Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Key to the Magic Quadrant of Social Software

A few posts back I did a quick comparison on Microsoft MOSS 2007 and IBM Lotus Connectins to see which one is best suited for Enterprise 2.0, for Corporate Social Networking. One of the criteria we've developed in our TeamPark approach at Sogeti is that the software needs to be S.O.C.I.A.L.

In this comparison I also showed the Gartner graph on Social Software;

In their review, Dogear Nation rightly pointed out that for instance Yammer, Facebook, Twitter and so on are missing. So where have the Garter researches been?

However, the graph also shows that none of the currently available platforms moves into the socalled 'Magic Quadrant';

The Gartner Magic Quadrant is a proprietary research tool developed by Gartner inc., a US based research and advisory firm. It is designed to provide an unbiased qualitative analysis of a “markets’ direction, maturity, and participants

Time to work magic

In the upper left quadrant we see both Microsoft and IBM named "challengers" with a great capacity to execute (read established corporate penetration), in the lower right quadrant we see a number of "visionaries" like Atlassian, Jive and Socialtext. The majority however falls into the lower left quadrant of "niche players" and no solution has made it to the magic quadrant yet.

What does it take to get into the magic quadrant? In blunt translation of the Gartner graph it should be Microsoft buying Atlassian for instance to combine 'completeness of vision' with 'the power to execute'. But that is not the correct answer.

If we mix up Jive with IBM or Atlassian with Microsoft it does not create a winner, it will not be a magic quadrant recipe, because it will undoubtedly be a functional cocktail from a technical point of view, not from a social point of view. It will result in a (probably very good) platform which offers everything you would want, but in the end won't work.

The 'ppp' Protocol

What does it take to get into that magic quadrant? Basically this is an identity management based issue. In my opinion we use the web in three ways:

  1. Private
  2. Personal
  3. Professional

Probably we should rename 'www' to 'ppp' ;) .You could argue the terminology though, it could just as well be personal, social and professional. However, I think theseare the three domains to which we use the internet and with the current cloudcomputing trends this will create a new paradigm for identity management (IdM) and this will be the key in stepping inside the magic quadrant.

In the 'old days' we had our home pc to facilitate our 'private need', meaning we used it to store our documents, photos and accessed the internet to find information for our hobbies. We also had a corporate pc on which we stored our work related documents. And in the Web 2.0 age we started to use the internet for social interaction.

Nowadays, more and more is shifting towards webbased functionality. We use Google Docs for our documents, share our photo's on Picasa, Webshots, Flickr, Paintbucket or wherever. We started blogging, and we started Tweeting...

Each of these three domains is becoming more and more webbased and it confuses us, it frustrates us. We're constantly putting up content on a variety of sites, distributing our lives through various media to various audiences and we often find the content should move beyond the boundaries of just one domain and we end up duplicating the same information to another blog or wiki.

IdM Divergence is Key

The current trends on aggregation, the creation of lifestreams is convergence; pulling the content of various media into one single lifestream distributed to all our contact. Regarding the three domains however, we want - no, NEED - divergence; one single point of entry and the option to distribute it to different audiences, across the boundaries set by these domains. One of the functional prerequisites is the ability to organically group contacts (there are more ;)) regardless of the domain they are confined to.

This is, what in my opinion, will make it impossible for each of the platforms mentioned in the Gartner graph to truly claim the Magic Quadrant. Each of these solutions focus on one particular domain; social / personal or professional. The Magic Quadrant platform needs support all three domains in one coherent mashup of these multiple online identities we have fostered with ample mechanisms to guard our privacy, with the appropriate tools to include and exclude people to see certain types of information. It needs to be able to discern who is allowed to see which part of a certain domain

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Corporate Social Networking

All around us, companies feel the need to go Social. As the web grows and companies see their employees blog and interact, share knowledge everywhere, suddenly we have to take Social Networking behind firewalls and create a corporate walled social garden.

It's not that big of a surprise senior management sees merit in embracing social networking as communities are pretty loyal and dedicated. It would be nice if we could bind our employees so strongly and also use their creativity to get better. It's probably no surprise either that they just don't quite get the essence of social networking. In the end it is about information, about knowledge that is the company's main asset, isn't it?

It's not in the functionality.

The next thing your senior management will probably ask for is a thorough analyses of requirements and a turn up a full list of features. A Social Networking site should have blogs, wiki, forum, chat, and so on. Over the past month I've been doing just that and made a thorough comparison between Microsoft MOSS 2007, IBM Lotus Connections and Telligent Community Server. Drawing up comparison charts, listing the functionality is a cumbersome job. Especially when the result is that there hardly is a difference. All platforms offer more or less the same functionality.

They're all the same, or not?

When it's all about the same, the obvious choice for senior management is to stick to what they know and we already use inside the company. From this reasoning, many companies will probably go for Microsoft MOSS 2007 (or MOSS 14 if they can wait until 2010) as it will offer the basic functionality you would want and integrates well with the other corporate software, and even allows you to keep sharing those all important documents.

It's like playing in a rockband.

Last week I attended a presentation by my Swedish colleague Andreas Sjöström, who founded the website inarockband. In his presentation he said working for Sogeti was like playing in a rockband:

inarockband.com builds on the analogy that working for Sogeti is like playing in a rock band.

Just as rock musicians we are serious about our passion, instruments and customers. In our creative work we understand that everyone in the project plays and important role, just as every instrument counts.

Working with Sogeti is not about working your career, but about your passion. Be passionate about your work, try to excell and in excellence delight the crowd.

In my opinion, Corporate Social Networking also fits this analogy. Blogs are a stage to enthuce and delight, communities a place to share passion. When we look at platforms to support this we are looking for simplicity, easy to use software instead of massively complicated configurable packages. The most suitable software for the job is Social, Organic, Collectively Intelligent, Alive and Linked.

It needs to be S.O.CI.A.L

We at Sogeti are passionate about our job. We like to excell. Small wonder we are constantly working up new books on best practises, creating new standards and methods. One of the latest books we've come up with is about moving from Crowd to Community. The second part of the book deals with the Teampark idea, a method to implement and adopt social software inside companies. In the next release this part will be extended and worked out into a full approach.

In the acronym S.O.CI.A.L my colleague Patrick Savalle has tried to capture what the elements are that empower social software:

These are the key elements for Social Software. From this vantage point, there is a clear winner when it comes to Enterprise platforms: IBM Lotus Connections. Whereas MOSS will excell in sharing explicit knowledge, LC will tap into the implicit knowlegde of your workforce.

Into the Magic Quadrant

I'm not saying Lotus Connections is the perfect match, but from an enterprise point of view, it's closing in on the magic quadrant, as Gartner puts it:In the graph IBM is not yet in the Magic Quadrant, and Microsoft isn't far behind. Don't get me wrong, MOSS isn't a bad product, not at all and I'm not saying IBM has done the trick yet, but they're slightly ahead at this point in time. In June last year, the CIO magazine also ran an article on IBM vs. Microsoft in the Social Software space and concluded:

While both vendors showed their products could integrate with existing e-mail systems (especially e-mail systems that they sell, such as Notes and Exchange), IBM’s Lotus Connections looked, at minimum, a year or more ahead of SharePoint in its social computing capabilities out of the box.

It was a lot prettier looking, too.

If we look at the road ahead, this conclusion still stands with Lotus Connections 2.5 going into Beta in April and expected to go Gold by Mid July whereas Microsoft MOSS 14 is due for early 2010. However, it is more than just release dates. It is about the core focus of the product. In terms of S.O.CI.A.L aspects, LC2.5 still has a more informal, organic, people centered approach than MOSS 14, which (from what I have seen under NDA) still is more formal and hyrarchical focussed on information, despite all it's slick tricks.

Scaling the Walls

Identifying the right triggers to create Social Networks is not a guarantee for instant succes though. On the one hand, setting psychology loose on Social Webdesign to delight the crowd and direct communities, creating emergent behaviour is tricky, but on the other hand we have the issue of the walled gardens. Companies will try to contain these platforms behind their corporate firewalls.

About a year ago I did a project in wich security played an important role. The client went into extremes to protect its data. However, all it's corporate knowledge, its value, could be found on Wikipedia for free. Knowledge and creativity are hard things to contain, they will find a way. Take blogging for instance.

From a bloggers point of view, his main drive will probably be to build a reputation. Blogging is more than just jotting down short things you are passionate about. You want to excell and gain authority. A global audience will probably suit you better than a limited corporate stage can offer.

Regarding this, Hutch Carpenter wrote an interesting article on his blog "I'm not actually a Geek" where he asks how much scale is actually needed in Enterprise 2.0 Employee Adoption.

Blogs: The nature of a blog is a single person’s thoughts, observations and ideas. Inside companies, these applications can be tools for the ongoing recording of things that fall outside the deadlines and process-oriented activities that make up the day. Making them public is a great way to share these contributions with other employees and establish your record of what’s happening. If only a few key people blogged inside a company, there will be value in that.

The article raises many interesting issues, but the question remains if we should take it all behind walls. It is quite true that Blogs do not require a large scale adoption, It will take justa few catalysts to start interesting corporate blogs, but if you want your employees to excell, to put effort into this Social Environment you have to offer them a worldwide stage. Have them interact with the world instead of limiting them to peers.

From a knowledge point of view we really have to consider which information really is actually a corporate asset. Is it knowledge on technology (which probably is out there on the web anyway) or is it about privacy, personal data and sensitive information about competitors or clients?

It's a brave new world

When you carefully look around in your company you might find these catalysts; passionate people who engage and delight the crowd. These thoughtleaders and visionaries inside your company probably have their own blogs, as they will be sharing their passion, having a global stage to build their reputation. Do we really want to confine them inside corporate walled gardens? Will they combine the pursuit of their personal passion and delight the corporate crowd? You will undoubtedly find out they will put more effort in personal blogging than in corporate blogging if we rigidly put our Corporate Social Network behind firewalls.

The current Social Networking trends focus on aggregation, pulling together updates from a variety of media into a single lifestream. If I look at my Plaxo Pulse stream for instance puts my twitter messages and my blogposts into a single update stream which is visible for all my connections. The next challenge will be to move from this information convergence to information divergence. This divergence will allow me, as a blogger, to write one passionate article and distribute it to the medium I chose and the audience I choose. This divergence will even more require personal and professional digital presence to blend, calling for better identity management and privacy measurements. In short, getting into the Magic Quadrant of Corporate Social Networking will not be about more features, but about smart blending of corporate and private digital identities.

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Podcasting for Sharepoint, MOSS 14

Over the past month I have been doing a Proof of Concept to see which Enterprise software would offer the most social value. The main focus was on the differences between IBM's Lotus Connections 2.5 (going into Beta in a few weeks) and Microsoft MOSS.

At our offices in the Netherlands we have a version of MOSS 2007 running, but apparantly we were not using it to its full extend, so Microsoft felt we were not giving them a fair chance and they did a full proof of concept at our offices in Paris. I must say, I was a bit surprised. Microsoft Moss (Sharepoint) is actually better than I had thought.

We also received a preview of the upcoming MOSS14 release, which should head into Beta later this year and will probably arrive early 2010. Without going into specifics, it won't be a surprise that Microsoft will continue the trends they set with Office 2007, using contextual ribbon menu's and throw in a lot of Silverlight. Of course, there will be more focus on social networking. One of the features Microsoft included in the presentation was an external kit, the Podcasting Kit for Sharepoint (PKS) by Codeplex. This kit went into beta last month and also heavily leans on the Silverlight technology. PKS can also be added to the current Sharepoint version of course.


What Can You Do With Podcasting Kit for SharePoint (PKS)?:

  • Listen and watch audio/video podcasts, anywhere on your PC or mobile device (Zune, SmartPhone, or any podcasting device)
  • Share content by producing your own audio/video podcasts and publish them on PKS on your own.
  • Connect and engage with podcasters via your integrated instant messaging program
  • Find the most relevant content using the five star rating system, tag cloud, search engine and provide your feedback via comments.
  • Get automatic podcast updates by subscribing to RSS feeds fully compatible with Zune and other podcasting devices
  • Simple RSS feed based on a defined podcast series
  • Simple RSS feed based on a person
  • Dynamic RSS feed based on search results (will be implemented later in 2009)
  • Play podcasts in real-time using Microsoft® Silverlight™ and progressive playback
  • Retrieve instant ROI and metrics with the ability to track the number of podcasts downloaded and/or viewed, instant feedback via rating system and comments, and subscribers via the RSS feed
  • Access the richness of SharePoint to extend the solution: workflows, community sub-sites, access rights, editorial and more
  • Customize your own PKS User Experience

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Microsoft takes Kumo for testdrive

In previous blog entries I've written about Microsoft loosing the online battle to Google and why they desperately need to team up with Yahoo. Google offers a whole suite of online applications, but at the core is of course Google's searchengine and this is where Microsoft wants to take the battle to in launching their new searchengine 'Kumo'

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that the company had started testing the new service, which is supposed to be much more intelligent that Google's. It is supposed to understand syntax and the relation between queries. Last monday CNet reported :

"Word that Microsoft was close to launching the new search tool began with a Twitter posting by Powerset co-founder Barney Pell, who now serves as a "search strategist and evangelist" for Microsoft. In the posting, reported by enthusiast site LiveSide, Pell did not mention the Kumo name, but said that the site was getting an updated user interface and new brand.

"Barney was referring to our internal testing environments," the Microsoft representative said, adding that the company had nothing to announce today. "We are not in a position to confirm what will come to the market or when." Microsoft acquired Pell's Powerset in July. "

According to yesterday's news at CNet, Kumo is a rebranded version of Microsoft Live Search. However, to stand more than a snowflake's chance in hell, Kumo needs to be a whole lot more than a mere revampt of the Live Search, which is the 3rd largest searchengine and currently has a marketshare of 8,5%, trailing Google (60%) and Yahoo (21%) by miles.

In yesterday's article at CNet they also laid hands on an internal Microsoft email calling out for testers. Here's a wee bit from the article:

In spite of the progress made by search engines, 40 percent of queries go unanswered; half of queries are about searchers returning to previous tasks; and 46 percent of search sessions are longer than 20 minutes. These and many other learnings suggest that customers often don't find what they need from search today.

We believe we can provide a better and more useful search experience that helps you not just search but accomplish tasks. During the test, features will vary by country, but you'll see results organized in a way that saves you more time. An explorer pane on the left side of results pages will give you access to tools that help you with your tasks. Other features like single session history and hover preview help accomplish more in search sessions.

Also from the same CNet article, a first screenshot of Kumo

For now, Kumo is the projects codename, but the blogoshere doubts it will be the final brandname. Officially, Kumo is Japanese for 'Cloud' and 'Spider' but sounds a little too much like that crazy dog, Cujo, from a Stephen King novel (according to ZDnet)

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Microsoft losing online battle

Microsoft is loosing the online battle. First and foremost, they're losing it to Google but (maybe a wee bit of a surprise), Apple is regaining authority on the web as well. A recent stat analysis by Net Applications showed that the Internet Explorer marketshare has dropped to an all time low of just (cough) 67,55% amongs the surfing crowd.

Most notable online competitor of course is the Mozilla Firefox, with a 21,53% market share. Take heed, Firefox is not the adversary from the old days, Netscape (which is down to a mere 0.57%), but a Google funded open source community thingy, which is rapidly reaching its end of life status. Chances are it will eventually be replaced with Google Chrome, which is up from nowt to 1.12%. As said in the introduction, Apple is slowly gaining weight again, with its popular iPhone and iPods, more and more people start the like the Apple way of life. In the last year, the Safari webbrowser increased it's market share from 5,82 to 8,29%.

Mind you, we're talking percentages here of web broswer users, so every percent counts for tens of millions of users. The image below is a summary of the first and last line of the Net Application results, showing the statistics for January 2008 (topline) and January 2009 (bottom line).

The upside of losing millions of customers

What we're looking at is a bunch of statistics, numbers and percentages. However, when you translate it, Microsoft has lost millions of customers on the online market in the past year. However, this loss may hold a bright spot for Microsoft in the European Union.

Microsoft and the European Union have been clashing heads over Microsoft's market dominance for years on end now. The EU has been investigating to see if the company has taken advantage of its position by offering the Internet Explorer as an integral feature of its Windows OS and deliberately straying away from internet standards making other browsers to work incorrectly.

Microsoft has noted that it's marketshare is going down and isn't as oblivious as it was before, hence there can be no talk of unfair competition.

Dominance or Survival?

Well, we've taken out a few million IE users, so what? Microsoft still is the preferred supplier to the vast majority of websurfers. What's the big deal?

The big deal is that we're seeing the first signs of Microsoft loosing the online battle, the war of the web. And they're loosing it to Google. I've written a few blogposts on this before (see referal list below) as I wrote that Microsoft desperately needs the cooperation with Yahoo to strengthen its online position.

More blogposts on Google, Microsoft & Yahoo:

Beware of Snakes dressed as Spiders

A lot of people I know are welcoming the downfall of Microsoft and Internet Explorer. Throughout the web we're familiar with the anti Microsoft campaigns, the Bill Gates parodies and we all cheer the efforts of the European Union to crack Microsoft's market position, but in the mean time, Google crawls its way to the top. Just earlier today I wrote how Google teamed up with Nasa to get Mars into Google Earth and in November I blogged the Google Flu tracker, which they'd developed in close cooperation with the government.

Whereas Microsoft seems to get the full load from Governments, they're actually helping Google to take over the position...

and worse.

More blogposts on Google's rising dominance:

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ballmer-Bartz Tango

The buzz has been on the street today, but it took Yahoo a little while to confirm it has appointed Carol Bartz as its new CEO.

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), a leading global brand and one of the world's most trafficked Internet destinations, announced today that Carol Bartz, a veteran technology executive who was most recently Executive Chairman of Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK), has been named Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors, effective immediately.

Prior to becoming Executive Chairman of Autodesk in 2006, Bartz, 60, led Autodesk as CEO for 14 years, transforming the company into a leader in computer-aided design software. During her tenure as CEO, revenues increased from less than $300 million to more than $1.5 billion, and the company's share price increased nearly ten-fold.

[image Autodesk]

It takes two to tango and Carol Bartz will be Ballmer's counterpart in the dance called the MicroHoo soap. Last week Ballmer said it was time to strike a deal with Yahoo whilst both companies were in a management transition phase. 60 year old Bartz brings in a wealth of boardroom experience, but one can question if that's what Yahoo needs right now.

Bartz is a capable manager. She led Autodesk for 14 years between 1992 and 2006, keeping it from the PC software graveyard by focusing on CAD software for architects and builders. Autodesk, however, is an old-school software company. It is not exactly a great training ground for running an online advertising business attached to the most popular destinations on the Web. And as far as applications go, they are all Web apps and Yahoo gives them away for free.

I think Techcrunch has a point in questioning the suitability of this appointment, yet in the quote above I see no valid argumentation to support that question mark. Questioning the appointment would be the current lookout for both Yahoo and Microsoft.

I can understand Yahoo wanting a steady hand at the helm, a firm CEO with enough experience to take on Microsoft, but that would be a shortsighted deal. One way or the other Microsoft and Yahoo need to look beyond eachother and face Google in the coming net-war. With Microsoft bringing in the boardroom weight, Yahoo's chances would have been better with a visionary innovator, a charismatic passionate CEO, a young dog ready to take on Google where it hurts. If Bartz is strong enough to keep Ballmer at bay, Google will be the third dog walking away with the bone. They've already upped the ante in appointing former Yahoo genius Schachter yesterday and look primed and ready to face the MicroHoo challenge.

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Windows 7 Blues - yes BSOD still works

Like many techbloggers and IT firms, Gizmodo fiddled around with the Beta version of Windows 7, the intended successor to Windows Vista. Vista has been a thorough interface revamp, too much to handle for a lot of end users who have lost their old familiar ways of working and finding stuff. But some things never change. Like the ole BSOD, the Blue Screen of Death

It's good to see that Microsoft hasn't bothered to change the old Windows blue screen; and by good, we mean bad. Isn't it about time to fail a little bit more gracefully? Or at the very least, in a way that actually makes sense to end-users? The error throws up the driver that caused it (way at the bottom of the error) before automatically rebooting, but actually identifying it via which type of component it is—sound, video, USB, hard drive—would be useful for people who just want to know what they did to cause it.

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Google ups the Ante in MicroHoo soap

Google just upped the ante in the MicroHoo soap. Just two days ago I commented on Microsoft's Steve Ballmer saying "Now is the time to strike a deal with Yahoo." In my blogpost I wrote that the teaming up of Microsoft and Yahoo would be their only chance to stand a snowballs chance in hell against the rise of Google.

First one to act on Ballmer's remarks is not leaderless Yahoo, but the upperdog, Google as it appoints former Del.icio.us founder Joshua Schacter.

Joshua Schachter, the creator of one of the most important consumer web applications in recent time, has joined Google, according to venture capitalist Josh Koppleman. Schachter's social bookmarking service Delicious was acquired by Yahoo! three years ago last month. Schachter was required to spend 2 years at the company after the acquisition but has now been a free man for six months. Schachter was working on some sort of secret project and worked with Upcoming.org co-founder Andy Baio, also rich and free years after a Yahoo! acquisition of his site, on one of the coolest Greasemonkey scripts we've ever seen.

Apparently all that innovative energy will now go into Google. Schachter was vocally frustrated in his final days at Yahoo! with what a drag it was to try to innovate inside that company - we hope he finds a more supportive environment at Google. We assume he doesn't need to work, so he must have gotten himself a pretty sweet gig there. We are excited to see what Schachter and his new friends at Google come up with together.

We've asked Schachter for details about his new job and will update this post with anything we learn. (Updated: Schachter stopped by here but didn't have anything to say other than telling us to spell his name right.) TechCrunch smartly noticed that Schacter's LinkedIn profile now says that he's a "member of the technical staff at Google." Congrats on the new Job, Josh!

(Source: Read-Write-Web Jobwire)

As the article reports, Schachter has the inside info on Yahoo where he got frustrated. Microsoft might be looking to get a frim foothold on the search market by acquiring, or teaming with Yahoo, but Google is changing the ballpark instantly. Adding a social heartbeat like Del.icio.us to searches might lead to interesting ventures.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ballmer: It's time to strike a deal with Yahoo


If there has to be made a deal between Microsoft and Yahoo, now is the time according to Steve Ballmer. The Microsoft CEO who recently visited and commented on this blog sat down for a talk with the Financial Times yesterday to put the pressure back on the MicroHoo soap which started nearly a year ago.

Both companies are in a management transition phase these days. Microsoft hired Qi Lu, a former top gun at Yahoo to reposition their online business, whereas Yahoo is on the lookout for a new CEO after Jerry Yang stepped down. Ballmer said:

"If a search deal is to be made, it's probably to be made in the interim period for new leaders in both places."

The MicroHoo soap started last year with Microsoft placing a full take over bid. After that was dropped, a Search deal was worked out, but once more it failed. Now Steve Ballmer is putting the pressure back on. After the last deal fell through, Jerry Yang's position at Yahoo was severely compromised as Wall Street analysts have estimated that a deal could add more than $12bn to Yahoo's value. In hiring Qi Lu, Microsoft made a tactical move to pave the way for a new deal.

I've never regarded Microsoft to be tactical, but they're getting smarter. Ballmer's timing this week is impeccable as well. Yahoo is said to be closing in on a replacement for Jerry Yang, but closing in on them while Yahoo is without a strong leader and the current credit crunch sentiments is once again a smart move.

They have to get smarter, because Microsoft is no longer the leader of the pack. They've been moved into the underdog position against Google and Microsoft needs to make the online transition in order to survive. The internet is the frontier as more and more activity is done webbased. Everything is moving from home computing to cloud computing. In the near future, hardly any application will be run from a pc, nor will any file be stored on a pc. It will be webservers that run the show. In this outlook, Microsoft is losing a business case in Operating Systems. It needs to step up their online activity. Microsoft and Yahoo will both loose the online war to Google if they remain independent.

You know what. Probably a year ago I would have written a very negative story on Microsoft. We still have a tendency to hate that money making machine to a certain extend, and we've all been cheering time and again as the European Committee fined Microsoft for gaining undisered monopoly positions on the market. That sentiment is slowly changing. Very slowly. More and more Google is crawling into that dominant position, although this dragon doesn't have a head to slay as Microsoft once had in the days of Bill Gates.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Microsoft goes Mii Too on Virtual Worlds


Yesterday Microsoft went head on with rival Sony at the Tokyo Game Show as they presented their new immersive 3D Xbox experience, We've been seeing reports and snapshots of Soný's Playstation Home for a while now, but actual deployment has been delayed several times.
Sony Corp.'s twice delayed online "Home" virtual world for the PlayStation 3 console will be available sometime later this year, while U.S. software maker Microsoft Corp., which competes with its Xbox 360, is starting "New Xbox Experience" worldwide Nov. 19. [International Herald Tribune]

Microsoft promised to be more varied as a gateway to various entertainment, such as watching movies, going to virtual parties and sharing your collection of photos.

"Our goal is to make the Xbox experience more visual, easier to use, more fun to use and more social," he [Shappert] said in an interview at a nearby hotel. "We focused a lot on friends and other experiences outside just playing games."[International Herald Tribune]

What the International Herald Tribune didn't write is that it wasn't exactly Sony that Microsoft was taking on, they were on a collision course with Nintendo's Wii experience.

The moment MTV News revealed Microsoft was working on a Mii-like system called Avatars, accusations of copying Nintendo started flying.

That reaction only intensified when the rumors became fact at this year’s E3. Microsoft expected this reaction. At least, that’s what they told me while showing the “New Xbox Experience,” a complete dashboard revamp coming later this year.

“I remember the CES right after the Wii launched and all the [gaming] editors were asking, ‘When are you guys going to do your version of the Miis?,” Xbox director of marketing Albert Penello told MTV Multiplayer in a hotel suite interview two weeks ago. “I remember going, ‘You guys are going to slaughter us in the press if we ever do it.’ [lMTV]

Read the full story in MTV's Microsoft: Our Mii-Like Avatars Borrow From ‘World of Warcraft,’ Could Connect With ‘Gears of War’ .

Actually it's quite funny. I remember someone at Microsoft said (very recently): "Nah, social worlds don't work. No money to be made there". Remember who it was?

It was Microsoft's Craig Mundie who spoke at the MIT Emtech summit last month.

"Microsoft's Craig Mundie has dismissed the potential of "synthetic virtual worlds" like Second Life, saying that the potential for immersive environments will be likely realized through 3D tools that capture and model the real world.

Read the full story at MindBlizzard: "Microsoft: 3D Future will be Photosynth ". It isn't the first time Microsoft says something doesn't have any real future, yet buys in big a short while later on to make up for their initial misinterpretation of the trends.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Microsoft: 3D Future will be Photosynth

There's only one place to be for the techcrowd this week, and that's Amsterdam with the Eduverse Symposium on the 23rd followed by 3 days of PICNIC 08. It isn't the only event going on though, there's also the Emerging Technology Conference (in short EmTech) at the MIT Campus.

"Microsoft's Craig Mundie has dismissed the potential of "synthetic virtual worlds" like Second Life, saying that the potential for immersive environments will be likely realized through 3D tools that capture and model the real world.

Mundie, who oversees research and long-term strategy for Microsoft, devoted a significant portion of his "Rethinking Computing" presentation at MIT's Emerging Technology conference to what he called the "Spatial Web," a blend of 3D, video, and location-aware technologies. At the center of several of his demos was Photosynth, a Microsoft software tool that can create 3D models using 2D photographs taken with an ordinary digital camera. In one brief demo he showed how a small, camera-equipped robot could be used to model a large room. In another, he showed a 3D model of a commercial district in Seattle that had been created with Photosynth, and demonstrated how a virtual visitor could come to the district using the Internet, enter an art shop in the area, and examine and buy a virtual sculpture that had also been "photosynthed" by the shop clerks or the artist.

Mundie noted that Microsoft is counting on the creation of a 3D "parallel universe" modeled with tools like Photosynth. However, he dismissed the potential of social virtual worlds that include user-modeled objects. "Many people are familiar with Second Life, which is a synthetic virtual world that
people came quite enamored with," Mundie said. "Our view was that there was a fairly limited audience who was willing to deal with the construction of avatars and operating in that virtual space."

[read the full article at The Industry Standard]

I would go along with Mundie when it comes to short term vision -only to a certain extend though. I agree with the part that there is a huge market for the Paraverse, virtual worlds that mirror our own real world, and that these mirror worlds will be fit for business sooner that general VW's in all likelyhood when augmented reality kicks in.

Question is... will the dominant one be a Microsoft product? I would have been very surprised if Mundie would have said the future is in the hands of Google Earth, but I don't think Microsoft, despite Photosynth being a cool product, has what it takes at this time to be a thoughtleader in this area.

So, speaking off the next couple of years, he's right and the paraverse may get a bigger business crowd moving, but in the long run, I wouldn't put my money on Microsoft.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Google Chrome: Less is More but also more is less

Less is more

Back in the old days of the internet you had search engines with gigantic amounts of search categories and click by click by click you narrowed your search. These old dogs -like Yahoo, Alta Vista and Lycos- are still around, somewhere in the dark corners of the net but driven away by a search engine everyone ridiculed at first: Google.

Opposing the enourmous yellow pages of the web, there suddenly was a company that brought to you an empty screen with a single textbox to search. No way this would work. Well, Google is one of the Titans now, hungry enough to take on the world. It's picking on Microsoft now. Their first shot was Google Docs and stuff, taking on the Microsoft Office suite and now there's Chrome.

Chrome is Google's new webbrowser, released for download just yesterday and it bears the same marks as the Search Engine that shook the world: It's minimalistic. Whereas the Microsoft family tries to offer you dozens of features you'll never use (but put a pricetag on them anyway), this Chrome webbrowser is lean and mean.

"Google Chrome is a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier."

Mmm... safer, I don't know. Heard they already found its first leak, but faster is always welcome.

More is less

Right now, Microsoft's Internet Explorer holds about 70% of the browser market, 20% is up for Firefox and the last 10% divided over the others, such as Opera and Safari, but no doubt this new browser will take a big chunk out of IE's marketshare and could well mean the end of Firefox. The development of Firefox is mainly open source, Google Chrome will be open source as well, which means you -as a consumer become a prosumer and build the product you want yourself. It makes the product better, and gets you addicted to it in the same run. The other part of the Firefox development is Google funded, so that's a well soon to dry up I guess:

Mitchell Baker, chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation admits it herself on her blog:

Another important element is the financial resources Mozilla enjoys. We’ve just renewed our agreement with Google for an additional three years. This agreement now ends in November of 2011 rather than November of 2008, so we have stability
in income. We’re also learning more all the time about how to use Mozilla’s financial resources to help contributors through infrastructure, new programs, and new types of support from employees.

Okay, so that propably means Firefox is going to pull the plug in 2011, after Google has had time to establish itself and suck out every usefull Firefox option.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sogeti Engineering World 2008



This saturday I attended (and spoke) at the first Sogeti Engineering World conference, an engineering event for software engineers with various technology updates and workshops.



Today's keynote speaker was IBM's Scott W. Ambler, the practiseleader in Agile Software Development. His presentation about an agile approach to developing software and projects was very inspiring, though at times a little blunt. On the other hand, that made his points come across very well. Here are some oneliners I picked up:



"Most software development is based upon false standards and don't work that well."



You have to step back sometimes and observe what works and doesn't work, rather than just do what we've been told what work"."



"Agile challenges the religion of traditional software development"



"Business isn't really interested in 'on time' and 'on budget' projects. Yet they ask for it in the contracts because they have so little faith in the software community."



"RfP's with long lists of requirements are meant to minimize financial risk, but do the opposite: They increase risk. 45% of development generally goes to functionality that's never used at all."



"The best timeframe for development iterations are usually 1 to 4 weeks. A 2-week iteration works best for its short feedback cycle."



A question from the audience: "How much time do you take between iterations?" "I usually call it the weekend."



"We don't want to have repeatable processes, we want repeatable results. Nobody cares how you do it if you do it over and over again."



"The worst possible time to do testing is at the end of a development phase."



"Testers don't need a set of specs, they need to break the system. The defects are your requirements."



"Every product works on powerpoint slides, but the longer you wait with actually starting coding, the bigger your risks are."



"At the beginning of the project we write big documents, but in the end when things go wrong we throw them out the window and we solve the problem. So why bother to write stuff that nobody uses anyway?"



After the Ambler's Keynote there were three technology update sessions with our partners Microsoft (on silverlight, linq, wpf etcetera) , IBM (on SOA Service Oriented Architecture and there Websphere and BPM solutions) and Oracle.



The afternoon was filled with break out sessions by Sogeti on various expert technologies, such as Microsoft, Security, Oracle and Java and yours truly did a presentation on Second Life again.



The first edition of the Sogeti Engineering World ended with a very interesting presentation by Playlogic, a Dutch gamemanufacturer on how the production of a game looks like and how they are starting to approach this in an agile fashion as well to make their development a lot more effective (whereas the old approach was very much like traditional software development)

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wakoopawhat?

Yesterday I stumbled upon yet another Web 2.0 application, that looks cool, but really doesn't do much: Wakoopa. Okay, it does a few things.



Let's have a look:


"Wakoopa tracks what kind of software or games you use,
and lets you create your own software profile. Ready for you to share with the
world. Why? Because what you use on your desktop is who you are"


Wakoopa is a little program you install from a slick looking website:




Once installed Wakoopa tracks which applications you use. Why? Because what you use is who you are so the site says. Why would I want to track what applications I use? Haven't we furiously tried to ban all sorts of trackers and other malware from our PC's?

Here's the next level: I can see which programs my friends use through the Facebook Widget.


I crossed out the face of the one Facebook friend who also uses this software. He's definately geek.

For what it's worth, here are my most used apps, including my background thingies. Now, this is a business tool. My boss will make this mandatory software and see what I do all day. Can anybody tell me why we would like to use this? Judging from the usage of Internet Explorer and Firefix I'd say probably around 15.000 people.

I must say: The website looks cool and slick, very professionally web 2.0. As far as website technology goes, it's a sound piece of work. The technology behind the app... the tracker is pure evil in my opinion. I'm going to ban this sooner or later.... (like the first time I'd start up strip-poker or some other 'private' application I don't want my wife or boss to know about - but probably sooner)

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The future of entertainment

Heavily updated.

Wednesday, 2:30pm - 3:30pm session




Entertainment in Virtual Worlds - It's Not Games. it's Not TV. It's....



With the advent of virtual worlds television networks, individual channels and individual shows can now create interactive versions of their franchises and engage fans directly, immersing them into the environment. Find out how to successfully extend a television brand, including measuring audience participation and extending the advertising business model. Speakers will discuss activities on multiple virtual worlds platforms.


Panel (r2l):



  • Jerry Paffendorf - Wello Horld (Moderator)
  • Daniel Schiappa - Microsoft
  • Reuben Steiger – Millions of Us
  • Sibley Verbeck – ESC
  • Blake Lewin - Turner Broadcasting (CNN and all the rest)

It’s not games its…




Here are my notes on the panel discussion:




Sciappa: Microsoft involved in VW’s? Have been involved from a gaming environment for some time (like Halo 3) and are pretty aggressively looking at how they can partake in this new business.




Steiger: Most important word in the industry is storytelling and how do we do that in these worlds?




Sibley Verbeck on the question "what's your most exiting VW Experience: Jerry.... well, my most exciting experiences were all things I did with Jerry...




Lewin: Turner is very interested in VW’s. The concept of the virtual space is a living network that needs programming. Turner Broadcasting is looking into Kaneva to find media consumption habits.




Places online where people have faces and at the same time talk face to face with eachother.





Sciappa (again sidecommenting CSI):The internet for the most part still is a research tool. It doesn’t offer the incredible immersive, interactive experience VW’s do.




Sciappa:I’ve never watched CSI, but I’m sure I’m gonna watch the show on the 24th and go into Second Life to be part of the team, to participate and help solve the murder.




Like the Sheep, Millions of Us also have a project up and running with a televisionshow for which they build part of New York. (forgot the name of the show). It also involves gaming and other interactivity.




Are VW’s going mainstream in entertainment?




Lewin: People wanna be engaged in creating their own entertainment. It’s flipped the industry upside down. Kaneva save for us as it is more controlled. Turner has lots of great 3D modelers, they want High End things.




Sciappa:Virtual Earth is Microsofts most advanced endeavour in 3D outside a gaming environment. MS has lots of products that have scale. Scale is the issue, the key carrier needed for VW’s to go mainstream.




Steiger: We build Scion City. Went up and down as it goes, than we let people move in, that didn’t move the world either. Now we’re focusing on a narrative, set about 500 years in the future. It’s compelling, but it’s advertising as well.





Is the grid ready to go mainstream:


Verbeck: We’ll see.. keep our fingers crossed at the 24th.




Steiger: The features will follow the crowd, rather than the other way around

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

SFO touchdown

A virtual life certainly has its advantages over real life in some ways. Like travelling. Yesterday was a long and tiresome day. I'd rather TP-ed into SFO than spend hours in planes trains and automobiles.

First up was an hour traindrive to Schiphol airport, which became a two hour drive as the train broke down. Then the flight was delayed by about 1 our as well. Instead of waking up at 5.30 am I could have slept to about 7!

Then 11 hours of non-stop and non-smoking flying, check out accompanied by several forms for the Department of Homeland Security, fingerprinting and photography. Finally outside...



The weather's nice though. A lot better than I'd expected. SFO airport a lot smaller than I'd expected. Lots of grey concrete as well.



It was about midnight (according to my bio-clock, so about 3pm local time.) when we finally got into our car and drove south on the 101 to San Jose past the IBM, Microsoft offices, Stanford Bridge University and turned to the 237 for Milpitas. First stop was Denny's for a mixed lunch/midnight snack and then our hotel.

After a hot bath I hit the sack at 7pm (about 4 in the morning), totally knackered after a 22 hour day.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

25% of Global top 100 in SL

In June I wrote 30% of Dutch Top100 corporations in Virtual Worlds, listing the top Dutch companies in Second Life. Earlier this month though SLionheads' Timbo Urbanowicz did the math on the global top 100 companies.



Based upon the Top 100 Global Brands Scoreboard he checked to see which companies were in Second Life and concludes 20% of these Global brands have a presence in Second Life:

"Interbrand takes many ingredients into account when ranking the value of the
Best Global Brands. Even to qualifyfor the list, each brand must derive at least
a third of its earnings outside its home country, be recognizableoutside of its
base of customers, and have publicly available marketing and financial data. "


1. Coca Cola

2. Microsoft

3. IBM

6. Toyota

7. Intel

10. Mercedes-benz

13. BMW

18. Cisco

25. Sony

29. Nike

31. Dell

42. Philips

43. Siemens

44. Nintendo

52. MTV

62. Amazon

69. Adidas

76. Reuters

81. ING

98. Nissan




Missing on this list are apple (33), SAP (34), eBay (48), Accenture (50) and BP (84) though, so it's closer to 25%.



Some, like Coca Cola and SAP only hold a small spot in Second Life, others such as IBM have a multble island presence and others (like eBay and BP) are still under cosntruction.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Microsoft defies challenges

Thursday May 10 (yes, that is tomorrow) Microsoft will officially open shop in Second Life. The sim's build has been completed about 5 months ago, but had restricted access up till now. We went in for a little preview. With many companies staging their opening this month it is a challenge to be on the good half of the charts, but Microsoft is up to the challenge. I'm a notorius *NIX fan, but have to admit the

On the sign you'll see about what Microsoft Island has to offer. Aside from their kick-off event and the sim experience there is also a supportive website here. What it basically comes down to is that Microsoft uses Second Life as one of their staging areas for a Visual Studio campaign themed "Defy all Challenges"

A nice feature is the Auditorium, placed inside a big ball that's hanging from solid beams and some craftly sculpted prims. There's no question on who's responsible for the build, since it is practically leaning against the MoU island, but upon entering the auditorium I immediately recognised the hand of this site's co0blogger Lordfly Digeridoo.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Microsoft admits defunct in Xbox

After several thousand complaints from X-box 360 users, Microsoft finally admitted that their X-box has a defunct. For months Microsoft stuck to their statement that there was nothing wrong with the X-box and held gamers responsible. According to Microsoft the X-box would not damage discs as long as it was placed solidly.

During the Dutch television programme "Kassa" (about consumer rights) Microsoft finally admitted that cd's and dvd's can be damaged by te X-Box.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

SLUC: Second Life Under Construction

A number of corporations have sims under contruction

Millions of US

These sims are not accesible yet, but at least Microsoft and Comcast look nearly completed.

Electric Sheep
  • Too many half finished sims makes you wonder if they can finish anything soon.

Rivers Run Red
Lost in the Magic Forest

SLionhead

  • According to the CEO they've recently started working on some major projects. I'' try and scoop them.

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