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Permanent link to archive for Wednesday, June 21, 2000. Wednesday, June 21, 2000

More SOAP! 

Fredrik Lundh: SOAP for Python. "This version is somewhat experimental, and has a couple of known shortcomings that we plan to fix asap. It has been tested against Userland's SOAP implementation, and it's likely that it will work with IBM's Java library."

Very nice! Fredrik put XML-RPC on the map, being the first to support it after UserLand in 1998. Continuing the long tradition of partnership between Frontier and Python.

More disruption! 

On XML.COM, Simon St. Laurent has written an article on the disruptive nature of XML, esp in combination with HTTP, as in XML-RPC and SOAP.

I wish I had more time to write, but I agree, it is disruptive, even more than he gives it credit for. And disruption is good, esp when things are stagnating and going nowhere.

More Microsoft! 

The following is conjecture based on hearsay and tea-leave-reading. I have not been briefed on Microsoft's overall vision, but I will attend the press conference tomorrow and will hear the official story then.

Expect a big blast of publicity for Microsoft starting now.

Tomorrow, in Redmond, they will announce their next-generation Internet strategy, formerly called NGWS, which has XML and SOAP at its core. (And of course respects the legacy, COM, ODBC, WebDAV.)

Imagine a word processor integrated into the Web browser (MSIE of course) and a toolbar that makes it easy to switch to your presentation program, spreadsheet, schedule, contact list, mail app, draw program, etc. All with a consistent user interface, and deep integration with Web services, that the client talks to through SOAP.

And while the code for these apps resides on your local hard disk, they are updated automatically, presumably with user confirmation. You pay Microsoft for this software, but it's a subscription fee, not a traditional software license. (Just like Frontier!)

Some of your stuff is publicly readable, some is not. All your information is stored on the server. So when you go on a trip, with a cellphone or a laptop, or are at a offsite, or a sales call, you can tap into the data, view it, edit it. It's like Yahoo with higher-level software running on the client. (This is what Gates talked about at Davos in January, the PC is not irrelevant, he said, it's essential.)

Their strategy is a compromise with the Network Computing vision that was the anti-Microsoft rage a few years ago, and will lock into Windows, but do it through documented interfaces, expressed in SOAP. So Microsoft will claim that it is open, and this will be fair, assuming that other developers support the idea not just with words but with software.

The software we will see tomorrow is demo-ware. The project started in a rush, early this year, when Gates stepped out of the CEO slot and become Microsoft's chief software architect. What we see tomorrow is pure Gates, circa 2000. And it's a new job for him, Microsoft has never had an overarching vision before, and perhaps they still don't.

Of course lurking in the background is the possibility that Microsoft has filed patent applications on these ideas, which are somewhat unique (perhaps, esp in the areas where functionality is integrated with MSIE). The jury won't be out on that for a few years, because patent applications are confidential until they are issued by the USPTO. It would be helpful if Microsoft addressed this issue tomorrow, without waiting for a question from the audience.

What is it called? 

Microsoft might call this product We Win, which is a cute pun. It's Windows for Workgroups, an idea without much gas that appeared in the early 90s, and a statement to Judge Jackson and Joel Klein.

Or they might call it Wee Win, to say that it's much smaller than the current Windows/Office combo.

Or Wheeee Win, which is the feeling of jumping out of the plane with no parachute while using Windows.

Survey for Microsoft people 

Survey: If you work at Microsoft and know what the "We Win" strategy actually is, how close did I come to describing it?

(This survey is on the honor system, please.)

Surfing in the air 

News.Com: "In-Flight Network today said it will join satellite telecommunications provider Globalstar Telecommunications and digital wireless technology developer Qualcomm to offer Internet and email service on airline flights." Yahoo!

Illustrator 9 is scriptable 

Ira Cary Blanco reports "Adobe Illustrator 9 appears to be fully scriptable."

This is very cool, and as far as I know is the first Mac vector graphics program that's fully scriptable. (Canvas was an early adopter of Mac scripting, but their support was for PR purposes, and was functionally useless.)

BTW, see the section below and Lessig's rebuttal to Warnock on patent and copyright protection. Believe it or not, Adobe's burying of the scripting plug-in for Illustrator is probably related to these issues. They have in the past killed scriptability projects for their software, fearing it would hurt sales if people could automate their mainstay app, PhotoShop. Organizations would buy one copy of PhotoShop, they feared, put it on a server, and batch-process their graphics off-line.

Now of course we're pleased and impressed that Adobe has decided to open Illustrator for automation, but not happy that they're burying the feature, and wonder where the automation features are for PhotoShop.

More ridiculous patents 

Mirror Worlds, 1/24/00: "Mirror Worlds announced today that it has been awarded patent number 6,006,227 from the USPTO for its innovative Lifestreams technology, which is emerging as both an office workgroup product and as an embedded feature in a new generation of Internet devices."

Mirror Worlds is the company of Yale professor David Gelertner, whose non-unique visions have been filling weblog-space for the last few days.

And Napster isn't patent-free. At the end of the interview yesterday I asked Kessler if they had filed any patents, and he said they had filed one, for a dynamic search engine that's seeded in real time, and was considering filing one for the method they used to give the universities what they wanted.

Kessler said he would never work for a company that used patents offensively, but this is little reassurance, since Kessler could quit or be fired.

Fortune: The hot idea of the year.

Lawrence Lessig: The limits of copyright.

The pump don't work cause the vandals took the handles.

More Napster 

Jim Hebert: "For Napster to have a business model that anyone can comprehend they need to be at the center of it in some way -- the distributed backend which would be resistant to music industry attack has been designed, twice now, and the problem is Napster would write itself right out of the picture if it adopted it. That's their bug."

I took this idea on a walk with me, and came to a different conclusion, after having met with the Napster people and crawled around the conundrum from their pov. If I were in their shoes, I'd want to see thousands of developers implement Napster-compatible servers and clients. Give the RIAA a much bigger target to shoot at. They'll have to sue every developer, and at some point, they'll realize how hopeless it is (every lawsuit will generate more bad PR for them, and who knows what other musicians are waiting in the wings to pull a Courtney).

And it's not just hopeless for economic reasons, let's say Joe Developer who has a tin ear, or even better, is deaf, implements a Napster clone. What law did he break? What's unfair about what he did? I don't get it. Everything people do with Napster could be done with off the shelf authorless software, like HTTP or FTP. All Napster did was make it a little more convenient.

Poor Napster (sarcasm) they end up with the biggest brand-name in online music, and the gratitude of music fans everywhere for breaking the logjam. If there are any products to be sold here, the Napster brand will work well with them.

I think I could write a fair settlement now, but I don't think the music industry would buy it, but a year from now they will. It goes like this.

All money goes directly to the artists. They can in turn hire music distributors, in a competitive environment, and reverse the royalty system. The artists have a bigger cash pot to play with, and can redefine how music production works, and how it relates to live performances and merchandising.

The creative people would own the medium, as Courtney says they should, and I of course agree. We'll get art instead of flatness. We'll get a chance to evolve through one of our most creative artforms, and one that the Internet is ready to serve now. And we'll get a template for revolutionizing other artforms.

Further we will have linked up software to music, and made music really easy to use. Where will that take us? Somewhere very cooool.

Qbullet question 

I got an anonymous email warning me about modifying a qbullet for use here on Scripting News (the left-pointing blue arrow on each top level item).

I don't like anonymous email, why does someone need to hide their identity for raising an interesting question? Seems silly.

Anyway, I sent an email to the creator of qbullets asking if it's OK to use this graphic.

Edd Dumbill asks 

Edd Dumbill: Are Weblogs getting dull?

Answer: Only if you read dull Weblogs, Edd.


Last update: Wednesday, June 21, 2000 at 4:29 PM Eastern.

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