June 16, 2006

Linkstraviganza

Sorry I haven't been writing much here recently. A lot going on. Here's a quick resume of some things I've noticed.

Several of the usual suspects being insightful :

Umair Haque has a couple of great posts on Google, linkfarms and the effect that Google has on the media.

Robert X Cringely has had some really interesting thoughts on the different types of IT giant, with particular emphasis on IBM's woes. Not to mention some criticism of Google.

I'm naturally very excited by the news of strategic alliance between SocialText and Dan Bricklin's WikiCalc.

That's a very clever and sensible move. Bricklin has a lot of brand recognition as the inventor of the spreadsheet; and WikiCalc is a pretty good synthesis of spreadsheet and wiki : two genres which I've long thought have a lot in common. SocialText are already deeply wise about social software and seem to have mastered the art of selling wikis into companies. They complement each other beautifully.

(At this point, I guess I should disclose that I've recently applied for a job with SocialText, and I haven't (yet) had any sort of official rejection. So read this in that light. Nevertheless, even if they turn me down, I'm gonna have a hard time not cheering them on.)

Finally, Robert Scoble leaves Microsoft and Bill Gates says he'll stand-down in favour of Ray Ozzie. Nothing much to add here. Obviously MS will suffer from losing Scoble in the short-term, but I believe them to have been on the Cluetrain for a while, and I don't think they'll get off. Ozzie will continue to blog, and understand the internet. Others will blog from their corners with continued MS blessing.

Scoble has a big brand, but I'm not sure how it will survive away from MS. Scoble and MS were a great double act. The incongruousness was part of the allure. Scoble as good blogger in what's essentially a straight journalistic organization may have less creative friction to work with.

Meanwhile, as Cringely points out, MS's business model is still disappearing. Proprietory software, ultimately, doesn't scale. MS can't hire or co-ordinate enough coders to keep churning out 95% of the world's users' software every three years. And as the market fragments, the benefits MS get from network effects decline catastrophically.

The whole thing (ie. the Windows product line / world domination strategy) is a huge soggy mess, and it's not surprising Gates is bored with it. MS have got the talent and money to change direction. But they may be suffering the classic "Innovators Dilemma". The alternative business models available just aren't as profitable as they're accustomed to. They can't easily take Google's advertising market. And even if they could get in there they'd end up dividing it. My betting is that even Ozzie and a clued-up workforce won't be able to escape this problem.
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