The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Peter Galli at eWeek, covering the new Windows Servers and some of its potential lock in inadvertently elicited an example of Microsoft prevarication. Communicating and interpreting Microsoft statements to the press and media is like one of Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns – its good, its bad, and its sometime downright ugly. Talking with Microsoft top managers can sometimes be disarmingly cordial and frank. No hype, no double speak – rather measured assessments of their strengths and weaknesses. Other times its just plain bad – the executive just does not want to comment so there are misdirection, equivocation, and/or retreat behind “I am not at liberty to discuss …” when he/she called the press conference.

But Peter managed to get VP of Windows Server Marketing, Andy Lees, to produce the UGLY, absolute balderdash. First Andy denied that the new Windows Servers directions
were designed to produce any lock in. Then, Andy went on to say:
“I actually think that our track record of interoperability is very strong. If you look at what weve been doing with Web services, standards bodies and security standards, were not forcing the customer to do anything. I think there is a customer advantage through integration and innovation, and we are absolutely going to deliver that.”

Incroyable. Absolute balderdash. Who are you trying to kid Andy ?

Microsoft has embarked on a deliberate campaign for the past 5-7 years of ever more limited interoprability with its applications and operating systems. Microsoft has the worst record for programming interoperability having limited to no support for CORBA, JDBC, Java, OPEN GL, COBOL, CIM, DME, etc. It is quite revealing that the new accomodation with Sun on Java allows Microsoft to continue to deliver an obsolete version of the JVM at least until 2007. In Web Development, Microsoft has stopped all upgrades on Internet Explorer since its last release in 2001 and will do nothing until Longhorn appears in 2006/2007. In the meantime IE has become the worst browser for implementing standards such as HTML/JavaScript/CSS/DOM. Worse many of its development programs autogenerate proprietary extensions when they deliver Web apps. Unlike such vendors as Adobe, Corel, Macromedia etc – Microsoft does not have a software switch in any of its products that guarantees it will produce W3C and other standards compliant code.

Andy – you are not forcing customers to do anything ??? Yeah, right. I and millions of other developers spend literally billions of extra man-hours trying to make sure that workarounds for Java, Web and other apps will run properly in Windows.

And now in the areas cited by Andy for Microsoft standards adherence, XML and Web Services, Redmond is starting to move away from standards. Patents are being taken on XML innovations. More serious, Microsoft has said it will not support XPath 2, XSLT 2, XUL or any other XML GUI description language other than its own XAML. And XSD is back on the endangered compliance list. This can only mean more workarounds for Redmonds customers and developers.

In short, Microsoft should be frank and honest with its customers. Longhorn and future versions of Windows server will support a Gated Community where access will be limited programmatically through Web Services only – all other Microsoft languages will be non-portable to or from Windows. Data interoperability will also be restricted as Microsoft applications continue to fail to support such dejure and defacto standards as PDFs, JPEG2000, Flash SWF, Apple QuickTime, Real Networks RM, etc, etc.

The new Gates of Longhorn will also only directly support through Windows, Microsoft applications and development tools. Microsoft will allow a very limited set of non-Microsoft Enterprise Applications, databases, application servers and middleware to be directly supported. All other software need not apply for support or interoperability except through Web Services based messaging. And in the meantime the Microsoft set of Servers (ADS, Exchange, Share Point, Commerce, Content Management, SQL Server, the MBS line, etc ) will be designed to take advantage of coding, shared methods and components that in effect are only available to Windows and Microsoft-only usage. This will ensure that Micrsoft apps exclusively work best in Windows.

As always this arrangement is right on the borderline of legality with recent DOJ Antitrust agreements. But lets face it Microsoft will have smeared the operating advantage over methods/routines in Windows +ADS + SQL Server or Windows + Exchange + SharePoint + Indigo (and other myriad combinations)such that 3rd party software from Adobe, Oracle, SAS or Systinet will simply not be able to compete on an equal footing on the Windows platform. Hence the gated community – The Gates of Longhorn.

So Andy, unless you want your last name permanently changed (with the first “e” replaced with an “i”) – be honest with your customers. They already know that interoperability in Windows is severly restricted. They already know that “everything runs best in Windows”. So fess up. Tell them that “everything Microsoft will run best in Windows/Longhorn” will become pervasive while 3rd party software will simply have to play catch up. And its all perfectly legal – so dont fret on that notion.