Dear Jakob Nielsen Reader
I love Jakob, but he picked the wrong page to point to.
The comments on this page are raw, directly entered while I was at the press conference in Redmond.
They're interesting perhaps, because they are in process.
A couple of days later, with my thoughts more composed, I wrote a whitepaper on this stuff.
This is where it is.
I heard that Microsoft tried to get Marc Andreessen to be on stage for an endorsement. He couldn't make it. Thank god. What were they thinking at Microsoft? How maudlin would that be.
On the bus to the airport I was interviewed by a reporter from Salon, Katharine Mieszkowski. We had a long time to talk, the traffic was awful on 520. She asked why I did all this work to get SOAP going. I had a moment to reflect. I remembered back to early 1998, when I was saying that I had done everything I wanted to do except create a standard. She asked what will you do now? I guess I accomplished what I set out to do. Cause for a pause. Pretty cool.
The other day I wrote about scriptability of vector graphics programs for the Mac. I remembered Canvas, who did a lip-service job of supporting Apple's protocols in the early 90s. The CEO of Deneba, the developer of Canvas, got to speak at the WWDC rollout of System 7, even though I had a great meaningful demo of System 7, I sat in the audience. Even Gates got to speak, and I thought he did a better job of explaining why System 7 is cool than anyone from Apple. Deja vu. Today, I could have explained better than Gates why SOAP is so important. And my demo would have turned on the lights for everyone in the room. We're not talking about vaporware, our stuff really works. I'm using it right now to write this piece. Any writer would understand it in an instant. Key point: there were 250 influential writers in the room today. Missed opportunity.
Why didn't Microsoft let me explain it? Why did they want Andreessen on stage and not me? I can only guess. When you want to take leadership of developers, you don't want the developers leading the developers. I forgave Apple, and therefore forgive Microsoft, if this is what's happening. I told Yusuf Mehdi that I will keep coming to visit, they're much more disciplined at Microsoft, and they listen. We've gotten through. SOAP is real now. There's still more work to do.
In the Q&A a reporter asked what about Netscape and the Mac? Well, this isn't really about browsers, a point which Microsoft didn't make very clearly. I wanted to answer the question for Gates. Don't worry about the Mac, Frontier works on the Mac, and it supports SOAP. So the Mac is a first-class SOAP client and server. Right up there with Java and Windows. There's the power of partnerships.
Gates mentioned Napster and Gnutella many times as proof of net applications that aren't HTML based. I like that. Good job Bill. Lurking in the back of my mind is the idea that we could do a SOAP interface for Napster, and spread out support for the protocol it defines. Any good technologist will tell you that the architecture of Napster and its brethren have applications far beyond routing around corruption in the music business (although that's an excellent application).
Net-net, I am very glad I went. My mid-morning essay was the result of being bored and humiliated watching demos of me too stuff. I felt like I was watching an advertisement for something completely irrelevant. The MSN website creation stuff is far behind the leading edge. And it has nothing to do with what we're doing in SOAP-land, or if it does, the explanation was totally inadequate.
Ballmer left Apple out of the list of competitors. Had they included Apple it would have raised doubts about the uniqueness of their ability to do new user interfaces. I'd argue that today's Apple has limited resources in this area. Regardless, there's more UI smarts outside of Microsoft than inside. But can all the smart independent designers work together to advance the art in Web apps before Microsoft gets there? I don't know.
I took a load of pictures today.
Notes from Microsoft's rollout
Press conference started at 8:30AM. Gates is speaking. It's a great digital world, media, business, knowledge workers. Bifurcated. Powerpoint presentations spreadsheets, paperwork, meetings that are purely analog. Can't copy and paste from a meeting, says Bill G.
Beyond browsing -- personalized, multiple sites, any device. Reading, writing, annotating. Natural interface, no barriers between users, devices. XML is the base protocol for the new era of software.
It's called .NET, pronounced "dot-net".
"As big a transition as from DOS to Windows."
Storage is out in the cloud. The cloud understands, it's richer, it indexes things, it's based on database technology, it's the XML store. Think about the Windows clipboard. And OLE, that's when Windows really started to become object oriented. You no longer leave the browser, that's the Universal Canvas.
.NET building blocks, Identity, notification, messaging, personalization, XML storage, calendar, directory and search, software delivery. These are their toolkits.
How many search commands do you have in your PC?
Now we're getting a demo of the "natural interface elements." Smart tags. Your emailer recognized company and people names. Click on a smart link and get a popup menu that gets you to their website and other places.
The Universal Canvas is full screen and looks nothing like Windows. It has a natural langage command line where the URL box is. Voice is part of it.
"You could say this is a bet the company strategy."
I took some notes during the break.
After the break, we're getting demos of really stupid ordinary bullshit. I just said out loud to the people around me "This is infuriating!" Why did we travel all this way to get a demo of MSN's me-tools?
Luckily I can check my email. Tim O'Reilly sent me a pointer to this Jon Katz piece on Open Journalism. I want to be sure to read this when I get back to California.
I wish I had a nickel for every time they used the word "rich".
Paul Maritz gave a great speech about the role of SOAP in all that they're talking about. Much appreciated.
Steve Ballmer is a fantastic speaker! "What is .NET? A programming infrastructre that supports the next generation of the Internet as as platform. It is also, a user environment a set of fundamental user servers that live in the client or on the cloud. It runs on servers behind firewalls and on the public Internet, and a set of services that Microsoft will operate and developers can use."
I want to know why Microsoft is so Microsoft-centered. The revolution really hasn't occurred to them, imho. How about Microsoft using other people's services? Why should we sign on to Microsoft's vision? Hmmm. Hey it wasn't really Microsoft's vision, it was *our* vision. I think they've not really figured it out.
Steve says he must work with partners, some advice --> drop the "third party" term. It's arrogant. It's a bug.
BTW, people from MS are reading this real-time and sending me comments via email. Keep them coming.
Microsoft is trying to make the calendar go back to 1992. It won't work. I'm trying to decide if it's appropriate to say this during the Q&A period. Geez they want to go back to Design Previews. What about W3C? Wow I got a plug from Ballmer. He thanked me and Don Box for working with them on SOAP. Wow. Geez.
OK, there's nothing wrong with design previews, I totally enjoyed the process, except MS will be disappointed to find out it's not the early 90s and the world doesn't revolve around them at this time. Emphatically.
Microsoft's core priorities: PC excitement, e-server business, MSN, migrating to the .NET platform.
My net connection is flaky, and this is a work in progress. Don't consider these comments as anything more than off the top of my head as the day proceeds.
Who's the competition -- Sun, IBM, Oracle, Linux, AOL?
Ballmer finished, now Q&A.
They feel impermeable to competition in .NET as a platform. They think the companies (and Linux) don't get it, or aren't in the right business; but they chose to slice things up that way. They argue that their installed base of developers is a huge advantage. This is sure to provoke a competitive response from some or all of the names they listed as competition.
With that I'm signing off. I've got a 4PM flight back home. See you this evening, Murphy-willing. And thanks to Microsoft for a stimulating event. Lots to think about, and more questions to ask.
Other Microsoft reports
ZDNet, News.Com, MSNBC, NY Times, AP.
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