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Microsoft’s Expensive Rift With the Web Has to Change

Posted by Bob Warfield on October 18, 2007

Microsoft has isolated itself on an island.  Connections to the island are via the Web, and they’re pretty good, so this the isolation isn’t apparent to most, but it is a powerful force that I’ve known about for some time.  Ever since their spat with Sun over Java, Microsoft has been on an increasingly proprietary path called .NET.  Symbolically, support from Microsoft for the Java Virtual Machine ends at the end of this year.

Internally, Microsoft is actively hostile to anything that runs outside the .NET protocols.  Try selling them a piece of Enterprise Software written in Java and you’ll see what I mean.

All this amounts to cutting off their nose to spite their face.  If there is one thing the web has spawned it’s communities.  These communities on the development side are built up around platforms and languages of various kinds.  .NET is largely excluded from that except for the odd company that happens to have a bunch of .NET afficionados on board and goes that route.  It’s symptomatic that you can find about 18 million Google hits on “SQL Server” but there are 77 million hits on mySQL.  There are 2+ billion hits for PHP and 135 million for Java.  C# gets a modest 15 million hits. 

The loss of community around Microsoft has been profound, and it has far reaching consequences.  If fewer embrace the platform, fewer know the platform, and hence fewer will start their next gig on the platform.  But here is what really got me thinking about the community consequences of the Microsoft’s Rift With the Web:  acquisitions and partnerships. 

Steve Ballmer, when asked about Google, compares Microsoft’s search to a 12 year old playing basketball: they can’t dunk yet.  He says they’ll learn to dunk on Google by buying 20 companies a year for the next 5 years.

It’s actually not a bad idea, but are there 20 interesting companies a year built on .NET, and hence compatible with the Microsoft “state religion”, to be had?  I don’t think so.  Equally as bad, the Web does business differently in many ways.  Open Source is a great example, and Microsoft doesn’t really understand how to engage with that.

Hence, Microsoft needs to repair their rift and start embracing some of the other technologies out there.  It’s going to be hard to break the habit of dogma, and harder still for the acquirees who will be asked to commit many unnatural acts in order to fit into the Microsoft family. 

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25 Responses to “Microsoft’s Expensive Rift With the Web Has to Change”

  1. Microsoft’s Expensive Rift With the Web Has to Change


  2. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

  3. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  4. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptMicrosoft has isolated itself on an island. Connections to the island are via the Web, and they’re pretty good, so this is apparent to most, but it is a powerful force that I’ve known about for some time. Ever since their spat with Sun … […]

  5. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  6. timheuer said

    hits on google are definitive of the validity of the platform? not a real good metric at all…maybe those hits for java are high because people are trying to search for answers? who knows, either way, that is a jaded statement that has no meaning behind any of those technologies, microsoft or not.

  7. georgescott said

    I developed a system with asp 3.0, if Microsoft would come back to Asp and add to it instead of abadoning it then they could steal some people away from PHP and possibly even Ruby giving MS a wider range to select from.

  8. smoothspan said

    Tim, give me another quick metric. I’ll bet you can’t find one that shows a very different story. How about Craigslist job postings?

    – Java had 704 in the Bay Area
    – PHP had 212
    – C# had 187

    Same story. I don’t make this stuff up. Heck, half my career at least was all about .NET. Java is a recent thing. My problem is the non-Microsoft world tolerates a lot of different languages, tools, and standards. Microsoft wants everything their way. It’s a problem for them.

  9. […] the other hand I was reading this other bloggers post on this. The main point of his is that because Microsoft has it’s own web technologies (.NET) their […]

  10. […] much of interest that applications can write to in order to restore dominance.  In addition, Microsoft’s rift with the web also decouples a large number of applications from Microsoft’s proprietary grip.  […]

  11. […] Considering Microsoft’s "rift with the web" By Tim I enjoy the SmoothSpan blog but I’m not convinced by this article on Microsoft’s rift with the web. […]

  12. allenjs said

    [disclaimer: I work at MSFT; and was a Unix guy prior to joining MSFT]

    Microsoft had little-to-nothing to do with Java’s demise; and Java is not “the web”. Java was rejected bythe web because it was antithetical to the web. It was possible to develop in-browser apps in VB6, just like it was possible to develop in-browser Java apps — both were proprietary, and both were rejected. Had Sun opened up much more quickly and completely, we might not be having this conversation — but don’t blame MSFT for the fact that web developers rejected Java.

    .NET was something completely different. .NET was our attempt to focus on standards-based interop, and coexistance with Java and others. Again, this was due to customer demand, since enterprises did not want to bet on a single language/runtime that was controlled by a single vendor. Again, MSFT gave people a choice; you can’t blame us for them choosing open standards and interop. Again, it would be absurd to say that our efforts at standards-based interop were somehow less “on the web” than Java. MSFT was a good-faith promoter and participant in the relevant W3C standards sinc day 1; Sun had to be dragged kicking and screaming, and even then the bulk of the good-faith work was actually done by IBM. The situation with Java and .NET interop today is pretty good, but MSFT and IBM deserve most of the credit.

  13. […] Comments allenjs on Microsoft’s Expensive Ri…Does SaaS Limit Over… on The IT Productivity Curve Must…Cliff on How the Internet and […]

  14. riaanvs said

    Microsoft is not THAT adverse to Java. They aquired Colloquis last year, and that platform was all Java / Linux.


  15. smoothspan said

    Riaan, welcome. Thank you for giving us Colloquis. Apparently it is being integrated into Windows Live Services.

    Interestingly, you can no longer download the Colloquis SDK. Even existing customers can’t get the new beta SDK except by invitation. The target public release timeframe is Q108. Exorcising the non-Microsoft technologies will take some time. Pity they don’t just keep both versions going, or leave the code in Java.

    In fairness, Google also has a habit of buying companies that you don’t hear from again for a long time. Remember Jotspot?

  16. riaanvs said

    Cool. We are one of those fortunate customers who can still get the SDK (we have InsideMessenger) and yes, they are going to change the code a lot as well as work out the commercials around it, which is a big operation. But they are putting it together nicely, in my view, and will be pushing bots (sorry, Agents, as they are now called) heavily, which is great.

    But you are right in the end. It will be much less Java and much more .Net, eventually….in my view though it really does not matter, as long as it works 🙂

    Thanks for the response.

  17. […] under them with an open strategy.  Proprietary Microsoft is in bed with proprietary Facebook and out in the cold with the rest of the web.  […]

  18. daintree said

    I’m baffled.

    Are you suggesting MS is isolated from “the web” (all that is cool, funky and hip) or are they isolated from innovation because they demand an internal development platform/language?

    If it is the former then as allenjs points out Java (or for that matter, any language) isn’t ‘the web’ and as riaanvs says who cares, so long as it works – so long as it interoperates! What part of the web is it that MS is failing to engage with? Office (not-so-)Live extensions? Social platform extensions? Component and application delivery platforms? Do these – or would they, once to fruition – use/rely upon .NET? As the Blog above asks, is F/book going from FML to .NET (~MSML)?

    If it is the second… well, that is a different story – a more complex one. Are you talking about providing a compatible platform for the development of applications and other services – such as the OS? Is this a battle ground for .NET (or java or python or whatever) at all anyway? Or are you talking about the internal battle between pushing (and using) you’re own product (eating your own dogfood, to throw in a Googlism) and embracing the broader innovations (and talent) in the market-place. Does Ford tolerate many Mazda components?

  19. smoothspan said

    Daintree, it is the latter, but even more broadly than you describe. In fact, your example of Ford and Mazda comes closest. Following on that example, let’s consider Sun. Clearly Sun has a vested interest in Java, much the way Microsoft does with .NET. If they were to follow the Microsoft tactics that I call a rift, they should refuse to ship any Sun product using competing languages. After all, that would be Ford shipping with Mazda parts.

    Yet, if you take a look at my follow on, “More on Microsoft’s Rift”, you’ll see that Sun is shipping software written in Python, which is for all intents and purpses Google’s baby. That’s where Guido works. Even that isn’t exactly what’s going on because neither Sun with Java nor Google with Python is trying so hard as Microsoft is to create a set of tools to allow a “Microsoft Only” world. The others have recognized that it simply isn’t going to happen.

    It’s a subtle point, but the world doesn’t want any one player to own too many pieces of the web’s essential fabric. It largely wants an open world where everything can be mixed and matched at will. Does .NET mix and match? Sort of. I sure don’t see many embrace it as such. More often one sees pure .NET and pure “almost anything else but .NET”. That’s an artificial dichotomy that has more to do with Microsoft’s business practices than anything.

    As I’ve said repeatedly, it hurts Microsoft to no good end.

  20. the platform plays, with SDK ubiquity will sort this out. MS will then have to embrace or its dog tucker. It will become the facebook of platforms and have done unto its self as it did to apple in the 80’s, OS2 in the 90’s and all the others

  21. daintree said

    Thanks for the explanation/clarification.

    Is it corporate ego gone fatally mad or a defined strategy? Perhaps MS think they can have it both ways – deep (eg Sun) *and* wide (eg Google)?

  22. […] on November 23, 2007 I’ve written before and gotten a lot of comments on what I call “Microsoft’s Expensive Rift With the Web“.  Many of the commenters mistakenly thought I was positioning Java against .NET and bashing […]

  23. […] Worth a read. […]

  24. […] along on its own way and Microsoft’s participation in building out the big web companies has been sharply limited as I’ve written before.  I don’t see the web so far as a proud chapter of successful Microsoft plays so much as a […]

  25. […] Microsoft has an “expensive rift with the web.”  That’s what I called it in my original post about their us-vs-them situation.  Despite the fact that Microsoft Loyalists take me to task for […]

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