Archive for March, 2008

Sun’s bug votes on steroids

March 18th, 2008 by Jason

I like programming in Java.  It is still a great way to write cross-platform code.  I’ve bet my business on it.

But sometimes, Sun is just too slow to fix bugs (or make the fixes available). And this is still their role, even when a user has a fix to contribute.

Take the following 2 which have bitten me this week:

  1. Preferences broken if you use org.apache.xalan.processor.TransformerFactoryImpl
  2. Printing on Ubuntu 7.10

Fixes haven’t become available for either of these yet on Java 6 (though the first has been closed  here and here)

Sun really needs to invest more in Java, to get all the outstanding bugs fixed, and the fixes out quickly.  (Yes, people who write and use open source expect fixes more quickly than most vendors can deliver them.  Life is much quicker in the open source world)

But as we know, Sun doesn’t make much money from it – directly at least.  And even though Sun is quite clear in their strategy to use Java to drive sales of their hardware, this lack of revenue shows – shows up as a lack of support.

So what about a logo people using Java can put on their websites, which communicates “I bought some Sun hardware to support Sun’s investment in Java” to other people who use Java.  This may make them consider buying some Sun gear as well, and proliferation of the logo would remind Sun that Java really is what butters their bread.

Maybe that needs to be  “to support Sun’s investment in Java on Linux” (or even on Linux x86_64) – since its not Windows that these bugs occur on.

Or how about a way for Sun to earn credits towards a Sun hardware purchase: “If Sun fixes this bug, it will earn them a notional half a purchase”.  Fix this one as well, and I’ll buy something.  A great little site for someone to write.

Yes, I know you can vote for a bug (the printing bug has 45 votes since 26 November 2007 – that’s a lot of votes, comparatively speaking – but still there is no indication of when a fix will be available).

But Sun is wildly optimistic in only giving people three votes, no matter how many bugs are causing them grief.

I’ve bought 3 servers, 2 workstations, and a laptop in the last 6 months or so, and none of these are from Sun.  But I would change my purchasing policies for some tangible indication that result in quicker bug fixes.  So my third idea in this little brainstorm – what about allocating special higher priority bug votes when  people buy Sun gear?

Office Online – not yet after all

March 12th, 2008 by Jason

Well, there were a few interesting announcements from Microsoft last week, but they didn’t include OaaS (Office as a Service), nor improved collaboration.

The three announcements:

  1. Office Live Workspace Beta is publicly available
  2. Sharepoint Online has been available to businesses with over 5000 employees; now it is available in beta to businesses with under 5000 (provided you are based in the US)
  3. Silverlight 2 Beta

Office Live Workspace doesn’t have real collaboration, yet. As ReadWriteWeb puts it:

Although Office Live Workspace allows for collaboration, it’s not real-time, online collaboration. Instead, if one user is editing a file, another will be informed the file is “checked out.” When they finish editing and save their changes the document is checked back in for other users to access.

The situation is similar in Sharepoint. As Bill Gates put it:

I have a Word document that if I open it up, you can see that I’ve been force [sic] versioning, check in/check out on my documents, so I could check out the document, make a change, and then come down and save those changes

Mr Gates explained that between these 2 products Microsoft intends to cover the whole market:

We want to scale [Sharepoint] all the way down, so that literally you don’t have to have an IT capability, and that’s where we get into what we’ve branded Live. So we’re working that one up through small customers. We want to work [Sharepoint] down and make sure there’s no gap in-between.

When Microsoft eventually gets around to offering real collaboration, there is no reason for either of those 2 products to do it differently (unless they wish to upsell people to Sharepoint).  So its more a question of which one gets real collaboration first; Sharepoint customers are probably more deserving, but Office Live Workspace customers might make good guinea pigs.

“Microsoft Office Live Workspace is being offered free of charge. .. The company expects to release the final public version of Office Live Workspace later in the year.”

That’s not to say that real collaboration will necessarily be free, though it might be.

For hosted Sharepoint (Microsoft Online Services), the licensing model:

New customers and customers without Microsoft Software Assurance can purchase Microsoft Online Services as a per-user subscription. Existing customers with Software Assurance on their Microsoft Client Access Licenses can purchase a user subscription at a discount, enabling them to maximize their existing Microsoft software investments. Customers with a subscription have rights to both Microsoft Online Services and to access on-premises server software, giving them the ability to blend Web-based services with on-premises software.

So when will the collaboration offering happen?

Venture Beat says that “with Microsoft still raking in so much money from traditional software, [full-on war with Google Apps is] still at least a couple years away”.  Mary Jo tells us Microsoft will fill in the blanks around its Live services strategy at its Professional Developers Conference in October.

Which brings me to the Silverlight 2 beta.  I’m inclined to think Microsoft will offer real collaboration as soon as they’ve got a suitable client (ie not before Silverlight 2 has been through its beta cycle).  The TextGlow docx viewer sets high expectations as to how this might perform.

Microsoft Office Online .. soon?

March 3rd, 2008 by Jason

Nick Carr has sparked speculation that Microsoft will soon unveil its strategy for bringing its Office suite online – which to me means a way of working with Office documents on any computer which has an internet connection.  If you are connected, I’d expect you to be able to collaborate with others in real time; if you are not connected, I’d expect the software to work in offline mode.

When I say “any computer”, I don’t mean to restrict that to any particular operating system (and indeed, Silverlight runs on the Mac, and Microsoft has announce it is working with Novell on a linux implementation).  What good is collaboration software if some of the people you need to collaborate with can’t play?I thought I’d make some predictions about the business model.

There seem to be 2 key questions:

  •  does each end user pay, or does a collaboration originator pay for the right to invite a certain number of collaborators?
  • what support for Mac and Linux users, and when?

Whether each individual user is required to pay, or the originator pays, will reveal much about how Microsoft regards its online offering.  The latter model, that the person who originates a collaboration session pays for a certain number of people to be able to collaborate (ie whatever their platform), would show that their focus is firmly on collaboration.  This is the model we would use for any plutext SAAS offering (available to people who don’t want to install plutext server internally, for free or a fee). 

Here are my predictions:

  1. Enterprise version (ie behind the firewall).  There will be a version an enterprise can install on its Sharepoint server, for those businesses which are not comfortable with their documents being hosted externally.  I’m sure Microsoft can work out how to let people give access to people outside the firewall as necessary.  An enterprise licensee will be able to invite people outside the enterprise without charge.
  2. Cloud version. I expect there will be a cloud version for SMBs.  I think you will be able to use this for free, provided you have a license for the traditional Office product.  You will definitely need this (2007 version) to originate collaboration around a document (ie invite other users) – unless you are prepared to pay a full price for the online offering.  Maybe anyone will be able to accept a collaboration invitation (ie whether or not they are licensed to use Office), making the “who pays” question mute.  To create a new document (or print it?), I expect you will need to have a licence for the traditional Office product, or pay for the SAAS offering.
  3. Mac and Linux support.  I think Microsoft will offer Mac support sooner or later, but delay any hint of support for Linux for as long as possible.  This is because Linux is much more of a threat than OSX (two reasons: (1) Linux is free, and (2) it is very easy to install it on your existing Windows PC).  That said, they might have it “only on Windows” to try to keep people there – until some critical tipping point is reached.  I would say that even now, the only thing stopping Microsoft from seeking revenues from Linux users are the inevitable press headlines along the lines of “Microsoft admits defeat” that would come with this.  The cost of this in terms of perception would surely outweigh any incremental revenues in the short term.  Mac users may be able to use it for free – provided they had an Office license they were able to associate with their online user ID.  
  4. docx only. The documents which come out of this online service will be docx documents, not binary or RTF.  This will help to make the new format ubiquitous.

I wonder whether the collaboration protocols will be published under the recent interoperability initiative?  If they are, the way would be open for a rich world, in which docx4all could potentially play…  I’d be pleasantly surprised if they were, and there was nothing stopping someone from making a client or server of their own.  If anyone else could create a server, then why not get rid of it altogether and go peer-to-peer?  Maybe, just maybe, the thinking is that it would take forever for someone other than Microsoft to create a fully featured server, so third party implementations are to be encouraged (as is presently the case for OpenXML), since Microsoft’s offering will always be the RollsRoyce implementation which attracts the most usage, with the other implementations adding value to the ecosystem.

 The announcement, if/when it comes, will be fascinating!  (more…)