matter to Microsoft, and that some folks in senior or close to senior management at Microsoft have the attitude of “Stop complaining, you're lucky we make software for you at all you Mac losers”. (Yes, they do. Don't even try to tell me otherwise, I have far too many people telling me the same story, and none of them like telling it.) Microsoft's attitude towards the Mac BU is so bad that I've had to tell software VARs that yes, Microsoft in fact does make Mac software. These are the same people who can practically quote me every MS Windows SKU from memory. But I have to give them the URL on Microsoft.com to prove to them that Office 2004 for the Mac exists, because Microsoft doesn't push Office Mac at all outside of the Mac press and Mac events. They don't even license Mac Office the same way as Win Office, and that includes good and bad.
If Microsoft wants the Mac BU and Office 12 for the Mac to thrive, the have to get over the attitudes that Mac users don't need enterprise software, and that they're lucky that Microsoft writes software for them at all. The Mac BU's customers are Microsoft customers, just as much as the people who are Win Office customers. They pay good money for what the Mac BU puts out, and they deserve Office on the Mac. A real version of Office that plays perfectly with Win Office, and works correctly with the Office Server back ends. They need this. They have told Microsoft this for years, and for years, been ignored on this. That has to stop.
The Mac BU isn't writing games. They write business software. They should be in the same division as Win Office. The attitude that the rest of Microsoft has towards them has to stop. Now. It should have never been allowed to flourish, and the fact that it has is directly Gates and Ballmer's fault. (Those are the two running the show for the Mac BU's existence, they get the blame for how Microsoft treats the Mac BU. Yes I know Gates had a hand in creating the Mac BU, but it's been abandoned ever since.) They aren't some group of losers that Microsoft is being charitable in employing. When they leave the Mac BU, they go to other places in Microsoft. MSN in particular, but also the team that did Microsoft Max. That's right. One of the folks that wrote Max is one of the smartest people to ever write Mac software, and probably one of the smartest people in any room anywhere. Think about what they do. A team that has less people, (probably including the janitors) than just the Windows Outlook team does Office. With comparatively no manpower, no money, and no resources, and they put out far more product than the Outlook team does. They're probably one of the only teams at Microsoft doing such amazing work in such comparative poverty of money, resources and support from senior management. They should be held up and admired, not shoved to the back of the bus and ignored.
They need to be taken seriously. Not ignored, not relegated to being a way to mitigate some other division's losses. They aren't a throwaway group that is just there to show the DOJ that Microsoft isn't focused on putting everyone in the software business who isn't them, out of business. Microsoft senior management needs to not look surprised when the Mac BU is mentioned or change the subject as quickly as possible. They need to talk about the Mac BU with the same enthusiasm as they talk about the Win Office team. For the love of god, move the Mac BU out of the games and home division and move them into the business unit. Give them the same kind of care that the Win Office team gets. The Mac BU has come up with some original stuff and Win Office has benefitted from that. They deserve better than what they currently get from Microsoft senior management.
The rules have changed. With XML, the old reasons for Mac Office are gone. Microsoft has to allow the Mac BU to write a version of Office that plays at the same level as Win Office. Otherwise, there's not going to be a need for the Mac BU much longer, and that would be a real shame.
Note that if anyone from Microsoft wants to talk to me to show me I'm wrong here, I am at your disposal for an open, honest chat. (firstname.lastname@example.org)| Comments ()
September 20, 2005
Microsoft Entourage Service Pack 2
Okay, technically, it's Microsoft Office Service Pack 2, but while there are some minor changes to the rest of the suite, this is really all about Entourage and Exchange. There are a ton of Exchange improvements in Entourage, and while it's not everything that people want (can it ever be?), it's a big improvement. (It should be up on Mactopia as of today, Tuesday, 20 Sept. 2005)
One bit of a bummer, the Sync Services integration that the MacBU wanted to get in this version isn't here, due to some fixes that they need from Apple. That's not saying they'll never show up, just not this time. Yes, I agree, it sucks, but, wait a couple weeks, and Paul Berkowitz will probably have some updates to his excellent Address Book/Entourage and iCal/Entourage integration scripts on his web site, or via MacScripter. Spotlight integration isn't in this release yet, but not many databases are Spotlight - compatible yet, so it's disappointing, but not a huge surprise.
The new stuff
With SP2, you can now see how much space your mailbox takes up. Not just the overall size but how much each individual folder in your account uses. Being able to see individual folders is more than a little handy if you have a complex folder structure. If you have 40 folders, being told “You're over quota” is not as useful as knowing exactly which folder is taking up the most space.
You can now share folders with other Exchange users, so that teams can all access the same folder. Just select the folder, bring up the context menu, and select sharing.
Once you've done that, you can set default access permissions, anonymous access permissions, or add specific users to the folder Access Control List, (ACL).
You can add users to that list via the “Select User” dialog, which is a search dialog, or, if you know the specific user ID you want to add, you can do so via the “Advanced...” button in the “Select User” dialog.
Once you've added your users, you can then set their permissions either manually, or from one of the preset Exchange user types in the drop-down. One thing to keep in mind is that child folders do not inherit permissions in Exchange. If you assume otherwise, you'll have some problems.
Exchange Synchronization speed has been improved a lot, and in addition to the DAV connect, if you have an Outlook Web Access Server that can also be accessed from the public Internet, you can point Entourage at an OWA server and connect that way. (Using OWA is slower than straight DAV, but should still be plenty fast)
You can finally set up delegation from within Entourage! Woohoo! One less need for Outloook, (always a good thing).These settings live in the “Delegate” tab in the Exchange account settings. This tab not only lets you set up delegates for your Exchange account, but as before SP2, lets you set up the accounts you're a delegate for. (Setting up accounts you're a delegate for is the same as Outlook's “Open additional mailbox” feature, but a heck of a lot easier to get to.)
Once you select a delegate, you set permissions for them for your calendar, your Inbox and your Exchange Address Book. If you like, you can send them an email informing them of these settings from the dialog, (probably a good idea).
If you use a separate delegation server, you can set that via the “Advanced...” button in the delegation tab. This can also be set when you set up the accounts you're a delegate for. Otherwise Entourage will use the default server settings.
Something to keep in mind is that while sharing and delegation may seem to be the same thing, they aren't. When you set up sharing, you're only sharing that one folder. When you set up delegation, you're making someone a “co - user” of your account in a sense, and that can take a lot more resources. It also requires a lot more resources, such as direct access to the backend server, and it doesn't all happen over DAV. The only time you should use delegation is if you need someone to be able to send email as you and manage your calendar for you. If all you need is to give someone access to a folder, use sharing instead.
Unlike 2004 pre-SP2, you can now view, post, and subscribe to non-email public folders, (Subscribing is done via “Add to Favorites” in the folder context menu). Note that if you don't subscribe to any folders, every time you start Entourage and expand the “Public Folders” triangle, the list of Public Folders is pulled down from the server. If you have a lot of Public Folders, this can take a while.
For Exchange email, Entourage respects the Thread-Index and Thread-Topic headers for messages.
Addresses and the GAL
Global Address List integration has improved, but there are a few caveats. Groups in Entourage are not synchronized with Exchange. That may get fixed later, but in SP2, it's not automatic, nor can you set them up manually. This brings us to a major change for Entourage in SP2. Prior to this release, your Exchange and local address book were shown as a single, unified entity. That's no longer the case. Now, there's a separation of the two, and if, after you first run SP2, it looks like your entire local address book has been wiped, relax, it's up on the Exchange server. Select all, drag from Exchange to local, and it's all back. (You can drag contacts back and forth between the two if you like.) You can now browse the GAL in Entourage, although if you have a ton of entries, this can take a while. The search function is much faster, and I find it easier to use that.
Update from folks at MS
LDAP is a bit different, in order to support browsing the GAL, you must have a Windows 2003 domain controller. Entourage takes advantage of a new LDAP feature in Win2k3 servers known as VLV. If you are connecting Entourage to a Win2k DC, you’ll get a search only GAL (though you still get all the address auto-completes and organizational information).
Yes, there are some people that want the unified view. I'm not one of them. I like the separation of personal and professional stuff. I also like that Exchange can now be, in effect, a backup of my contact data. I can see where you'd like the other, and if you want it back in a future version, let Microsoft know now. One advantage to this separation, (it happens in the calendar too), is that it's much harder to confuse calendars if you have to manage multiples.
Take note that there's no offline GAL access in Entourage, even with SP2. Your personal Exchange contacts are cached locally, but not the GAL.SP2
One change that some may not even realize happened is the removal of “Directory Services” from the tools menu. That item's functionality is now a part of the Address book feature set in Entourage, so there's no need for a menu item that duplicates that, especially since SP2 searches the GAL faster, and with more options than before. It also made a lot more sense in the Address Book section anyway.
Another change that is helped by this separation of Exchange and local data is that with SP2, you can access your calendar and contact data from the main folder list in the Mail view. So, if you need to quickly look up contact or calendar information, you don't have to switch views back and forth, it's all accessible from the Mail view. This doesn't add any real clutter to E'rage's UI, as it just tacks the calendar and address book icons to the bottom of the various folder lists. Fewer mode changes are a good thing.
Calendars get the same treatment as the Address Book in Entourage. Your Exchange calendar is now separate from your local calendar, (which can really lead to some issues with synch software, like Mark/Space's products. I imagine they'll need an update to handle this). (One thing to watch out for, although this is not SP2-specific, is that category support in Exchange is still new, (I think it only just showed up in Outlook as of 2003), so if you use a lot of those on your Exchange calendar, you may get duplicates sans category. If you do a lot of Outlook use too, the chances of duplication are much higher, since Entourage and Outlook don't have a perfect 1:1 match for contacts and calendar event information)
There are a few bug fixes too. For one, opening a complex HTML message no longer means you can't get to your account settings. There should be far fewer incidences of complex HTML crashing Entourage. No, you still can't do really complex HTML in Entourage, but if you need that, just use Word and the “Send to” option. Works quite well. Exchange synchronization is again, much faster in this, and you can manually force synchronization if you wish to.
On the downside, there are still no task and note synchronization for Exchange, and that's getting a little old. Okay, it's getting a lot old. You still can't have event reminders run AppleScripts or launch programs. (To be fair, that's not a common option in most calendar managers on the Mac. Now Up-To-Date 5 can't do it either. iCal is really the only option here). The AppleScript dictionary needs some work, it's getting a little hoary.
None of the Office applications save Messenger are application bundles yet, they're still old-school resource fork applications. (I'd be VERY shocked to see this change before Office 12 shows up. With the Intel transition, that's going to be such a major overhaul of the code base that there's no point in fixing this beforehand.) If you have a lot of rules that move things from IMAP folders to local folders, Entourage still gets boggy when that happens.
If you want to set up Exchange server rules, you have to use Outlook, so that sucks. If you have to change your Exchange server's DNS name, you have to do that manually in Entourage, (or via AppleScript), it doesn't automatically change as with Outlook. While Entourage now tells you your password needs to be changed, since it still doesn't support Kerberos, you have to manually change your password in Entourage if you change it in Exchange/AD.
Some long-standing IMAP bugs, like unread message counts being just completely schizophrenic are still there, but the “disappearing/reappearing mail” problem caused by LiveSync seems to have been reduced, if not fixed completely.
I can't speak for the Palm side of things, but if you use Mark/Space's Missing Sync for Windows Mobile, the tasks are going to be very intermittent, and you may see some oddities with the address book and calendar sync, thanks to the new splitting of those between Exchange and local. (In general, assume that only your local information will sync)
Differences between Entourage SP2 and Outlook 2001
- Entourage requires HTTP-DAV(OWA) and LDAP to be running on the Exchange server, Outlook 2001 only requires MAPI
- Entourage doesn't provide off-line GAL access
- You can't map between Public Folder favorites in Entourage and Public Folder favorites in Outlook
- Entourage doesn't support Outlook Forms, voting buttons, RTF formatting, (GOOD THING), or Receipt Tracking, (although you can set up custom headers to get some basic receipt support)
- Entourage doesn't support Exchange server rules, (although Outlook 2001 Mac's server rules were incompatible with Win Outlook's, so that sucked anyway. Better to wait and do it right), nor does it have the Exchange out-of-office function, although you can create your own if you need
- As noted before, you get password expiration notification, but you can't change your Exchange password from Entourage. You have to use some other method, like OWA, and then change Entourage's password to match.
- No synchronization of tasks or notes with Exchange
Does this make Entourage a 1:1 match for Outlook? No, not at all. There are a lot of functions in Outlook that require Windows, or a level of integration with Exchange that Entourage doesn't yet have. Does that make SP2 any less of an improvement? No, not at all. The Exchange and other fixes in this release of Entourage take care of a rather large amount of complaints about earlier versions of Entourage, and show that the MacBU hasn't been sitting around twiddling their thumbs. If you use Exchange with Entourage, this upgrade is a no brainer. Even if you don't, you should consider it since it's a) FREE, and b) includes more than just Exchange - related improvements and fixes.
If you're any kind of sysadmin/IT Manager and you are supporting Entourage in a corporate environment, i highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend you download and read the Office Resource Kit. It is a great, albeit highly underutilized source of information on Office:Mac. Another great source of information is the Entourage MVP page, and the various product newsgroups. All of those resources will do a fantastic job at helping you solve almost every common problem you run into, and most of the uncommon ones as well.| Comments ()
September 13, 2005
Thoughts on the PDC webcast (pseudo live)
Okay, so you get my thoughts on this as I listen...enjoy.
First...thanks a pantload for making the stream only accessible via windows. Brilliant attention to detail guys. It looks so good when Microsoft Windows Media Player for Macintosh cannot access a Microsoft Windows Media stream. Just bloody brilliant.
Disco...Microsoft is playing Disco. This somehow is not surprising, and I'm really quite grateful that I can't see the keynote audience right now. But really...disco..that says something. I'm just not sure i want to think about what that is.
At 56K, i'm still getting dropouts, but not as bad as at 100K. Of course, this is over 11MBps wireless to a windows box via MS Remote Desktop Connection...because that's the only way I can access the stream.
Oh goody, at 8:30, we find out it will start at 8:40...more disco with dropouts!!!
Putting the body of this in the “more...” section, it's just too damned long otherwise. Refresh that page to get updates.
8:37: Five minutes to go...at least the music got better
8:41: The “About to begin” notice...the announcer is a little odd...ooh, music stopped
8:46: Great, no sound, just video. Trying Virtual PC
8:55: What the hell? They SUSPENDED parts of the KEYNOTE from the feed? How stupid is that
8:56: feed is back, he's on about megatrends and 64 bit. Form factors now. Still pushing the tablet...doubling almost nothing is still almost nothing though. MS has totally bungled the tablet marketing.
9:00: Talking about five years ago in 2000, and about .Net and XML, how important that was. This is, even at 56K, the worst stream I've ever dealt with. Having an audio only stream would be SUCH a good idea. It's really amazing the difference between how Apple does this and MS.
9:02: The generations of XML...third Generation is XML being at the core of everything.
9:04: Going on about record level of investments in the Windows platform. Moving towards everything being part of Windows and MS's products. Nothing about working with anyone else yet, although that's not surprising. Still, it's the same old “Windows is all” song. The server world is evidently Microsoft only.
9:09: now up to 2003, talking about the packaging for Vista. WinFS is client only for now? The next iteration is client and server. It will be released on both client and server. Finally getting into the meat.
“Confident”, “Clear”, “Connected” are the three areas of Vista. “All the new PCs will have Vista”.
9:12: Office 12 will come out in the Vista timeframe, so end of 2006/beginning of 2007. Chris Capecella(sp?) doing the Vista/Office 12 demos. Vista connects you to people/information/devices you care about, confidence wrt security, and clarity in getting to your information.
Launching a bunch of applications. Now when you hover over the task bar, you get live previews of the Window, just like the OS X dock. Looks like they have live previews in Alt - Tab too. New 3-d preview of windows and apps in task switching. Interesting, but more as eye candy than anything else.
The live search is useable as an app launcher
Nice big thumbnails of data contents, better metadata. Spotlight features in the documents. So far, this is all done in Tiger, except for the app launcher stuff.
No chris, Vista did NOT introduce virtual folders. JUST like spotlight. The virtual folders are actually XML files. That could be handy, you can pre-populate virtual folders if needed. None of the searching is that new or exciting.
The adding of metadata is nice though. Not sure how many people will jump on it.
The Sidebar is now shipping...how long have they been talking about this?
OH MY GOD...it's GADGETS instead of Widgets. Holy crap, they totally lifted Dashboard. They don't force you into another presentation mode for it, but jesus, this is so blatant.
9:21: Sideshow...what the heck...a 2“ LCD on the laptop? lord. So now you never shut your machine off? yeesh.
Parental controls built into the OS. That could be cool, but it's still nothing radical. You can do that now with OS X too. Hmm...they check with the ESRB for games ratings and use that as part of the parental controls. That's an interesting idea, but what do you do if you don't have an internet connection to update the ESRB. It seems to be a bit more complicated than it needs to be.
Talking about phishing protection in IE 7. Telling people where the SSL cert came from is useless to a non-technical user. You have to know what that is for that to mean anything. Oh good, they're double-checking user reports of phishing sites. Good, the anti-phishing stuff is opt-in...they're learning.
Audio dropouts again
9:27: Tabs in IE and searching. Whee. They did an interesting take on how OmniWeb does tabs with the slideshow ”View all tabs“. Kinda of a cross between OmniWeb and Expose.
Better printing control in IE. Better RSS support. Autodiscovery of RSS Feeds on a page, nice touch, a more advanced version of what Safari's doing. The CRM team is integrating RSS into Dynamics. Could we PLEASE stop overusing the word ”rich“?
9:33: Office 12 info. First showing in public. ”Help people get better results faster“. Oh wow, they suddenly realized that thirty-five toolbars is too much, and that people don't know what's in the thing.
Showing the new UI. Tabs replacing Menus and Toolbars. Using the new file open dialog. Shades of OS X (again). Looks like they ripped off a LOT from the MacBU in this. New faster stuff for data visualization, but it's kind of for Excel wonks.
Lots of live changes for hovering. It's a nice idea, but it could become REALLY ANNOYING really fast. But this is just data formatting and zooming. This is stuff they should have done years ago. Lifted the new page layout stuff from the MacBU too, but that's not a bad thing. Communication between teams is GOOD. However, I'm not sure that this new UI is more intuitive for users. We'll have to see, but it looks like it's just as complex as it ever was.
9:40: Looking at Word now. Live font preview when you hover over a font on the font list. Okay, THAT is cool as hell, and really handy. It would be a REALLY GOOD IDEA if the Mac BU could steal this. Live style previews too. This is something Word's needed forever, and it's a great idea. Ah, the balloon comments. Nice.
Lots of sharepoint stuff, but that's kind of ”eh“ if you don't use Sharepoint. Ah, they finally let you yank comments and hidden info. God knows that MS's been burned by this.
Powerpoint now: Nice text to graphics stuff. They are so ripping off a lot of what Keynote's done. Again, not a bad thing, Powerpoint's needed some of that on Windows. A lot of one-click bullets to diagram stuff. That could be really handy for people like me who use a lot of bullets and hate doing that the hard way.
What about the XML stuff?
Server integration now. Sharepoint integration. It's really nice, and cool, but what about people not using Sharepoint? Again, there is a whole world that isn't MS. What are you doing for them?
Talking about Outlook now. New ”to-do“ bar. Tasks are getting integrated into things better. Live preview of attachments in Outlook. Again, nothing new here, OS X has had this for a LONG time.
RSS subscriptions in Outlook from IE 7. That's kind of cool.
Oooh...live Spotlight-ish searching in Outlook. Live OS data indexing. It's a nice idea, but it's hardly new or radical.
More Sharepoint stuff. It's good touch, but only if you're a Sharepoint shop.
Nothing whatsoever about the rest of the world. Even Steve talked about Windows and the rest of the world a bit during the WWDC.
9:53: There will be a ”wave“ in 2006/2007. Easier deployment, and monster marketing. Let's hope they don't do the dinosaur thing again.
OOOH...third party apps. Wow, that's like twice.
Surprise, connecting data to data is too hard. No thanks to Microsoft.
More workflow stuff in the OS and the apps. Like...”duh“.
SOA and Web Services and XML are the center of this.
Talking about SOA on a ”standard platform“, and how important that is. I don't think that ”Standard platform“ is maybe meaning what he thinks it is though.
More history of computing.
The ”Next Frontier“ is the Server Level. There's no real standardization of how you get to info on the server? Oh, wait, interfaces, and that kind of thing. File Servers are the past, and we're all going to go to the Windows Server System.
”Department level file servers will move to Sharepoint servers“. No Bill, they won't. Once again, a really nice theory is getting borked by his inability to deal with the fact that the world is not windows only, and never will be.
(Yes, I know, keynotes are PR, but if Bill still sees the world as Windows - Only, then so does the rest of the company, so it really does matter a lot. Remember, leadership and attitudes in a company flow down, not up.)
Wrap-up now. Well, for weeks, Scoble's been telling me to wait for the PDC to see about how Microsoft is going to work with the rest of the world, because, in theory, I'd hear better news. If the keynote's any indication, Microsoft is still going to only care about you if you're all Windows
Jim Allchin coming on
Windows 1.0...trip down memory lane.
”Drive home how far we've come“
2005 is the 20th anniversary of Windows.
Talking about ”getting dirty“
Talking about everything they've done in the last year, and it sounds good until you realize that it's all variations on XP and Server 2003
Giving out build 5219 of Vista
Beta 2 will be on a wide release.
They feel confident about the general availability of Vista by the end of 2006.
Daily builds of Vista.
Things happening around the edge of the Internet.
MICROSOFT made Handwriting the next input form factor? Um...no. No they didn't.
WIndows was designed to live in a Malware world? Well yeah, being a target is living in a hostile environment.
Evidently only Microsoft can do it all, and Vista will do it all. lord.
wow, they finally are doing what Apple's been doing since Jaguar and Quartz Extreme. How innovative
Manage, store and integrate regardless of location.
Allow apps to communicate reliably and securely. Protocol aganostic, based on Internet standards. Okay, show me the money Jim. Show me that you work well with others.
Reliability and security
Yes Jim, this is important. It took you until now to figure this out?
Imaging's a problem. (wouldn't be if you would get the damned hardware makers to stop being so damned schizophrenic) Auto quarantining machines until they comply with network policies. Adding hardware diagnostics and monitoring with hardware. This is nothing new unless you're Microsoft.
Allowing for libraries and drivers to be replaced without requiring a reboot. Yawn. Welcome to Unix Jim, the view's fine.
User Account Protection..hey, Windows doesn't force you to run as root to get work done. Of course, apps will have to be rewritten for this. This of course is stupid. The OS should handle this so the apps don't have to care.
Autooptimization in Vista. big deal. SuperFetch! VM analyzing based on usage over days, months and years. Evidently they're going to hold onto VM pages over time here so relaunches are faster. So it background launches all kinds of data that you use a lot. Now, where is this information stored? How do you deal with it in a resource - limited situation? Ah, he's dealing with that. Oh lord, they're using USB pen drives as part of the VM system and the system RAM. That sounds like a spiffy idea, lots of cheers. Ah, it's all encrypted. But lord, that's going to be slow. Maybe if they made library loading more dynamic, so you don't have to preload as much data, you wouldn't need SuperFetch. But it's nice that they copped some of the AS/400's memory model.
Process separation and protection. Again, why is this only NOW build into the system? This is interprocess security 101. Lame. But for MS, this is an ”incredible“ innovation.
10:30: He's on about developer PR stuff, and customer expectations. Microsoft Pioneered some of the best way for doing web services data access? mmmm...maybe. But they also borked it up for everyone else.
Talking about Atlas, Microsoft's reaction to Ajax. Extending ASP.net to handle this. Runs on any browser, but why do I see it only running on Windows Servers?
Oh, here we go...the Windows Presentation Foundation is ”Light years“ ahead of everyone else. Um...Jim, stop drinking the Kool-aid, no, you're not, you're just catching up to where Apple has been for a while now. Of course, instead of using open standards like OpenGL and PDF, it's all Windows stuff
Netflix Demo using WPF.
BWAAHAAHAHA...”It has to run on a wide range of devices“...and they're demoing it all ON WINDOWS!!! ”Mr. Allchin, your clue train just left without you“. Jesus, show me this NOT on Windows.
10:38: Still on the Netflix demo of how WPF/E redefines ”Everywhere“ to mean ”Windows“.
Yes, yes, when you have a vector display engine, you can make it look good on all kinds of screens. Noting new here. ”Nothing new here“ seems to be a central theme if you don't drink the kool-aid. Lordy, this is so not new at all. Look, you can use frameworks to let you embed video content in an application!
Just like QuickTime's done on OS X for years now.
Wow...it only took three developers and a graphics designer a month to create a Windows application that runs on Windows...ASTOUNDING!!!
BWAAAHAHA...they're selling the PDA/Phone for only $150...dude, it's only cool when you give it away. Only Microsoft sells stuff at a keynote. Oy. They have the money to give them away.
sharing, updating, subscribing and integrating across multiple data stores.
Addressing the ”impedance mismatch“ between dev languages and data stores.
Linq...language integrated Query...they just reinvented the SQL wheel yet again. No they aren't the first.
Searching and metadata across multiple data stores and machines.
Windows Communication Foundation/Communication Pillar
Unified platform for distributed apps.
Write once, talk to everyone
New Federated ID management
Info cards, based on open standards. Identity independence with an interface for multiple ID models.
People Near Me
basis for PeerNet in Windows Vista. Why do I get the feeling they also just reinvented Zeroconf?
Subscriptions to sessions over P2P. Okay, so I'm seeing Remote Desktop with a Zeroconf connection. This looks like a PowerPoint version of SubEthaEdit. Uses IPv6 to pretty much recreate zeroconf.
Coders coming out. I'm going to not update a lot of this, since it's all Microsoft reinventing the wheel, and making it all Windows only.
Okay, only Microsoft would use ”Contracts“ in a communication infrastructure for message handling.
What modern browsers don't support XML?
It's really sad when Microsoft programmers are better speakers than Gates OR Allchin.
11:26: Still doing code demos...why are they streaming this...more important, why am I still listening...oh wait, these guys are actually funny and dynamic...and when they're talking about creating classes in C#, that's a neat trick.
11:28: HOLY CRAP, they're demoing the Atlas app they built on a Mac in Safari! Oooh...it works too! Holy crap, someone from Microsoft gets that ”Cross Platform“ isn't just ”Different Windows SKUs“. About goddamned time, only took almost THREE HOURS.
11:30: Third party devs, from The North Face. Talking about Windows Vista. Fluid, doing work for The North Face. Proof of Concept C# / XAML app. Data driven, all dynamic. Rotating video players in 3-D. Pretty cool. But what good does that do people wanting to buy stuff from The North Face over the Internet. I mean...it's pretty, but pretty's been done. How USEFUL is it? Six weeks for a pretty prototype? Big deal. Six Weeks for that same app working on every modern browser, that's useful now? that would be cool.
Again, the world is not going Windows - Only, but no one seems to have told Microsoft. The North Face thinks they'll blow away the competition? Yeah, for customers who use Windows.
12:00: Allchin doing a wrap-up. Talking about making your app run just like every OS X app runs now. Standard user, portrait or landscape.
So let's recap. In three and a half hours, the not-windows world was mentioned one time, and that was by a dev team doing a demo of a web app. Nothing on the rest of the world. Jim thinks that the Enterprise hasn't gone through an upgrade cycle. He's hallucinating. The Enterprise has been upgrading all the time. We just aren't waiting for Microsoft.
But here's what MS thinks will drive this...comarketing. Microsoft isn't being run by innovators or creators. It's being run by marketers, and sales guys. Sad really.
Oh wait, now he's having someone demoing their new Digital Locker online store? Holy crap, this is what passes for real innovation at Microsoft? Online Software Sales? Jesus, no wonder this company looks like a blind, deaf, beached whale. They honestly don't know what the hell they do anymore other than make money. That's what their mission is, ”We Make Money“. The whole OS thing is coincidental anymore.
Digital Locker...Microsoft will control your online retail experience. Just like Hailstorm. Wait, we've all been waiting for one-click? Hello, Amazon?
It's integrated into the Vista shell via Windows Update. So now, you can get all kinds of software via Windows Update. Why am I seeing the potential for real problems here?
The idea of storing license info securely and in an easily accessible manner is cool, but who is going to trust Microsoft with this?
Jim, you're not listening to anyone but your fellow Kool-Aid drinkers.
Well, it's nice to see that Vista is finally trying to catch up to OS X. It's good to see that MS is trying to make the programming parts of this as easy as possible. SOme of the stuff in Office is a really good idea. These are all areas that Windows and MS have needed to improve upon for years.
But is it revolutionary? No. Everything i've seen is evolutionary. Nothing wrong with that, but it should have been happening all along. MS has to get off the UBER - RELEASE mentality. really.
As well, other than one Atlas demo, Microsoft is still viewing the world as Windows - only, or about to become Windows - only. They still think that if they just come out with enough features and reasons, everyone will dump everything else and move to Windows, and it's not.going.to.happen.
But until you get rid of the Nimrodic Triumvirate running Microsoft, no change is possible.| Comments ()
September 12, 2005
No matter what department you're in, everyone's on the same team
So, yet another 'soft' peeve of mine is siloism, or the practice of departments within a company forgetting that they're all on the same team, and acting like polite enemies in a confederation instead.
Usually, explaining this is difficult without an example, however, in today's lesson, everyone's favorite cheerleader, Microsoft's own Robert Scoble, has provided us with a sterling example of why forgetting whose side you're on is bad.
Sorry, Nigel (the guy they quoted) is wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
I've been interviewing lots of teams about what Windows Vista will need and it's nowhere near what this article says.
I have a video coming up next week that'll answer a lot of these concerns.
“Well, Scoble, why don't you just tell us the minimum requirements then?” I can hear some of you saying that. Sorry, can't do that yet. The teams are still doing performance work. That work won't be done until next year. But Windows Vista works just fine on Tablet PCs (which aren't known for being very bleeding edge in hardware).
And, Nigel, please talk with the team that wrote the display engine in Windows Vista and find out more about what the real requirements will be.
On the surface of it, what do we have? Some damage control, and a very public correction of another Microsoft employee by one of the most public faces of Microsoft. (I really don't care to hear Scoble's protestations that his blog is not an official Microsoft Press outlet. He's turned it into one over the years, so that's what it now is.) Now, if Robert had been correct on his facts, then the only real problem is that Robert has all the professional relationship skills of a spoiled child tattling on his brother.
Here's a tip kids, and if you're ever in a leadership position, make it a rule:
Praise in public, criticize in private
On the other hand, if Robert had been right, okay, just a social/interpersonal relationship problem.
The problem was, Robert's always had a bit of an issue with holding off on the post button long enough to check his facts. It's burned him, and he's been burned by others doing it to him. But in the fever pitch to do the damage control, he forgot one, very important thing:
From a post dated today, 12 Sept, 2005:
Anyway, the long and short of it is that his talk was taken out of context and wasn't reported well. His talk was focused on hardware evolution. He was talking about what's coming in hardware....
Anyway, now that I have more facts, I said I'm sorry for making it sound like he had given out facts that he hadn't. Glad I could clear up the story.
So, from Friday to Monday, thanks to someone else on the same team, Nigel looked like an ignoramus, too silly to bother sending an email to get his facts straight. Thanks to Robert he looked completely stupid.
When I pointed out in the comments for the original article:
I'm REAL sure they have “Teh Intarweb” in Australia and that, go with me on this, AUSTRAILIANS speak ENGLISH. So, and here's the kooky part, what if MS sent out an EMAIL that had the CORRECT info, and told people “THIS is what you will say about Vista”.
Wouldn't that just be wild. I suppose actually communicating with each other won't happen until the PDC either?
“Welcome to the PDC...from now on, everyone at MS will be able to not just send, but receive email from each other. In a form that we can read. We really think this will help make Windows Vista the best OS Evar!”. (Yes, it's harsh. But Robert's like a puppy, he doesn't learn unless the newspaper makes his nose sting)
Robert replies back with:
John: heh. Do you work in an organization bigger than 15 people? It doesn't sound like it. People make mistakes. Some people are, um, not informed or miss the memo (intranet published it might be). Hell, you catch me a lot of times in my ignorance. It happens. No big deal. Onward.
Considering how wrong he really was, there's more than a little irony to that reply.
My final response:
Communication, whether between 60 people or 60,000 is a relatively simple task if you give a rat's ass about doing it right. Now, we are talking about MS, the shining example of “Screw 'right' we're 'good enough'” so the fact that they can't handle internal communications right is no real surprise here.
It's in the last reply to that post, (Not from Robert), that we see how unintentionally on the mark my comment was:
I think everyone should go read what Michael Kleef has written: http://blogs.technet.com/mkleef/archive/2005/09/12/410592.aspx The date on this comment is...ready? 12 Sept. That's right, the same day as Robert's follow-up and apology.
From Michael's post it seems like Nigel was misquoted.
I didn't believe that a PR wonk like Robert would leave a fellow employee to twist in the wind like that without even the courtesy of an email or a voicemail asking if the guy had really said that. But accuracy and teamwork be damned, there was PR to do.
People, when you work for a company, be it Microsoft, Apple, or Mom's Corner Deli, you work for the company. Regardless of division, or project, you work for the company. You are all ON THE SAME TEAM. When you start screwing over your teammates like this, they all make note of it. You lose their trust, because they know that you will stab them in the back and step over the body, facts be damned. Behavior like that is a cancer. It kills living cells, or worse yet, mutates them so they have the same behavior.
The fact that Scoble did this doesn't make it any better or any worse. It just happened to be such a blatantly public version of it, that I didn't have to do any real work to turn it into an article.
When you're on a team, and the door is closed, you scream, you yell, you criticize freely. That's one of the reasons for a closed door, so you can say things without worrying about what outsiders will think. If you are going to criticize a teammate in public, then you damned-well have your facts double - and triple - checked first. You make sure you give them a chance to defend themselves. You include exculpatory as well as damning evidence. They're a teammate, you don't hang them without solid reason.
That kind of behavior would be, in a world that cared about such things, punished by termination so fast and so public it left scorch marks. In lieu of termination, a very public apology, not just on the originating site, but on the company intra/extra/whatever net is the minimum compensation for such a public lynching by blog.
As a favorite mailing list of mine states as its motto:
You save my ass, I'll save yours. If you cannot trust your own teammates to watch your ass, and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when the evidence seems conclusive, then why should you have the privilege of being on that team?
September 9, 2005
Tell me again how prepared we are
Read this: "Trapped in New Orleans"
Yeah, we're so prepared at the Federal, State and Local level. You know, if this had happened to Palm Beach Island in Florida, half of the Atlantic Fleet would have been there making sure Mr. Trump didn't muss his hair.
I'd say it's probably exaggerated, but based on my experiences with FEMA's shocking incompetence and inhumanity after Hurricane Andrew, I'm inclined to believe it.| Comments ()
September 8, 2005
iDevelopers! iDevelopers! iDevelopers!
Let me apologize if the title of this post brings to mind the disturbing image of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's infamous "MonkeyBoy" dance, but for this article, it applies. With the release of the iPod Nano, iTunes 5.0, the Motorola Rockr, and Madonna/Harry Potter on iTunes, the latest iteration of "Why the iPod and iTunes are still #1" and "How long can Apple stay on top" have started.
All of these articles however focus almost completely on how you get music for the iPod vs. competitors, and the fact that you have more choices with the none-iPod crowd, vs. the iPod. Subscription vs. Purchase, how many buttons on the player, who has the most features, blah, blah, blah. That's not to say these are not good points. They are. The fact is, iTunes is damned easy to use, runs on more non-player computing platforms than the WMA/Playsforsure contingent, and has an attraction that they can't match, or more correctly, haven't matched yet. While the subscription backers have the occasional point or two, the fact is that to date, renting music, and paying for nothing in perpetuity has yet to catch on. (Yes, I can get almost a million songs for ten dollars a month or whatever. However, until I have gigabit Ethernet to my house, I don't have time to download 30GB - 60Gb worth of stuff a couple times a day. My max download speed is only 5Mbps, that's .625MBps. At that rate, 60GB will take a while, and that's assuming a full 5Mbps for the download. Not happening.)
But every one trying to crack the iPod's dominance is missing a really important point: Third Party Hardware Developers. The iPod has scads of hardware developers cranking out toys at a furious pace, the other guys have none. The reason for it is pretty obvious if you think about it. Developing for the iPod is dead simple compared to the other folks.
First, let's look at cases. If you want to design cases for the iPod, it's really simple. If you started today, you'd have three cases to design for. (Four if you wanted to get the Mini crowd.) The case for the current iPod will work on pretty much every click-wheel version. if you had a lot of requests, you might consider the older versions, but it's not a pressing need. So, 3-4 templates, and you're set. You can download the engineering drawings of the iPod with ease from Apple, so you can get the specs with absolute accuracy. At that point, it's just color, pattern, and materials. Apple gives you everything you need to start making cases, you don't even have to join their developer program.
What about the other guys?
Well, Creative does have a developer section on their site, but that's all about software talking to the players. Nothing for hardware. If they have the engineering drawings, I wasn't able to find them. Of course, there's no easily found search function for their site, so if it's not right in front of you, good luck on finding it. However, even if you get the drawings, you then have to deal with the number of different case designs. The Zen has six case designs. The MuVo? Six. Then there's the Rhomba. If you want to support their portable media players, that's two more case designs. So, just to make cases for every Zen, MuVo, Rhomba, and Zen Portable media player, you're going to have to set up fifteen different templates and manufacturing setups. That's only if you have one case per product. If we start talking about muliple colors, etc, it gets worse. So right off the bat, you have over three times the amount of complexity and overhead when you want to design a case for the Creative player line vs. the iPod line.
This is just for Creative. As you add more of the iPod's competitors, it gets worse, and damned quickly too.
What about iRiver? They're not much better better. Eight different case designs for their ultraportable series, two for their multimedia players, one for the H10 series, (shocking!), for a grand total of eleven different case designs. Not even Jenna Jameson can pimp you out of that kind of complexity.
So, to make cases for two of the iPod's biggest competitors, you're talking about twenty-six separate case designs. All the iPod competitors are like this.
Archos? Seven different cases. RCA? Eight. Rio is reasonably sane, at 4 case designs. So to completely service the 5 biggest iPod competitors, to just make cases mind you, you're talking about what, forty-five separate case designs, based on current product from their web sites.
FORTY-FIVE We aren't talking about products that are that different from each other either.
The current shipping iPod line? Three. Four if you count the mini. The dominant player has 3-4 case designs you need to care about.
Why is anyone surprised that the iPod accessories market is so astounding huge compared to the others. There's probably more iPod - only accessories than the total accesories market for every iPod competitor combined. When you buy an iPod, you now have an astounding, nay, titanic number of options for tricking it out, using it, carrying it, etc.
But we've left out what may be the most important iPod feature of all: the Dock connector. The iPod Dock connector is one of the most brilliant choices Apple has ever made. Think about it. If you build to the iPod Dock connector, you have a product that will work with all but the earliest iPod models, every iPod Mini, and every iPod Nano. The only thing you lose with a Dock connector in the iPod market is the Shuffle.
You want proof of how important this is? Here's some names:
All of these companies are building or have built interfaces for the iPod Dock connector. They only work with iPods. I'm not talking about some lamer 1/8" cable that plugs into a cassette adaptor, or FM transmitter, and you still have to use the player controls. I'm talking about car audio where you control the iPod from your car stereo controls. I'm talking about plugging your iPod directly into high quality stereo components where the iPod is an integral part of the system, not some appendage dangling off an audio cable, with another cable for power. Look at the Bose SoundDock. That's a thing of beauty. It looks good. Good enough to have a place of honor in your living room, or anywhere you want to put it. No cables, no ugliness, and a nice remote. Compare that to some dongle rig that you're stuck with when you don't use an iPod. Yeah, the brilliance of the Dock Connector is obvious.
No one else has that. If you believe Apple's numbers, thirty percent of every car sold in the United States will have an iPod integration option for their audio. If you go by 2004 sales figures, that's five million automobiles.
Everyone else? Nothing. Cassette or FM adaptors. Maybe a bracket. Big deal.
The iPod competitors are all so focused on music file formats, and music delivery formats, and subscription vs. buying that they forgot about getting people who aren't online music services to build toys for their stuff. So now, Apple has one primary interface, and three four case designs. They have a developer program that gets you information on the iPod. As of iTunes 5, the iPod integrates with Outlook. The iPod's no longer a player, it's a platform. The others? Just players. In truth, they're nothing but accessories for Microsoft's Windows Media platform. That's why each one is an endpoint, and the iPod is really just a starting point. The iPod has the developers man. The others are developers...for Microsoft. You can't lead when you're following someone else.
Apple walked into Richard Branson's home, and embarrassed him. Eighty percent of the UK market. I don't think you can find enough high adventure and hotties to wash away that sting. And a huge part of it is because they made building toys for the iPod simpler than everyone else.
So the next time you see Creative or Rio blathering on about how they're going to kick the iPod's ass, relax. Until they simplify their product line and create a standard interface ala the Dock connector, relax and remember...they're all just remoras, catching Apple's scraps.
Oh yeah, and that Harry Potter audiobook deal? Dude, that's a license to print money. You think Apple fanatics will buy anything with the right logo? They're minor. That deal is going to sell a TON of iPods.| Comments ()