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February 27, 2004

An Afternoon with the Dark Side

An Afternoon with the Dark Side Spent an afternoon at a MicroSoft TS2 Seminar, first time I've done that, I figure I've been working with (and around) their stuff for so long I should go see what they have to say.

Although I've got some concerns about PowerPoint (I think it's a limiting tool that through it's pervasiveness restricts effective communication, there's an Edward Tufte argument that lousy powerpoint slides were responsible for both the Challenger and the Columbia space shuttle disasters, little things like that) I thought it would be cool to see a PP presentation from the people who made PP, or at least the collective that assimilated Harvard Graphics. I'll have to return to the PP meme another time.

The language of building price points was pretty polished, which I suppose is the business they're in. A database costs 4 digits, a database solution costs 5 digits, an integrated database solution costs 6 digits, and an enterprise database solution costs 7 digits. I think I'm going to stop building websites and start developing enterprise web solutions.

They've elevated NewSpeak into corporate jargon that would make George Orwell blush. Never say the product was shipped full of bugs; say, "it's matured significantly since the initial rollout". Don't say, "you're screwed"; say, "That's not supported". Don't do an audit because that means something; offer an assessment that provides entree to follow-up services. I suppose they would call it NuSpeak-XP (enterprise edition).

Got an industry briefing on some new products, a few were interesting. The new MS Virtual Machine lets you run multiple operating systems on one PC within virtual emulator shells, not a new concept outside the PC world but I guess if you sell OSs then one way to increase cashflow is to license 5 OSs on one computer. There are real-world applications within the IT community - troubleshooting, development, training - but I don't see a real big impact for the non-geek market.

The new Office System (more price-point positioning) attempts to expand MS's hegemony on the corporate desktop into Business Process automation, which is I suppose a parallel approach to IBM's providing HR services and SAP's business process re-engineering success. They have some way cool techno-features but I'm just not sure if a CIO is going to bet his internal BPR initiative on a company that gifted teenagers are routinely interfering with.

Finally they gave a good briefing on SharePoint, which I have referred to as Enterprise Edition FrontPage, but there are (I must say) some powerful tools in the new version that should allow web-PC-savvy teams to build their own web presences within the corporate firewall. But among those people with the skill set to get this to work, they don't need a tool to accomplish these tasks, and I'm really not sure if the people who can't get this to work without significant training are going to invest in the training or the buy-in. But I've got a client running SharePoint and it was interesting to see the MS perspective on it.

It was informative, no dead time, very professional (it's always good to see a professional briefing), and there was a pretty good swag bag for attendees. So now I've spent an afternoon with MicroSoft and haven't lost my soul. Repeat three times...

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