Microsoft and Adobe casual gaming partnership– Casual love or just gaming each other?

I often get many theories floated past me from staffers, usually it is a case of mind candy, and ways to figure out the chaos within Microsoft – kind of like reverse detective work?

Today, I got a great piece to a puzzle I have been trying to put together for quite some time. It comes mainly from a meeting that Microsoft and Adobe CEO’s had a couple of years ago – in secret kind of.

The two meeting for a catch-up was always unlikely, and when those two get in a room there is an agenda, now the question was always – what was that agenda

The working theory is that Silverlights death was confirmed in that meeting, that in order to regain favor with the Adobe crowd you had to basically show your intent has been to knife the baby – get rid of your competitive threat and at the same time work out a strategy into getting the hordes of design audiences at Adobe’s disposal to give Microsoft another look – despite the brand fail of internet explorer / office clippie and many many many more.

The inside gossip I got today was that Microsoft are working together with Adobe to close the gap on the casual gaming market, in that Adobe’s always owned this market online via Flash for many years and to go after it, despite the XBOX brand’s success would simply take a lot of investment.

Instead, Windows team getting into bed with Adobe to produce a tooling story that compliments their future platform strategies around casual gaming makes more sense as it wins on two fronts. The first being is Windows team aren’t keen to own the tooling strategy for this area, its basically to hard and requires a separate war chest to dominate. Adobe is keen to shift away from being the platform story (notice why Adobe is less platform focused these days and gone back to basics on tooling?) and more about owning the tooling that goes with platform(s).

Adobe working with Microsoft also provides a partnership elsewhere; they both get to cross-pollinate with the developer and designer adoptions. If you can get developers to buy, your tools to work with designers both parties win. As Microsoft is desperate to win hearts and minds on the design bloodlines, it is why metro is the default look as despite its marketing fluff; it is simply a case of ascii art meets public toilet signage – idiot proof.

It is not enough and despite the proactive technical audiences raising glasses in favor of the solid color screens known as metro, it still is not sustaining the creative momentum it desperately needs to retain the interruption required to seed a bigger customer base.

Looking back on BUILD conference, I also found it interesting that XNA was not mentioned as much is it could or probably should have been. It like Silverlight was left with a lot of ambiguity around its futures specifically how casual gaming audiences could benefit from Windows 8 in the future.

In fact, sitting down to play with the current scraps of beta that was given to us via this conference and focusing on Window 8, under the hood it’s still murky as to how the overall new platform is going to work with regards to games.

Not only that, but the reality that plug-ins as we know it aren’t going to be friendly within Windows 8 Browser(s) it’s also a bit of a question mark around how Adobe can retain success here going forward. In fact, if Windows 8 does go ahead, it’s basically a case of Flash being shut down the moment that platform gets traction and before you throw the anti-trust argument on the table, remember that no longer applies – the Windows team can push out Silverlight over night to every machine world wide if they wanted to (not as optional either) as legally speaking, nothing is preventing this today?

That was also our intent in the Silverlight team, when the consent decree sunset kicked in we had strategies around how we would get ubiquity worldwide in quite a rapid way – I mean in nine months we pushed Silverlight out to half a billion people under a lot of tight constraints. Today, nothing …despite constraints gone?

Silverlight had to be knifed but why, and WinRT is not enough there has to be a better story on the horizon.

The windows teams are not really interested in tooling or mini platforms, they typically want a locked in way of life in that you buy Windows and THEN the free market opens up.

If the Windows team have any chance of success of having an AppStore model much like the iTunes/Apple story they need to provide a lot of free market opportunities to folks who aren’t already exclusively tied down to Apple (content wise as well as other categories).

Apple have made it clear Adobe has no future on their future platform stories other than tooling for designers to create Objective-C experiences and also they can install such tooling on the Operating System – but that’s it, beyond that Steve Jobs was quite open about his dislike for Flash.

Flash and HTML5 are also becoming quite a topical conversation in the Adobe communities, specifically the FUD around the future of Flash – Yes more Flash is dead posts arriving to an RSS feed near you.

Adobe have to figure out a strategy here around retaining control as in the end despite them spending a lot of time and energy now on tooling vs. their vision of the platform dominance for mobile devices (CTO Kevin Lynch used to always beat that war drum, today, not so much? He was ahead of his time in thinking and cunning strategies to position Flash but in the end, it never stuck).

Microsoft have to bridge this gap and until you see a casual gaming story unfolding at the next BUILD something or someone has to provide the ingredients here to make that work, as in the end this is the carrot that gets you in part Windows 8 adoption with consumers – especially given the Windows 8 in its current form has no level of excitement from Enterprise or Medium Business industries.

Today, I was told a scrap of info but the more I step back and piece things together the more I begin to cast a theory, and this post is a current working model of it.

I could do with more information, care to share?

XNA, where’s that heading next? What is Microsofts casual gaming story in the new Windows 8 world? Why no Silverlight focus on Casual gaming? HTML5 can’t handle it on its own that’s for sure…

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Wife says: “Stupid Windows 7 Phone!!”

I was waiting for the train with the wife this morning and could hear her mutter a few curse words under her breathe. I stop reading my twitter stream, look over to her and am immediately greeted with a look of “Your to be blamed” for this.

I stupidly incite the upcoming verbal beating with a simple question “What seems to be the problem now?”

Wife: “Your stupid Microsoft friends have made a stupid phone!!!”

Me: “Oh? How so, like what is your beef missy?”

I soon realize that the time for joking with her and ending the sarcastic response with “missy” was not my brightest moment and definitely isn’t my great starting to a new day.

Here response is in the video below, but she has reached a point where she is over the HTC Mozart Windows Phone 7 phone. That is to say, she has made up her mind based on small bits of information around who is to blame and why.

I tweeted the saga live and saw a lot of responses with “That doesn’t happen to me” and “it must be hardware related” which is fine, I guess, yet you have to remember this is an average consumer who buys phones based on “pretty” and “angry birds” decisions only.

To her, this phone is broken and its Microsoft’s fault, end of story.

As an informed person of the whole Windows Phone 7 meets HTC hardware issues, I could easily sway her to the righteous side of things and explain how Microsoft relies on hardware vendors meeting quality bands and so on.

I did that.

Her response was simple and it was brilliantly executed in my opinion.

“Well when your iPhone smashed it screen, I didn’t see you finding the place in China or wherever it was made to figure out the solution. You took it into Apple store and you got it fixed.”

She has a point and to be fair, it is true. If iPhone has issues no matter what the case, I look at Apple and growl.

If a Windows Phone or Google Android has issues, we have three brands to look at and give a menacing growl at – Google, Hardware Vendor, and Carrier.

At some point, you have to figure out which of the three caused you the pain and then try to reconcile the problem with them and so on.

In the case of the Windows Phone 7, sure let us say it is hardware to be blamed? What do I do? Do I attempt to spend my entire lunch hour negotiating with Telstra drones who often hide behind the “look we just sell phones, we don’t do tech support, you need to contact this number…” and wait it out hoping and praying someone gets what you’re saying and either replaces the hardware or gives you some crap excuse about warranty.

In the iPhone land, I walk up to an Apple reseller like NextByte or Apple Stores direct, meet with their “Genius” (which is definitely an overloaded term in Apple Store setting) watch them attempt to figure out the issue followed by an immediate “we’ll have to send this way to get fixed for you” response.

You wait 3-5 business days and then you get an email saying your phone is ready but on closer inspection you soon realise it is not your old phone after all but a new or refurbished phone instead.

The point overall is this. The game has changed, Apple have reset a lot of the rules around not just the shape and operating system(s) of these devices and their features, they’ve also introduced us to a support workflow that despite it still having a lot of flaws and negativity attached after you meet with them, is still the one-stop shop.

My wife has seen me return iPhones due to cracked glass, she has seen me get them back brand new and has only noticed me getting angry at having to be without a phone for n-days.

To her, this is the way it should be to now encourage her to sit down at a Telstra store and figure a way around this issue is simply to hard basket thinking. She’d rather just withdrawal $799 from our back account, drive over to the Apple Store on the weekend, buy the new iPhone 4s and re-join the herd with all her other friends that own one.

You cannot argue with that either, its fair and reasonable thinking given the market conditions and aspirations being made around phones.

Thankfully though I still have an iPhone 4 without the “s” so I was able to convince her to not spend $799 but take my old iPhone4 given I now have an iPhone4s.

Now to buy an XBOX 360 Kinect with the money I saved…

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Metrotastic– Palette Generator Preview.

I’ve been thinking about how to approach metro designs for the past year now, there’s a lot to the mechanics of getting the metro into what I call a “golden ratio” like state – that is to say, I think due to the simplicity of the design(s) you can achieve the bulk of the effort required by metro using mathematics and layout / proportions that are OCD / consistent

Tonight, I sat down inside Adobe Photoshop and decided to draw a line at the overall Resource Dictionary creation for some of the WPF/Silverlight and Windows Phone 7 projects I often work on. In doing this, I decided the first thing one needs to attack with a metro design is the color selection.

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Color choice is important in the Microsoft style of Metro designs (I call it ms-metro as the word metro is getting to be an overloaded term, departing from the core design principles outlined), as you’ll note that Metro designs to date a really monochrome in the way they handle the selection of colors – to be upfront, I think they rely too heavily on primary colors and by not using shades of the primary / accent colors the designs come off to shallow / unpolished – helps to provide light/dark/normal contrasts imho.

I decide that in most of my designs I typically rest on 3-4 color choices overall – including the chrome (dark or light). These are often the basis for my design canvas and from here it’s really about balancing out the decals, typography and deciding how the overall screens and data flow.

More on this subject when I finish my brand reset (I’m redesigning riagenic.com and introducing metrotastic.com as well – more later).

In this post though, I thought it would be a good idea to provide a quick overview of my thinking here to gather some feedback?

Color Choice.

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If you look at most brands around the world, they typically rely on dark/light in terms of a canvas base and from there it’s really down to one to two primary colors (Google etc. the exception – where they have more than two).

Combining this and along with a concept I notice in most modern cars today where what I call an “input” color exists – pop the hood of your car, notice the yellow parts? That means it’s safe to touch, the rest leave it to the mechanics.

Looking at the below, I’ve isolated the theme into three color choices starting with Normal as being the primary color choice. Once the primary has been nominated then it’s a case of mixing some white/black to provide you shading contrasts.

Shades of Normal.

The shading is bit of a guestimation at this point, but so far I’ve rested on an 80 or 30% split. In that, using these two values with a white/black shading over the top of the base you can achieve a contrast setting that’s quite palette friendly to the ms-metro look and feel.

The shades themselves also have slight adjustment requirements depending on how you use them in your UI as if you use the darkest shade as your background for example (as in the below example) then you have to account for how your foreground is going to look that will differ from say your lightest color choice – the point is if you have a dark/light theme switch you need to adjust not just the base color selection but also foreground colors to accommodate the shading contrasts.

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Chrome vs Brand

Inside a lot of my designs I use chrome decals, despite what Microsoft often preach around letting UI breathe, I still prefer to use decals to help provide separation amongst areas – imho, Microsoft UI is often barren and flat! We saw hints of this when a designer soon after the Windows 8 release whereby he designed a fake Steam UI which was an example of additive decals.

My approach in doing this is to separate the chrome into its own color channel and with its own set of shades of contrast (lighter,light, normal, dark, darker).

The same also goes for Input (ie using the car metaphor above), I typically will often spend a lot of time at kuler.adobe.com playing around with colors before I find a color that matches the branding (primary) nicely – in this case I prefer a blue/green/gray color selection.

You can add a fourth palette to this, but in all honesty when you start getting to around the fourth color choice things get a bit interesting in the color / contrast department – dangerous design imho.

An example.

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Using the color palette(s) here I quickly knocked up a fake basic demo UI in metro style.

With the example, I put in a radial gradient starting with DARK-Gray and DARKER-Gray and simply put the radial gradient in the upper left area – it gives the UI that dull spotlight effect.

I then put the NORMAL-Blue as the accent color here, whereby the blues role in this design is to act as an opposing contrast to the chrome – you’ll often see this in ms-metro around say designs like Contoso etc.

The menu and most of the text uses the colors in the Darker TEST palette, but the thing to note here is I used the Normal-Blue as a selection state. In that whilst the green indicates input, the blue however is used to indicate current selection state. I’ve played around with this for a while now and in all honesty it annoys me personally how this works as to me input color should be consistent? But yet it works?

I should point out that I often will just use this technique in terms of giving users a spatial understanding of where they are in the user interface(s). In tests I’ve done with users over the past 2-3 years using this technique, they’ve never bucked the concept or idea – if anything have made consistent notary that this approach “feels right” – so despite some UX / UI colleagues giving me advice to avoid it, so far, the data says “you’re not right and your not wrong either” J (everyone becomes a UX expert over night mind you).

The Green in this UI stands out more, it highlights that these buttons are safe to touch and they are the focal point of input and like I said, provides that experience similar to popping the hood of your car. In all the tests that I’ve done in usability / ux over the last year or so, every single time the user has found their way around with minimal eLearning / Advice required – I have a theory that it has a link to how we humans handle perceptional organization when dealing with working memory (ie grab a few clipart pics, pick two categories the same and put them into a grid with 4 others that aren’t, then ask the candidates to tell you which two are the same and measure their reaction time – I should discuss this more, as its quite fascinating to see how peoples IQ matches to UX with a fairly consistent rate of predictability).

Conclusion.

I have plans to really drill deeper into this area of design and I think I’m really only just scratching the surface of this conversation. The more I get asked to design metro themes for various Microsoft applications the more I question the overall strategy given for me this is quite simple stuff, yet it seems to be in high demand.

I enjoy working on it all now, I used to laugh at it but for me now the approach is getting much simpler by the day and I’d like to see the overall community raise the bar a bit more around this design language – that is to say, I really want to see what others do as I’m starving for alternative inspiration in this arena of metro-tastic design school.

Here is a sneak preview of my upcoming reset

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Some Color Examples

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Windows 8, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and how Genius is non-transferable.

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I stumbled upon a blog post that I think should be titled – Genius is non-transferable. Nice up beat post about the influence of one Mr Steve Jobs and how his departure is affecting the future of Apple via a thought inspiring post.

This got me thinking about the day Bill Gates officially retired from Microsoft. I was on campus at the time and I remember everyone that I was near talked about this moment and there was a weird vibe around confidence levels. Most brushed his departure as the old guy has left the building, he didn’t do much anyway these days? Others who were more senior and seasoned didn’t follow this thread of thinking. Instead, they were more conservative and gave lofty responses like “we’ll see..” hinting that we as a company have only just began a journey of success vs. failure ahead.

Today, Amazon has setup shop right near Microsoft and recently the company lost or was expected to lose over 3,000+ staff to the ….online bookseller? storage in the cloud? company?. …Google, Facebook etc. have also setup shop just outside the borders of Redmond as well with I’m sure equal numbers of the 3,000 likely to occur as well.

How does the Amazon staff hiring blitz have anything to do with the topic at hand? Its simple for the first time in the history of Microsoft not only does the company have just as rich competitors today, but they also have their medium level competitors parked outside their village. This is a small but equally important issue as now not only is Microsoft HR departments on notice that they need to improve their metrics around success and fail but it also has a significant impact on the quality bands of their products (ie key staff leaving? Good or bad? Depends…)

Pre-Bill Gates.

Pre-Bill Gates departure, Microsoft was still a chaotic organization filled with typical large enterprise issues but it in turn was kept in check by a guy who remember outsmarted the beloved Steve Jobs on a number of business related tactics over the years. You worked hard to outsmart Bill in the organization and he did have a cultural impact on staff – prime example, ThinkWeek Papers.

Post-Bill Gates

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Post Bill Gates, well products aren’t doing that great other than Windows 7 but in reality Windows7’s success is really a false positive given if you remove Windows XP from the market and force business/consumers down a path – it’s what I’d call a duress driven success.

You have a staff exodus problem occurring and furthermore you have no cohesive strategy around marketing products that at the end of the day are technically well built – Microsoft’s always had a marketing issue never really a technical one.

Windows 8 Predictions

Next month, Mini-Steve (Sinofsky) is keen to jump on stage and release the momentum he’s spent months ratcheting around the future of Windows8. The prediction here is simple, he’s going to unload a device-operating system, and he’s going to outline Jupiter but paying close attention to promoting it as an animation framework only while throwing most of his weight around HTML5/JavaScript/Internet Explorer as being the Web Application of tomorrow.

This is going to give people their Microsoft high for the year, then in the following September 2012, he’s going to come back and officially release this to the world thus removing MIX Online from our memories for ever more.

While this is happening he’s then going to spend energy & time building out the desktop concept of Windows as we know it today whilst factoring in the disruption of Windows8 Device / ARM Operating system and its effects on the market.

Apple in turn are going to spend a lot more budget / cycles now to rebuild confidence now that Mr Jobs has stepped down for what we all know now sadly, health reasons. Inside Microsoft they will see this as a moment of weakness, the beloved General has fallen – storm the gates, hard and fast.

This is a software storm of under qualified sugar overloaded officers at best who are going to promise us the world, the future of a brilliant tomorrow when it comes to vNext Software.

The underlying impact here for all of you to consider and the moment in which I personally just shake my head and sigh.

There’s no Steve Jobs and Bill Gates anymore, just punks who think they have the capabilities that these old warhorses once had.

These two didn’t accidently impact our lives worldwide in a once off streak of luck, they had consistent measure of success over the years in everything they did and we in turn backed their abilities in one way or another.

We had confidence.

Today, you look at the landscape of software companies and what they are all busy right now pushing and pulling the industry into what it should be and you have to ask yourself a simple question?

Are you confident we are on the right path now? If that answers no, kind of or not stacking into the majority of “Yes” column. Then we have a problem and future CEO’s like mini-Steve may think he’s got the winning formula but in truth, he’s been too busy copying Steve Jobs/Bill Gates homework he’s not taken time to learn from what they’ve failed and succeeded at.

Inside Microsoft, watch guys like Scott Guthrie as whilst everyone is running towards Windows 8 / Windows Phone 7 gravy train(s), he’s walking towards Azure, a spot where you can easily hide for a while and let the mob fall on top of each other over Windows 8 / Windows 7 device rush.

Mark my words, he’s the one you should all keep an eye on as he has potential to one day become the next Bill Gates / Steve Jobs for Microsoft or maybe a competitor should he jump ship to?(minus the creative part of course).

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Windows Azure is still a science project *sad face*

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I’ve been putting of an expedition to navigate the cloud for quite some time. I have done so as I’m the type of personality that likes to wait for technology to grow a little before jumping in feet first (call it lessons learnt from the school of bleeding edge knocks).

Recently however, I’ve come across a problem in my architectural design that required the use of a external gateway for publish/subscription messaging. The problem came about due to inbound firewall issues, in that tunneling out of a corporations network is fairly easy, tunneling back in is next to impossible as I’m really now putting the IT Department on notice – “I’m now going to try and crack a window open in your firewall, game on”.

Armed with this problem I decided to check out both Amazon and Azure. I have heard more positive things about Amazon but the seduction of being allowed to use my beloved .NET + VisualStudio crutch and talk directly to Azure via this is too much to pass up.

After spending a day or two waiting for Azure to give me access to an account, I ran straight into the Management Portal with a glint in my eye and a large amount of creative hope. I should also point out at this stage the login page for the portal was down for hours (Not reassuring I must say).

A Messaging Saga

I looked at the ServiceBus that comes in what I guess (at best) as the first release of Azure, but it didn’t have the messaging capabilities I needed. Scratching my head and remembering a presentation I saw recently around this very subject I kept wondering what I am missing.

After more googling I managed to find out the problem. I was looking at the wrong portal for ServiceBus when I should be looking at the AppFabric version of the ServiceBus. Confused? It gets better.

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I then manage to crack open a CTP release of Azure and proceed to write a test harness to see how one can tunnel in and out of a firewall using port 80 and some weird science project that I don’t fully understand but is similar to MSMQ.

Success! I was grinning now, Azure saves the day. I can forgive the constant state of confusion I had in kick starting the journey because now I can get messages inbound/outbound to my networks via Azure. As I have to get two separate networks to react to events from one another (ones remote while the other is in HQ).

I then deploy my test app to Windows XP Service Pack 3. As majority of the laptops that corporation uses is still Windows XP – may I also add 60% of the world’s PC’s .

It broke. Problem?

System.Diagnostics.Eventing

Framework Version: v4.0.30319
Description: The process was terminated due to an unhandled exception.
Exception Info: System.PlatformNotSupportedException
Stack:
   at System.Diagnostics.Eventing.EventProvider.EtwRegister()
   at System.Diagnostics.Eventing.EventProvider..ctor(System.Guid)
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Tracing.MessagingEtwProvider..ctor()
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Tracing.MessagingEtwProvider.get_Provider()
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.Sbmp.SbmpMessageSender.TraceSend(System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable`1<Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.BrokeredMessage>)
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.Sbmp.SbmpMessageSender.OnSend(System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable`1<Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.BrokeredMessage>, System.TimeSpan)
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.MessageSender.Send(System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable`1<Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.BrokeredMessage>, System.TimeSpan)
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.MessageSender.Send(Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.BrokeredMessage)
   at AzureQueue.Demo.Common.AzureServiceBus.Send(System.String, AzureQueue.Demo.Common.Messages.IMessage)
   at AzureQueue.Demo.Server.Program.Main(System.String[])

Sadly, the team who wrote ServiceBus relies on this ball of code to handle its AppFabric event tracking (I can see the upside as you get a healthy amount of data via AppFabric on how things are flowing in and out).

My point here however is simple. The cloud isn’t supposed to be platform specific it’s supposed to be agnostic enough to deal with these issues. If you now impose a Windows Vista and above release matrix, you are not really convincing people to go to the cloud?

Furthermore Azure doesn’t have access to Virtual Machines in the cloud as whilst one could sit there and stare at how Roles work within the Azure hosted service offerings and achieve a cloud like nosebleed, in the end I’d rather get a VM up and running and then start to break down the habitual tendencies of an organization slowly, piece by piece via the cloud vs. having to hit a magical reset button on brown-field projects which later turn into greenfield?

Furthermore, how does Azure team anticipate breaking in and out of firewalls securely? As it’s one thing to say “Store you stuff in the cloud” but it’s entirely different matter to not only swallow that bitter pill but tunnel in and out of networks to achieve this?

Answer was Azure Connect.

Awesome, when can I get a copy? Answer is below. I’m “Pending” I’m not sure what that means or where I am in the approval process or what the approval process is?

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The more I use the Azure services, the more I get the feeling it’s still in science project mode. There’s a lot missing and the stuff you have in front of you just doesn’t add value to existing problems that I can foresee in most organizations (not just my immediate pain points but as I cast my mind back to previous roles or when as a Microsoft Evangelist I’d visit large partners and hear their pain points often, I just can’t simply see an upside to running full speed into the Azure camp).

Amazon or bust??

Looking at Amazon and its services it’s clearly a front runner when it comes to maturity. All of the above is done today and I get instant access. I’ve got access to Amazon VPC through to its own version of Service Bus which doesn’t impose platform limitations my way. I also can provision a Virtual Instance in minutes and not have to apply for access?

I could sit here and tell you how a large gold partner of Microsoft’s just walked away from Azure with contempt and disappointment but that’s kind of a shallow blow given it’s going to fall on deaf ears anyway.

I don’t care about that, what I am wondering is what is the Azure team actually thinking about when it comes to this product line? Do they have a plan? Are they close to delivering this plan? Are they really going to impose Platform limitations upfront given the whole point of the cloud is to shift organizations from legacy into the new?

Is the ticket entry to Azure a case of “you must be a greenfield site” before you can begin?

Are they paying attention to Amazon?

Azure ecosystem reminds me of a cartoon I once saw where these group of people were all rushing towards a cliff but they couldn’t see the cliff coming because the dust they were kicking up created the cloud. One character asked “Where are we going?” and the other responds “I don’t know, something about the cloud. That’s not important, I just want to be first!”

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Is Adobe’s new HTML5 Edge tool Expression Blends replacement?

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In October 2010, Steve Ballmer met with the CEO of Adobe the apparent discussion was around how to compete with Apple head-on.

Having been an internal lead on Adobe competes within Microsoft, it got my wheels turning and I tried as much as I could to get some insight into what that meeting was actually about. It was a very weird meeting given the heated competition both Microsoft and Adobe have had over the past 5 years (almost as big as Apple competes).

Adobe have lost some staff to Microsoft so my first thoughts were that maybe the ex-employees are looking to patch a bridge and discuss some ways to work together in terms of how Flash and say XBOX etc. could work together (there’s a huge casual games market up for grabs that uses Adobe Flash).

Today however my spidey senses got all tingly when I saw the new Adobe HTML5 Edge tool sneak peak via Adobe Labs.

This tool is the missing piece in what I call the HTML5 all up story – i.e. it is fine to hack together add-ons to existing tools for HTML5 coding compliance but it needs a designer story.

The more I looked at the sneak the more I started to think about that meeting and how it could have possibly gone down.

If Microsoft wants to sacrifice Silverlight on the web to gain momentum in the mobile device market than overall, the threat matrix for Adobe drops quite significantly. In that, really the only threat to Adobe Flash is around how it sockets into a mobile device such as Android, Windows Phone 7 and so on.

If I was in a meeting with an executive again and I was talking about the SWOT for an Adobe, partnership I would lead in more with opportunities that lead to strengths rather than threats / weakness in this partnership.

Firstly Adobe Flash is likely to be the continues user experience platform for mobile devices – if and a big if – the company can fix performance issues on all.  Creating a universal user experience on all devices is no easy trick in HTML5/JavaScript and having the tooling and cross-compile functionality that Adobe’s been making waves about lately could be a very important technology intersection.

Flash has always thrived at being a parasite on many hosts so it is not as if this is new dangerous territory for it to take such technical dependencies on.  The product also as I stated before has a lot of already existing Casual Games / Widget Apps already made today that could be ported over.

Downside is they do not have the developer base – design yes, developers no.

Secondly, Microsoft has failed at attracting the design market. We spent millions and came up short every time as whilst I use Microsoft Expression Blend daily its one hard cumbersome tool that even most .NET developers won’t touch let alone designers. It just failed.

The Expression Blend team is now parked in the archive bay and I wager Silverlight 5 additions will likely be its last shipment for the product. If that being the case, sure the tool failed at its charter in attracting the devigner audience to the .NET codebase(s) of tomorrow but the problem didn’t go away – if anything it just got worse.

If you are going to then tell designers of tomorrow to build HTML5/JS or even Silverlight vNext solutions for Windows8 and beyond – how do you get them to combine design and development skills?

Adobe.

Adobe have the design audience locked, it’s the only company in the world where in every design agency there is a design tool owned by them either bought or pirated. They make a tidy profit from it as well.

Flash now can produce iPhone and Android based solutions and it would not actually take much to get that solution into Windows Phone 7 given the Silverlight/XAML parity – in fact, some devs in Microsoft have shown that getting Silverlight to cross-compile to a swf isn’t farfetched, as it would seem.

Putting Adobe Flash or at the very least using the same iPhone cross-compile methodology for Windows Phone 7 is a massive win for both. You get a new developer audience on both sides for one and lastly the design audiences can also play their respective roles within the tools they feel the most comfortable with.

Winning as the Sheen would say.

That all being said there’s a flaw in this theory, it positions Adobe to be way to powerful in the device discussion and the last time Adobe/Macromedia held dominance in this space it took Silverlight to wake them up – you don’t want that again, trust me.

How do you keep Adobe in check whilst competing with Apple at the same time as if you create a universal app that works on all devices then this if anything can fuel iPhone’s appstore submissions more so.

The answer is you put your hopes on forking the API’s beyond the HTML5/JavaScript purity. You essentially embrace and extend (yay, it’s so fresh and new right?). Everyone can keep the entire tech on the same playing field initially but with Windows Phone 8 & Windows 8++ it sort of takes on a completely new adoption curve.

That is a good thing as it fuels competition for one and both Apple and Microsoft do not have to necessarily fund large amounts of dollars in both tooling and marketing. Adobe wins because it gets more hordes adopting its tooling but at the same time, it cannot survive unless there’s competition between Microsoft and Apple. Google is the cream on the cake, as it then has to dovetail into the same competition stream – thus a forcing function for their Android story.

All Microsoft has to do is sacrifice Silverlight for the web (video will always be a big problem for both to contend over just like QuickTime vs Windows Media Player) and Expression Blend.

Did I mention XAML team is disbanded and the Expression Blend team has been put in park?

If you can get developers & designers working in both HTML5/JavaScript as well as proprietary platform specific technologies universally its less investment in language / runtime research & development more in terms of differentiation of hardware specific features.

It rather works that way for the console market.

Note: I have no inside goss on this one so this is me just spit balling based of my own conspiracy theories.

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The mission to land a .NET developer on Jupiter.

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Ask not what Microsoft can do for you but what you can do for Microsoft. That’s really the inspiring quote that President of the new colonization group – aka Windows  – needs to say to the unwashed masses of tomorrow.

Microsoft is taking on a mission that looks to go beyond the moon, they want to land on Jupiter and it will be done with Apollo. Still confused?

If you’ve not paid attention to all the codenames flying about the place you’d be forgiven to be confused as there’s a space theme happening and with these code names its quite interesting to see how the objectives for the next generation of Microsoft is likely to shape up.

Jupiter is rumored to be the reset button to Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Silverlight. A reset is the latest suspicion as just yesterday I found out that the XAML ethos within Microsoft has been disbanded and set to various corners of the company.  Some went to Internet Explorer team, some went to Windows teams and others went to Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Why disband the teams? It is time for pencils down folks, let us stop piling on code for the existing stuff but now let us set our sights for the future, let’s be bold. Let us be daring. Why land on the moon when you can land on Jupiter floating on a cloud of Azure? (Ok, I lost myself in that metaphor as well).

Ok fine, I have gone through the seven stages of Silverlight/WPF grief and I am at acceptance I think.

The Mission.

In order to better prepare for the mission ahead, let us think about the various things we need to account for prior to launch (September).

Replace Crew Members.

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Inside Microsoft there is a lot of toxic turmoil going due to internal re-orgs (which is fairly common) that fueled with how the Global Financial Crisis has affected employees etc. it’s no secret that Microsoft are losing some quite influential and dare I say, hard to replace staff to places like Google, Facebook, Amazon and so on. I personally know of three employees who have hated working for Microsoft for quite some time but have been stuck due to housing prices in Redmond etc not being ready enough for a resale – that is – until Google, Adobe, Facebook and soon Amazon have campuses of their own in Seattle.

Now the super geeks have alternative employment options. Microsoft is now on notice, treat me better or I will leave. The later choice has been winning in my opinion and the more the new found employees have sent me messages of "Omg, its way better over here than Microsoft" which has to be salt in some current employee’s wounds whom are likely staring down the barrel of uncertainty in the company given its end of year commitment scoring mixed with the demise of what we used to call the Silverlight/WPF & Blend ethos. What to do!.

Reaching Parity. 

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A gentleman and fellow .NET scholar Jose has done the best he could in reverse engineering Direct UI (rumored to be the leaked incarnation of Jupiter). He has some insights that are both great and disappointing at the same time. The great part is it could very well be the next iteration of what has to come in the landscape of C# and XAML for tomorrow’s UX Pioneers.

The downside is its 3-5 or maybe more steps backwards in the current feature parity you have all eagerly waited for over the past 4 years. There are some fundamentals in the room whilst there are concerns around some of the other features that may or may not make the cut for version one.

If I know Microsoft and I like to think I do, this is likely to be yet another one of those traditional "version 1" moments whereby the team(s) behind the product eventually stumble across the finish line, exhausted but barely breathing enough to shout "Give me feedback on what you want in version 2, it will be better I promise" followed by some metaphor about how it’s a marathon and not sprint to the finish line (We got great mileage out of that with Silverlight and I dare say you could get a few more products out of it yet).

The tooling is likely to be not in place during this version 1 lifecycle as my sources tell me that the Blend Team aren’t cranking out the vNext improved world of Microsoft. I know Steve Sinofsky has had a few ambitions about what the Tooling should look like in the perfect world of Windows vNext frontier and I am guessing he did not play well with others in the Devdiv team(s) to share such ambitions.

That being said, either there is a skunk works tooling team hidden in some random building in Microsoft that others do not know about or the tooling story behind this next frontier is unlikely to be in place before Sept or for whenever this next version of our beloved Silverlight/WPF ethos occurs.
What I mean to say is welcome all to Microsoft 2005. Hold onto your Winforms or ASP.NET MVC  for a little bit longer and for those of you in Silverlight/WPF investment land(s) – try to not focus on the future but the now (best to keep your code base as lean as possible and not to tightly wound in client-side logic).

Put vital organs into Escrow.

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Microsoft are quick to throw technology at a problem first and then ponder as to why the problem existed. I’ve often personally seen strategies – wait, that’s not correct, strategy requires forward thinking – tactical decisions (better) made around trying to grow developer audiences.

The assumption are

"ok, we’re not making our tech palatable enough, lets steal stuff from Ruby On Rails, Apple or Oracle to make it better".

The absolute harsh reality is often a lot of non-Microsoft customer(s) etc. just don’t like Microsoft (Ever liked a girl/guy and they don’t like you back? You try changing your clothes, hair, car etc. and still nothing. Welcome to the Microsoft Developer outreach program, you will fit right in).

The other side of this coin I guess is those of you who adore Microsoft for what they are. You spend thousands of your own dollars to go to various events to listen to Microsoft confuse the absolute crap out of you. The problem is lately, they seem to be a company you just cannot bet on for the future.

Grandiose plans to land on Jupiter may be bold, daring and exciting but is it dependable? Can this company commit to a master plan and is this a plan or just a tactical political brain dump mixed with a lot of Microsoft experimentation.

Is it a case now of not waiting for the next Service Pack but now waiting to see if a product can get past version 3 and 5 before you really consider it as a viable option of the future?

In order to prepare for this next mission, someone has to donate some good will to the fans of Microsoft technology. That means you cannot stick to the ye olde "need to know information" mentality. You got to bring your roadmap(s) for the future and you got to show us that you’re telling the truth that you want to aim for Jupiter and not some closer planet or worse – the unknown void beyond Jupiter.

Commit and stop being assclowns.

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Commit to us so that we may commit to you. No more lies, No more "I’ve got a secret, can you guess!" and lastly no more internal political child play spilling over and into the blogosphere. It’s time to be a big boy company and use big boy strategies with big boy plans mixed with a lot of big girl personality (somehow that did the ladies no favors).

If we are to take on this mission, it’s time for a smarter playbook around transparency and if Steve Sinofsky is willing to bring the "come to Jesus" moment for the company around consolidating the entire product lines into a consistent continuous experience across all devices with a developer/designer experience to boot. Great, I personally will print out a t-shirt that says "I’m back in team Steve" (heh my old team inside Microsoft was called Team Steve…Steve the manager though was a arrogant jerk, different story, different time).

Right now its just a case of me holding up a really sick puppy that others have kicked and telling you all about the neglect its owners have given it. (If I quote that metaphor I was given last night by a friend).

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Mad Product Management.

I almost always am asked "What does a Product Manager do?" whenever people read my previous title.  It is one of these titles within the industry that depending on which brand you belong to has different meanings.

The industry way.

Inside Microsoft it varies, you could be the source of power or you could simply be a reactive title that is less Management and more Marketing. What I mean to say is, inside Microsoft a Product Manager can often simply be a Product Marketer whereby they wait until the Program Manager’s decide the features and then the Product Management / Marketing team go to work in communicating the features to the masses.

It takes on a somewhat reactive role as in the end the Product Manager’s main priority is to convince the Program Manager(s) to add xyz features to their engineering "things I need to build list". If that can’t succeed then you try alternate routes by going to concepts like Product Unit Managers, Vice Presidents or General Manager(s) – basically from my own experience inside Microsoft it can be a game of "Lord of the Flies" – figure out who has the conch and do as much as you can in terms of convincing them with data / opinion sooner rather than later.

Outside Microsoft, I have found that to be different, for example recently I have had some chats with Apple around how they do product management and it was interesting to hear that the person(s) in that role (kind of) are the one-stop shop of the power seat. Engineering don’t do a thing unless there is a market to sell the features to in that the Product Manager(s) role is to figure out what’s basically a sellable feature based on market data (need vs. want, differentiation and so on). I have also heard rumors that this is how Adobe does things as well (be curious to see how Google run the show, but given their strong DNA of ex-Microsofties me thinks the Microsoft way of life may propagate upstream).

I am yet to really pin down specifically how the correct formula works here as again, each brand has their own unique perspective on the role. My thinking, mainly because I am arrogant – you are doing it wrong.

The Barnes / Mad Men way.

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A colleague of mine had this brilliant way of explaining how he’d setup a team for his start-up and he called it "Mike’s Eleven"  (aka Ocean’s Eleven). Each person brings a unique attribute to the team that helps you rob people. You do not bring in a person to the team unless they can really contribute. I like to think of this in much the way of my favorite TV show – Mad Men.

The Don Drapper (aka Director)

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This person is like Mad Men’s Don Draper, smooth talking has brilliant insights into the way marketing engines work and lastly knows how to keep a steady but calming influence over the others. I’d highly recommend this person at least have an MBA – whilst as douche as that sounds – but this degree isn’t as easy as people think to get and lastly it brings a lot of Wikipedia of marketing to the table (whilst mostly theory based). If this person is marketing your product as if it was Soup and not Software, you may get some left field thinking into the equation. Hiring an ex-engineer to be your Don Draper is useless, as they cannot think creatively / laterally most of the time – given the OCD / problem solving skills they have already tuned.

The Roger Sterling (aka Community / Client Liaison)

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This character in Mad Men has a famous quote in the TV series – "Let me put it in account terms, do you know how many hand jobs I have to give to fix what you’ve just done?"

That is a quote worth remembering when it comes to your Community liaison person(s). These people have one goal and that is to figure out what the client(s) or customer(s) want the most. They play a game of contact sport, whereby they are rarely in the office and are constantly out in the field getting insights into how the product is shaping up each version you produce.  This role is expensive, but worth it provided they are steered in the right direction (it’s not all about hotels and bar tabs).

The goals for this person is to firstly create rock stars, do not be the one in the room on stage find others to put on stage to evangelize your product(s).  They also need to avoid conferences as much as they can and instead meat businesses at their front door.  You do not learn a lot from meeting the same people repeatedly at the same conferences but you do learn a lot when you sit in on a technology decision-making meeting inside a random mining, finance, medical or start-up company in blah country.

They are your socialite and spy in one.

The Lane Pryce / Paul Kinsey (aka Domain Experts).

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You need someone in the room who is your in-house engineer. This person will work with your non-technical minds to come up with a simplified way of approaching the set of features you want to build. Let us face it some features in most software are left field in either complexity or mickey mouse go no-where thinking. The Technical side kicks figures out ways to make the feature work kind of your early prototype but more so they are looking at it from a pragmatic perspective.

Say the Don Draper & Roger Sterling want to build a concept whereby the software can do facial recognition to avoid Security logins for PC’s of tomorrow. Now their job is to determine if there is a market for it and you trust that they have done their homework. The technical sidekick now needs to look at the feature from the developers perspective, they need to sit down and dream up the idle way a developer should approach this (so it’s kind of part User Experience Imaginer as well). They look at it from the angle of setting goals for the engineering team to meet the marketing team half way on.

No more over complicated API that go nowhere and lastly no more tooling that makes you want to scream at the product(s) and you soon forget the benefits of the feature (I’m looking at you Deep Zoom, WCF and a whole heap more).

Having this equation also stops science projects spilling over online, where everyone is looking confused and thinking "oh must be for someone else as I so don’t need that feature at all" from occurring. It’s a balance struck much like rock paper scissors (each role trumps the other).

The Salvatore "Sal" Romano (ak Artist).

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This person should have a portfolio of design that makes you dreamy eyed with envy. The point is this person is your polish to the spin you put out and it’s their job to figure out what looks good and what isn’t. Once you figure out what you want to build and how you want to market it, you need a person in the room who can manage your media / design agency vendors and with an attention to detail the goes beyond color preferences.

Most of Microsoft’s "viral videos" look cheesy, over worked, over bought and under delivered. The reason being is you rarely have someone in the room who thinks creatively. This person goes to art galleries because they want to see art or they like the Apple iPhone because of its Industrial Design characteristics and not because it has Angry birds.

This person keeps your presentation skills in check and through the guidance of the team will make sure you come off looking polished.

Look at World of Warcraft’s website; this is a amazingly well designed site for a game. Now look at other game websites, the difference is the experience.  The point here is someone in the room is keeping a close eye on design decisions being made and ensuring the brand is putting best foot forward.

The same can be said for Apple vs. Microsoft. Apple have a centralized polished look to the way their make products online – Microsoft looks like someone figured out how to remake Geocities but for corporate reasons.

Just like in Mad Men, Sal is the person who knows good design when he sees it.

The Peggy Olsen (aka PR / Copywriter).

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This can be an important but healthy addition to the team(s). If you are going to manage a product, make sure you have someone in the room who can write a sentence that does not look like my blog – full of spelling and grammar errors.

This person’s job is to make sure you do not screw up online and say stupid stuff – especially when dealing with your competitors. They also handle your press and announcements with keen focus on what needs to be said and when/how. They work closely with Art & Technical to ensure the message they position is correct and is not full of fluff / waffle that goes nowhere.

They also need to be edited as much as they can by the Don Draper’s & Roger Sterling’s to ensure that the message / copy they produce is not talking at the audience(s) but with them.

Recently Microsoft said Windows 8 and HTML5 in the same breathe which lead to a lot of questions around .NET’s future. Had a Peggy been in the room this would of not happened, as letting a VP go on stage like that solo is just showing off. You need to get that person on stage, do their message drops but also have an entire campaign of media ready to drop in behind it to underpin the messages and points you want made across the globe.

Steve Jobs gets on stage does his thing but the moment he drops announcements there is media everywhere to support it at the same time in parallel.

Having a good PR person working closely with press is important as well and they need to be devoted and focused to a product (not someone you bring in on/off again).  They are also your lawyer in a room full of press as you let them figure out the ways to handle aggressive and passive journalists (News flash, sometimes Journalists are so lazy you can almost write the story for them whilst some are the ones you try as best you can to play a game of high stakes poker with).

In conclusion.

That is my thinking of how Product Management should work, it is not really one person it is a team of entities all working in a tight unit much like a game of rock paper scissors. You need to market a product to the masses but you also need to figure out what the masses need vs. want whilst at the same time coming up with features and ideas that they aren’t expecting.

There is no such thing as a separation between Inbound and Outbound marketing, its bulls**t.  It is both directions at the same time and engineering need to listen up and listen well. Your jobs are to take the bright crazy dumbass ideas and figure out ways to make it happen, as you now need to reverse engineer the imagination it took to think up.

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Windows 8 : Making new friends, Ratcheting Momentum and influencing anger.

After just having a discussion with a journalist today, a question was put to me that I felt I should share some more information around – Why do you think the developers appear to be angry with Windows 8?

It is not that I think developers are angry about code name "Windows 8" being well HTML5/JavaScript friendly in fact it is probably one of those situations where you would easily go "great, not for me but hey who knows how things turn out down the road". It is also not the fact that Microsoft have come out and hinted strongly at the idea of dropping marketing support for .NET going forward in favor of HTML5/JavaScript cocktail of weirdness.

I think what’s happening is developers across the globe in what appears to be millions now (currently on Silverlight.net forums there’s a few threads ratcheting around 11million views – which is 11x the traffic per month that site gets) all basically releasing a lot of pent-up annoyance at the communication blackout – yet again.

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I think this is a case of "the last straw" and it has been lurking for quite some time about Microsoft and a consistent amount of failings around corporate communication 101. To some this appears on the surface to be some idiot in PR being asleep at the helm again (keep in mind often Microsoft outsources its PR to companies like Waggener Edstrom) and so it could be a case of a room full of people pointing at one another for the "what do we say" moment(s). I highly doubt that, I’d wager this is an executive decision and its likely driven by the concept of ratcheting customer momentum for a final reveal in September.

Note: I recently had the VP of Corporate Communications for Microsoft follow me on Twitter post the Windows 8 Fallout(s)…. Why?

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Creating a disruption in the market with the sole intended purpose of getting people around the world to talk more about you in mixed emotions isn’t a brilliant new tactic – it was done in the Windows 7 launch with the Jerry Seinfiled ads that Microsoft bet around $300million on.   Realistically this strategy can often work (we’ve used this formula a few times with Silverlight in the early days) but at the same time it’s what I’d class as a high risk strategy given you could scare people too much.

This is of course speculation as at the end of the day the more Microsoft staffs I talk to internally about this the more I get the growing sense that majority of the staff internally are also in a complete blackout as well. Insiders within Microsoft are telling me that they are both concerned and frustrated at the lack of information coming from Team Sinofsky to the point where they are not interested in whether or not .NET lives or dies but how the heck they are going to clean up after this reveal occurs.

I probed further and asked what kind of convincing points are needed in order to illustrate to the presidential overlords that having 11million+ views all seeing the words ".NET" and "Dead" is probably not a smart play here and short of announcing .NET 5.0 at //BUILD/ you’re digging a very large hole. The response that I later got forwarded to me was one from an executive that stated that unless they see major accounts being withdrawn all that really is happening is interest and group of developers getting emotional about it all.

Yeah, my first impression was "what a jackass" but having sat in similar meetings like this when Adobe AIR was first considered a major threat to Microsoft, all I can say is that’s exactly how the company thinks at a higher level. It’s a numbers game, and hearing stories like "my friend just told me they are moving away because of this" small stories don’t add up to situations like the US Govt calling Microsoft to say "Yeah, the whole .NET confusion thing is something we aren’t happy with and so we’ll be moving to Java/Oracle – thanks bye" moments aren’t flowing just yet or likely to.Measuring account losses due to an event is somewhat hard as deep at your core you can see that the potential is definitely there despite the deafening "the sky is falling!!" emotions running high.

The reality is its unlikely to create havoc for at least a few years should they come out and say tomorrow ".NET is dead, thx" as looking at Windows XP & Internet Explorer 6 its obvious that Microsoft technology is very hard to kill of even with official announcements.

What is the TAX then? What is the one thing you can beat Microsoft around the head with that will send some sense to Redmond?

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Developers, Developers, Developers is that answer.

Microsoft are losing a battle in replenishing the .NET developer share, it’s alleged that for every 1x .NET developer that departs the Microsoft ecosystem there should be at least 2x more to fill their shoes. The reality it’s the opposite – allegedly.

Ok, so we highlight the depletion of the ranks and state "..if you continue scare the kids with the comms blackout that number will increase! And so you be able to control the depletion rates.."

That will not work either, as HTML5 and JavaScript is a nice big juicy cake to sink ones potential teeth into. As the big bet is that if you can convince the world’s developer base – the ones NOT using .NET today – to jump onboard with the new Windows8 concoction called Metro meets HTML5/JavaScript across all screens. Bing! (No pun intended) you just got a completely new market share you did not have yesterday.

That is the bet at the moment, win hearts and minds with a unified platform the world has agreed upon across all languages – HTML and JavaScript.  Sadly, the .NET developer base is being used right now as collateral damage and is considered acceptable loses.

This is dangerous game being played and all the years I’ve been involved in Microsoft this is by far the most interesting and distracting time for the company. In under 48hrs in my opinion Team-Steve managed to undermined and undo a total of three years work by the various people within the Silverlight teams so should the reveal in September be a case of "Look we were just kidding, here’s our roadmaps going forward.." it would still set Silverlight back quite a lot in terms of regaining what marketing momentum is left for the product.

The reality is Silverlight’s marketing & evangelism has been severely reduced from where it once was and the products are now in auto-pilot mode (aka "they are now matured" which is code word for being bored with it).

Evangelism efforts are going to have to dig deep post reveal on September and to be openly honest their record lately for influencing the influencers has been murky if not non-existent. It’s a contact sport Evangelism and I’ve noticed in the past 2-3 years more so that the steam it once had has diminished quite significantly (due to budget cut-backs and basically VP of DPE – Walid Abu-Hadba driving the entire practice into the ground).

It is not that people are angry, they are confused and disappointed.

Let’s hope this bet pays of Team-Steve as the guy before you made a big bet as well. The last we heard of him now is that he’s trying to make it into the music scene so one hopes you’ve learnt to play guitar Mr Sinofsky 😉

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Understanding “Why would Microsoft do that?”

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There is a consistent theme that I often see when I have been invited into conversation(s) regarding Windows 8 and the whole HTML5 saga. The main undercurrent is "Why would they do that?" and it is a perfectly valid question that often gets lost in the whole opinion / news pieces that are floating around.

Understand the metrics first.

Inside Microsoft you are really goaled around a metric that involves the words "market share" in that somewhere along those lines your entire reason for drawing a pay cheque distills down to that. You have to help Microsoft grow its market share across all battlefields and there are multiple battlefields in play.

Battles are what are happening in today’s software industry. It is quite competitive and cutthroat in many places and often mercy is for the weak.  Companies on both sides often play by the rules governing ethics but often more so than ever it is not the case under the covers or behind closed doors. There are often many tactics at work that the audience(s) and customer(s) do not always see.

For instance, when Silverlight/Expression was heating up in the early days the battle between Adobe and Microsoft was quite intense (I myself was caught up in it quit easily). You’d have situations where Adobe would threaten to shut down a conference if Microsoft Staff showed or you’d have Adobe specifically target Microsoft showcase wins the next year and spend large amounts of $$ to win the customers back to create the perception that these customers had buyer’s remorse.

Apple, Google, IBM and Oracle all suffer from the same somewhat software industry driven guerrilla warfare style tactics. It is a competitive sport and staff within get quite emotional and aggressive at times about it – like a thunder dome of super geeks.

Tactical approaches and competitive aggression is what fuels Microsoft often. It has also to answer the question you have around "Why would they do that" simply put; it is about building an army primarily.

Understand the Tactical Programs

You have programs in play like BizSpark – an idea to give the software away for free in order to seed start-ups into adopting the Microsoft technology stack. It is the old heroin addiction formula at work, in that the first hits free but the second and third will cost you. Ensure an addiction takes place then the monetization will follow.

HTML5 + Windows 8 are no different. The prospect of enticing never before heard of developer hordes – also known as the Alternatives to .NET development into adopting Windows 8 platform(s) via the HTML5/JavaScript route is worth the risk to Microsoft.  It is about socketing these peeps in early, get them acclimatized to the Microsoft technology stack and from there you can bleed the monetization models outwards into channels that you can declare internal victory over.

Understand the Compete motions

The thing though is this playbook or this strategy is in no way different to the days when .NET was first created and it is again a rinse/repeat formula being played out.

The motivation is growth around developer share (that is an obvious objective around winning) the other objectives are also around competing head to head with Google & Apple. Google is the main focus though, this company is taking bodies from Microsoft staff lines often and if you were to look at the past two years around who’s left the .NET development teams as well as the Internet Explorer teams for Google it’s almost alarming.

Google don’t need to compete with Microsoft, they just need to re-hire their staff and I often giggle about this as I once wrote an internal memo regarding Adobe compete whereby I said "We should make a $300k a year offer to their entire evangelism staff to work for us, we say here’s $300k now go sit in the park and enjoy life for the next 2 years as it would be cheaper than what we spending on compete for Adobe".

Google are kind of doing that in many ways.

Understanding the gullibility.

Google are also provoking Microsoft into adopting their tactics and more importantly forcing the companies hand into moving Internet Explorer closer towards a HTML5 Future(s) than before. For instance they punk’d Microsoft into fixing the JavaScript engine within Internet Explorer because they had the company convinced that this was their biggest fear around how Microsoft could beat Google. Microsoft took the bait and the funny part is the person who worked on that engine is now working at Google today.

Google played Microsoft and it is this small random pocket of competitive insights that often go unnoticed in the industry. These small little gems of "hah that was funny" all add up to the situation we see before us today around why Windows 8 looks and is likely to act in the way it is.

There is no real strategy here, just tactical competitive reactions played out that do not often give pause to the massive impacts it places on the hordes of developers who wear the Microsoft logo on their blogs / resumes etc. with pride.

Microsoft is doing a terrible job at corporate communication(s) and the most frustrating part of all is that it is the actual fans of the brand that are noticing the most.

That is probably a small glimpse at how a competitive situation can motive product lines into making snap decisions the way they have been in the past five years.  The reality is you the customer out there who use the technology actually play somewhat a smaller role than you do think around feature selection and roadmaps for product designs.

It’s often a competitive influence that drives the most decisions and sure compete leads to innovation right and that’s something we should all embrace – except if the tax is instability.

Summary.

For a deeper insight into this topic around “Why” Listen to a podcast I did list week titled “Windows 8 Round Table” via TalkingShop DownUnder.

http://www.talkingshopdownunder.com/2011/06/episode-58-windows-8-round-table.html

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