This week is TechEd 2006, Microsoft's primary conference for IT professionals and developers. There'll be a bunch of announcements about Microsoft products over the next few days but with Robert Scoble on his way out I'm not sure where we are supposed to get our info.

Anyway, on Sunday there was a keynote given by Ray Ozzie which I thought was interesting and is excerpted below

For those of us close to IT, and who have been close to IT for many years, this is a jarring reversal from the days when we saw the latest innovations in computing and communications at places like NCC and COMDEX. In those days, the enterprise requirements for large-scale transaction systems, and the public sector requirements for large-scale scientific computing drove creation of the world's most advanced data centers. Enterprises were showcases for vendors' most sophisticated and scalable technologies.

Today some of the world's most advanced data centers are those designed to directly serve consumers out on the Internet. For example, last month there were about 130 million people who used Windows Live Spaces, another 230 million used our Messenger IM service. More than 250 million people used Windows Hotmail service, hundreds of millions of active, unique users each month. Clearly, building systems at this scale is different than building software for enterprise servers, which are designed to serve thousands or tens of thousands of concurrent users.

It's estimated that just among Microsoft and Yahoo and Google, there are well over 1 million servers racked up in data centers, located around the globe, serving trillions of e-mails, and IMs, and searches, housing many, many petabytes of storage, serving 1 billion Internet users. And the investment continues, you don't have to stray far from our Redmond headquarters to see.
At times of disruption like this there are always extremists. Twenty-five years ago, at the beginning of the PC revolution, some predicted the death of the mainframe, because of the PC. Now there are extremists who believe that every application will be accessed through a browser, and that everything will move to this computing cloud, that your enterprise data center will go away, that you'll trust third parties with your business information, and systems.

Microsoft is taking a very pragmatic approach; a seamless, blended, client-server-service approach. We want to make sure that you can easily transition client and server-based applications to services, or vice-versa. Our services won't be disconnected from existing applications, but instead are going to be designed to complement and extend our Windows and Office platforms to the Internet.

Under the name Live, we'll provide a blend of desktop software, server-based software, and our own enterprise service offering, and our partners' offerings, enabling you to make the right tradeoffs that make the most sense for your business. One notable example of this client-server-service synergy can be found in our approach to information management and search. Our goal is to provide the people within your organization a simplified, unified way of getting at the information that they need, no matter where it resides.

There are two themes I like here. The first is that it seems Ray Ozzie agrees with the My Website is Bigger Than Your Enterprise meme. The funny thing is that even though our CTO gets it, sometimes it is hard to explain to some of the folks working on server products at Microsoft. There is a big difference in the complexity and scale requirements to build a system like Hotmail or MSN Spaces versus building an Exchange or a SharePoint. There are lessons to learn on here, both on the part of vendors like Microsoft as well as customers of enterprise software who want to utilize the lessons that mega-scale online services have learned the hard way. The second theme is that there is a continuum of software experiences that spans both desktop applications and Web applications. I don't believe that Web applications will or should replace desktop applications. On the flip side, I think that desktop applications that don't harness the power of the network (the Web or the intranet) will begin to look archaic in a few years. Ray Ozzie seems to totally get this which is good for Microsoft. Maybe in a few years we can get Steve Gillmor to stop calling it Office Dead. :)

PS: From Trevin's TechEd update it looks like our MSN vs. Windows Live "branding strategy" is just as confusing to end users as I expected. He wrote

Booth fraffic[sic] was pretty light today, and the most frequent question was "What is Windows Live?".  People's guesses at what Windows Live was were all over the map -- some thought it was related to Live Communicator, others thought it was just the homepage, while others took wild stabs in the dark.  Gerard commented that one person thought it might be related to our Education/Learning divison.
After talking to about 25 customers, it was abundantly clear that customers have no idea at all what Windows Live is, or how it relates to Windows or MSN.  This explained why there was so little traffic to our booth -- of the people that stopped by, they almost did it by accident.

Trevin is confident that our customers will soon have some of their confusion cleared. I on the other hand am not so sure. I'm sure once the major MSN properties like Hotmail, MSN Messenger and MSN Spaces are rebranded there will be more awareness of 'Windows Live' by customers. However I suspect the confusion around the difference between 'MSN' and 'Windows Live' will continue for quite a while. Maybe some of the marketing folks who fixed the weirdness of having both WinFX and the .NET Framework as dueling brands will be reorged into our division and can fix this foolishness.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006 11:53:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Admittedly, I did say this too :)

"And quite honestly, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if consumers don't 'get' what Windows Live is, as long as they like, and use, the services and products we ship."
Wednesday, June 14, 2006 6:13:05 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Ummm, rebranding and Microsoft. Microsoft and re-branding. Marriage and love. Love and marriage ... fit together like a horse and carriage. Or a foot and a mouth.

Microsoft seems to do rebrandings like other companies do product launches. And I can't help thinking that indicates a certain floundering in what was thought to be knee-deep water before struggling to the surface for the next gasp of air.

Can you enlighten me further?
Mjinga Wawa
Wednesday, June 14, 2006 8:19:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
You cited Ray Ozzie: "Under the name Live, we'll provide a blend of desktop software, server-based software, and our own enterprise service offering, and our partners' offerings, enabling you to make the right tradeoffs that make the most sense for your business." Is this of any help for understanding, what Live means to MS? To me it's not!
Thursday, June 15, 2006 1:26:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree with Cordula, nice marketing / sales talk but where is the real practical stuff for the end user like me?
Monday, June 19, 2006 2:48:16 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think there's something hinky about WinFX -> .NET 3.0. On top of CLR 2.x it certainly ain't 3.0.

But then Denali, Avalon, Viper etc. have always been much better names than those released to the great wide world!!

Maybe the "name makers" need to be thrown into a "services disruption" inferno to stir the grey matter in better ways!!
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