Monthly Archives: October 2003

Peter Rysavy

Peter Rysavy: “Some of the greatest tablet applications are coming from small developers, who don't have a lot of money to fund their projects, and an army of lawyers to protect their ideas. Redmond really needs to give them a chance, support their work, and even promote their applications.”

Peter: you're absolutely right. I'm interested in finding out a way to do just that. I'd love to hear your ideas on how to make small ISVs comfortable with doing business with us. Is it getting you legal help? Funding? Is it building relationships within our teams so you feel more comfortable about why and how we patent our technologies? I'm very interested in solving this problem long-term so that we both win.

Taking care of developers is my #1 job. If you all run off and develop for another platform because we made it too difficult to deal with us, we lose. Simple business 101 stuff.  [The Scobleizer Weblog]

Ventureblog

Ventureblog has an excellent article on how Dartmouth students and faculty are utilizing their ubiquitous wireless connectivity.  Worth the read. 

NOTE:  I want a matchbox-sized wireless access point (more a relay station than a wired access point) that I can plug into a wall socket.  If anyone builds one, I will order a dozen (if less than $30 a pop). [John Robb's Weblog]

Doesn't everyone!?  😉

New Version of PowerControls Released

New Version of PowerControls Released

Version 2.0 of Ontrack’s excellent PowerControls tool has been released. The latest edition of this great (but not cheap) tool which can work wonders with, and extract data from, unmounted .edb database files, and allows you to pull out data down to individual message/attachment/contact/calendar item level, contains a number of improvements, including a new advanced search facility (the search options in v1.1 were fairly basic), and also the ability to be able to restore an online backup including those from major backup applications such as Backup Exec and Arcserve to “any alternate location (e.g., machine, volume, folder), thereby eliminating the need to restore an online backup to a duplicate Exchange Server.” …Sounds great!  [MS Exchange Blog]

Replace and defend

Replace and defend. Reading the Longhorn SDK docs is a disorienting experience. Everything's familiar but different. Consider these three examples:

Joe Hewitt sums it up nicely:

I think the bottom-line of XAML is that it is equally useful for creating both desktop applications, web pages, and printable documents. This means that Microsoft may be attempting to simultaneously obsolete HTML, CSS, DOM, XUL, SVG, SMIL, Flash, PDF. At this point, the SDK documentation is too incomplete to firmly judge how well XAML compares with these formats, but I hope this lights a fire under the collective butt of the W3C, Macromedia, and Adobe. 2006 is going to be a fun year. [joehewitt.com]

Yeah, “embrace and extend” was so much fun, I can hardly wait for “replace and defend.” Seriously, if the suite of standards now targeted for elimination from Microsoft's actively-developed portfolio were a technological dead end, ripe for disruption, then we should all thank Microsoft for pulling the trigger. If, on the other hand, these standards are fundamentally sound, then it's a time for what Clayton Christensen calls sustaining rather than disruptive advances. I believe the ecosystem needs sustaining more than disruption. Like Joe, I hope Microsoft's bold move will mobilize the sustainers.

Update: I'm delighted to see that my former BYTE colleague John Montgomery, who is now a Microsoft group product manager and developer platform evangelist, and who helped Microsoft work through a number of standards issues in the formative era of Web services, has launched a blog. Excellent! Today, John notes this posting and promises to return with input from Longhorn architects. I very much look forward to a fuller discussion of these issues.  [Jon's Radio]

Avalon isn't about Web/GUI convergence

Avalon isn't about Web/GUI convergence. Edwin Khodabakchian echoes what seems to be a common — but I think incorrect — perception that XAML, the XUL-like layout language revealed this week to be a building block of Longhorn's Avalon presentation subsystem, heralds some kind of Web/GUI convergence

To my way of thinking, you don't have “the best of both approaches” unless you have a ubiquitous client. As Jeremy Allaire pointed out the other day, Flash is making a serious effort along these lines, and has — in Laszlo and the forthcoming Royale — its own XML-based layout techniques. I've also mentioned Mozilla's cross-platform technique, XUL. Now Microsoft is pitching a Windows-only UI renderer that targets 2006-era desktops and notebooks, while allowing MSIE to stagnate. I can see how and why they arrived at this strategy, but it doesn't seem to be the kind of Web/GUI convergence I'm looking for.  [Jon's Radio]

Open source citizenship

Open source citizenship.

On the world stage, both failures and successes can loom larger than in the corporate cubicle. Developers who plug into the reputation-driven meritocracy of open source — while advancing the goals of your business — are a force to be reckoned with. [InfoWorld: Open source citizenship: October 24, 2003]

This column was based on the observation that corporate IT shops are apparently more likely to fork an open source project for internal development and use, than to join and contribute to the project. Some correspondents were puzzled by my comments on licensing, so I'll try to clarify. The open source licensing regime, as Tim O'Reilly has often pointed out, has as its basis the distribution of source code. As we move to a service-oriented software ecosystem, that basis will necessarily erode. If a GPL'd module is copied, modified, and then deployed behind a firewall to power a service that's world-accessible and free (as in 'free beer'), then am I as a user of that service free (as in 'free speech') to modify and share it? In one sense yes, I can wrap the service in a novel service of my own creation — if the provider's terms of service (a different layer of licensing) allow me to. In another sense no, the internal modifications that make the service more interesting/powerful/useful than the GPL'd original are not available to me for modification and sharing.

I'm not suggesting that a different licensing regime could, or even should, prevent such a scenario. But I am saying that some habits that evolved decades ago will need to be rethought in a service-oriented ecosystem. Another example, which I mentioned in a column on open services a while back, touches on the way tests are bundled with open source projects. Here again there is a presumption of source distribution. But when a user of a service never acquires its source, and invokes the service from a different programming language than the one in which it was written, it may make more sense to deploy tests as auxiliary SOAP/WSDL constructs.

Back to this week's column, here's what I think is really the most salient issue:

Like the Internet itself, the modern enterprise now relies on the fruits of the most successful open source projects. But the commoditization of operating systems, compilers, and servers only scratches the surface of what's possible. All sorts of infrastructure software can benefit from the open source model. Business software, not all of which is necessarily proprietary, is ripe for commoditization too.

If we're going to get substantial commoditization in the business layer, based on an open source development model, it won't be the result of licensing innovation. Rather, it will happen when captive developers are allowed to come out and play, to explore the boundary that separates proprietary intellectual property from sharable infrastructure, and to work together on commoditizing that sharable infrastructure.

Update: A thoughtful follow-up from Matthew Langham.  [Jon's Radio]

Why buy desktops?

Why buy desktops?.

It's hardly surprising to me that IDC is predicting that laptop sales will far outstrip analysts' previous predictions.  In most companies comprised mainly of “knowledge workers,” a desktop is really just a laptop waiting to happen.    Almost everyone needs to work at home occasionally and almost everyone has to work while traveling at some point, so anyone with a desktop ends up requesting a “temporary” laptop eventually (often followed closely by a request from that employee's manager to keep the laptop because the employee is working on a “special project” of some sort).  In looking at InfoWorld's desktop needs for the current fiscal year, I'm planning to replace any retiring desktops with laptops.  It's time to remove the desktop shackles!  [Chad Dickerson]