About six months ago, when I saw that ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley was planning on releasing a book titled "Microsoft 2.0 - How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era", I pre-ordered it immediately on Amazon. Mary Jo's blog is one that I have been reading for quite some time and I can't think of anyone who provides better insight on what Microsoft is thinking than she does. I finally received that book a few weeks ago and have been reading it in my spare time. Unfortunately, I am not the world's fastest reader.
I like the way that the book is written. It reads like a CIA brief should be. This is no sexed-up Iraq brief, but a clearly laid out organized analysis of Microsoft, the company, the state unto itself, the empire. The prime thesis is that Microsoft is organizing for life without Bill and beyond. In attempt to make itself relevant in a world that seems to be passing it by, Microsoft is hiring and promoting new people and to challenge its fundamental thinking. Or not. She writes as though she is an insider, or more closely to a spy network watching its every move. HUMINT, ELINT, SIGINT, MASINT, analysis etc. are all at work here to provide a comprehensive picture for anyone ready to wage battle with Microsoft.
The book is organized into the language and buzzwords, the people and the "Baby Bills", near term radar on visible product, big bet or long-term, strategic products, and the business model challenges, both tried/true and untried/unavoidable models. The style of writing is very approachable and conversational and reflects the style of her blog, much of which I assume the material has been culled from. This in no way detracts from the usefulness of the book for someone, like Alfresco and the rest of the ECM industry, who both has to deal with and compete with Microsoft. The summary cut-outs on each page are also very good for just browsing the book and picking up something new. Microsoft's empire is wide and unwieldy, so it is difficult to pay attention to all parts, but the summaries help draw in or back attention. The only thing lacking are some charts and diagrams for all this fits together, particularly an org chart.
For someone in open source, the people section was particularly interesting. My assumption was that Steve Ballmer was the primary antagonist against open source, which was validated. (Something I have experienced first hand!) However, the wan characterization of "Borgized" Ray Ozzie were interesting. Even as Chief Architect, his power is obviously limited by the raft of Microsoft Lifers and Baby Bills. It reminds me of the de-classified intelligence analyses that I used to read on the Soviet Military in the 70s and 80s - who are the apparatchiks and who are the reformers? What Mary Jo clearly states is that although outwardly Microsoft is trying to change its stance toward open source, the company is schizophrenic and confused towards it. Ballmer in the space of 5 minutes can say that open source must pay its way and then say that he wants Windows to be the platform of open source innovation such as evolution of PHP. Mary Jo says. "So, has the 'Open Source = Evil' wall fallen? ... In a word, no." Poor old Bill Hilf.
She also asks if SharePoint is Microsoft's next killer OS. This is a topic that she explored on her blog late last year. She says that in an attempt to avoid blatant violation of US DoJ instructions against baking integration of other Microsoft products into the operating system, Microsoft is taking the route of baking in reliance on SharePoint and charging very pricey CALs to use Microsoft servers. She says, "On the server side of the house, Microsoft slowly but surely has been tying more and more of its products to SharePoint...Microsoft is gunning to make SharePoint Server and Services an inextricable piece of its customers' product fabric." Wake up and smell the coffee EMC and IBM! Microsoft is ready to use the new monopoly, Office, which she says has a 95% market share to beat into a new server lock in.
I really like the following quote in the buzzword section, "What does Microsoft mean by 'interoperable'? Anything that can run on multiple versions of Windows, the old saying goes."
Definitely a recommended read for anyone in the software industry regardless of whether you partner or compete with Microsoft or most like both.