TELL IT LIKE IT IS
It's always good to hear Bill Gates speak even on generally familiar topics since he adds nuanced insights through his extemporaneous and sometimes candid comments.
The "D" session is no different. Here are my takes on the "nuanced insights" from the Farber summary:
1. ON RADICALLY DIFFERENT OFFICE 2007:
"Gates described the new UI as a "scary step" and as "risky." The crowd was impressed, as were Walt and Kara, by the improvements to the user experience. They are significant, and one of the first times Microsoft has taken a substantial leap–at least five years in the making–in altering the user experience.
The geeky crowd clamored for a look at Outlook 2007, but it wasn't forthcoming."
To get a sense of just how "scary" the next version of Office is, take a look at this comprehensive tour of the beta by ComputerWorld. For one thing, the familiar menus and toolbars in all the applications have been replaced with contextual "ribbons" that provide task-specific functionality when and where needed (that's the hope anyway). And that's just the beginning.
2. ON A MICROSOFT iPOD KILLER:
"Gates was asked about a rumored portable media player (iPod competitor) that the Xbox group is reportedly working on. "I have no announcement to make today," Gates said. "We are looking at various ways to bring more to that space. There is a lot yet that hasn't been done."
Good stuff...we like to see new stuff that hasn't yet been done...but hopefully Microsoft has internalized one of Apple's key rules of product designs: "Less is More".
3. ON OFFICE FUNCTIONALITY IN THE CLOUD:
There's no question that Bill Gates gets the vision of how much of today's Office functionality could be made available via the Internet, either by competitors and/or through Microsoft's own efforts. Case in point:
"Gates was asked about the profusion of Web-based applications, specially Writely, which as acquired by Google this year...
"More storage is going to be in the cloud, a lot for free and what's not will be very inexpensive. Office connects up with Office Live or other cloud storage efforts to have your documents wherever you want to have them," Gates said..."
"...Gates also talked about Microsoft's cloud storage ambitions, which called "petabytes in the sky." Drives are getting faster and cheaper, and Microsoft will have a variety of services that will connect to petabytes in the sky, including synchronization and backup services."
The question though is how Microsoft addresses this opportunity not just technically, but also with the least negative impact to it's existing business model.
It was also gratifying that Bill also finds the name "Office Live" lacking:
"When I spoke to Gates before the interview, he was extolling the virtues of Office Live (which he admitted is misnamed, since it doesn't replicate the functionality of the Office suite) and SharePoint Server 2007, which he has said will be looked upon as the most revolutionary aspect of Office 2007."
ComputerWorld agrees on the SharePoint Server:
"Microsoft's direction is clear: sharing, collaborating, searching. You can post PowerPoint slides to a SharePoint server, and your colleagues can select which ones to use in building their own presentations.
Enterprises today typically put entire presentation files on a shared network drive; using SharePoint lets users select individual slides in what Microsoft calls a SharePoint Slide Library. And users can be automatically notified when a shared slide is changed (so you'll know when a slide you've incorporated has been updated with the new company logo, for example)."
SharePoint obviously is most helpful in a corporate, group-sharing context.
4. ON BEING EARLY WITH XBOX 360: Gates offered another benefit from the massive investment in the XBOX initiative,
"He singled out Xbox Live as a success story, saying that 5 million pieces of content were download from the service last week. "The stickiness of the product is radically different, so there is an advantage to an early mover," Gates said."
Maybe, maybe not. To be continued.
5. ON DARING COMPETITORS TO COMPETE: At times, Gates revealed his feisty, competitive spirit,
"...next generation UI (speech, ink and vision, which will take billions in research and dared anyone with an operating system to compete on that front)."
Google's got it's own seemingly Quixotic areas that it's spending oodles of money on. It remains to be seen on which of who's made the right bets at the right time.
6. ON MOST PITHY QUOTE: The best Bill Gates line in the article, for me anyway, was this one in the context of the media industry trying to cope with the tectonic changes wrought by technology:
"He noted that the broadcast networks are trying to have their cake and eat it, trying to keep affiliates and advertisers happy at the same time they are pushing a la carte programming and feeling the impact of IPTV.
"There is a difference between what technology enables and what historical business practices enable."
Great rundown by Dan Farber. Look for more from the "D" conference over the next few days.