Blog, Cloud, Microsoft, Podcasts

Trying out new”micro-podcast”format

4 Mar , 2008  

MicropodcastI know that not everyone who reads blogs also likes to listen to podcasts, and visa versa. So I decided to try something different and see how readers and listeners like it. I call it a "micro-podcast". (Let me know if you think of a better name.)

Last week while at the SaaS Summit conference in San Francisco, I interviewed Michael van Dijken, head of marketing Microsoft’s efforts to support the hosting and SaaS software market segments. I posted the interview with Microsoft’s van Dijken up on my Network World Converging On Microsoft blog using this new format. The interview was recorded with my micro-recorder podcast unit.

What I’ve done is break up the interview recording into snippets, or micro-podcasts, wrapped in blog narrative with my lead in and comments for each portions of the interview. The idea is just to listen to the parts of the recording you want to hear, rather than listen through the entire recording just to get to the topic you’re interested in. And, if you wish to hear the full, unedited interview recording, just go to the bottom of the blog post and listen to the full interview instead of the broken up segments.

If you have a moment to check it out, please do so and let me know your feedback about this idea. Do you like it? Is it easier to read and listen to? Does that format work for you? What suggestions do you have for improving it?

Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.

Cloud, Microsoft

SaaS Summit a Success!

3 Mar , 2008  

Last week’s SaaS Summit in San Francisco was a resounding success on multiple fronts. The conference was very well attended (about 600 or more attendees.) I was able to score interviews with Microsoft’s Michael van Dijken, Lead Marketing Manager for Microsoft’s hosting and communications sector, and with Treb Ryan, CEO of Opsource, who put on the SaaS event. I also attended a very interesting and very informative VC panel on funding companies in the SaaS space (I’ll put up a recording later), and the Absolute Performance showing at the conference went over very well.

I’ll be blogging some more about the event, including putting up some of the interviews and recordings, in separate blog posts on The Converging Network and on my Network World Converging On Microsoft blog. Keep an eye out for more posts in the next couple of days.

Microsoft, Security

Can Contests End the OS Security Debate?

8 Feb , 2008  

It looks like CanSecWest is starting a trend. After last year’s "PWN to Own"contest netting in a "owned" MacBook, now the 2008 conference is pitting WindowsVista, Mac Leopard OS X and Linux against each other. Next thing you know, we’llbe having a winner take all cage match for the championship.

cage matchFirst, let me say that I love the idea of this contest. It’s the securityequivalent of watching those side-impact car crash videos we see on the NBC newsmagazine shows. This OS hack-a-thon contest is sure to draw a crowd, and debatefollowing the results. But I like the idea of contests like this, where devicesand software are tested out in the open by real people. I think we’ll learn alot and possibly debunk some of the OS security myths and claims along theway.

Speaking of contests, my friend Ross Carlson is cooking a contest idea to pitsimilarly configured Mac, Windows and Linux systems along with power users ofthe respective operating system, performing a series of common and not so commontasks. I don’t know if Ross will end up pulling it together or not, but if hedoes, I’d go to watch. More than the results, I’d like to see the reactions ofthe participants and audience when the results are tallied.

Microsoft, Product Mgmt

Product Bistro: Software Updates – At user’s or vendor’s peril?

6 Feb , 2008  

Product_bistro_fortune_cookieDuring the January 2008 "Microsoft Tuesday" monthly updates, my Windows Vistamachine suffered problems immediately following the automatic updates. I camedownstairs Wednesday morning to see my computer rebooting as the updatefinished. From that point forward, Microsoft Word began crashing and wouldnot stay up or run under any circumstances.

I spent all morning trying to figure out the problem, and eventuallyuninstalled the updates, reinstalled Microsoft Office, and then reapplied theprevious day’s updates. Six hours later, the second time was a charm. Afterblogging about the experience, a Microsoft support engineer contacted me and Ihelped him instrument the problem by retracing the events and supplyingtechnical data. Turns out the problem was a previously know issue.

Today, Microsoft released the Vista Service Pack 1 update to manufacturing.It will be available for download beginning in mid-March. But this update toohas a know software bug, with some device drivers in this case. Microsofthas chosen to deal with the situation entirely differently. Windows Update willfirst detect if your system has any of the incompatible drivers, and only offersthe update if the machine won’t have problems. More technically savvy users candownload the update directly and work through the driver issues if they sochoose.

Bravo. That’s the way tricky situations with software updates should behandled. I hope that Microsoft’s Customer Experience program has helpedthem understand how to deal with such situations during upgrades and updates. The other factor at play is I’m sure Microsoft would like to avoid additionalnegative publicity about Vista. Whatever the reason, in the case of Vista SP1, it’s a good decision. Microsoft is still learning how to deal with automatic upgrades, as demonstrated by plans to automatically push Internet Explore 7 via Windows Update, risking breaking web-based applications that could experience browser compatibility problems.

Software upgrades and installations are one of the biggest challenges forsoftware product teams. Upgrade code and testing is often left until the lastpart of the schedule. It’s often given to someone outside of the coredevelopment team (such as a configuration manager or system administrator) whomight not have intimate knowledge of the software and changes to designs andcode.

We usually thing of a product’s user interface with talking about customerexperience, but installation and upgrade code are two of the most importantelements of a product which directly impact the end user’s experience. Adifficult or messy software installation can mean a potential customer mightnever get to the point of using your software product. Frustration could drivethem away first. A bad upgrade can leave existing customers dead in the water,with a system that’s unrepairable or that might require heroics by a productsupport team to get the user back up and running.

There are certain processes that a product team must "learn" throughmultiple, repeated experiences over time. The installation or upgrade code mayvary little or could change drastically depending on the software release. Butyou can be assured that every software release and update will need some type ofinstallation or upgrade code. It’s extremely important that product teams learnhow to do this well and do it consistently. One bad upgrade experience can losea customer for life. When an upgrade goes well, no one thinks twice about it.When an upgrade is problematic and requires calling in the cavalry, it likelywill be considered a major quality ding against your product.

As you put together your software release process, the installation andupgrade development and testing must be an integral part of this process. QAneeds to know exactly what’s changed, what product versions can be upgraded, andthen put plans in place to test various scenarios customers will experience.This takes planning, technical specs and information, and time on the scheduleto perform. Over time, after multiple repetitions, the product team learns howto perform upgrades successfully, reducing problems customers mightexperience.

Make plans now for installation and upgrade development and testing. You’llknow you’re doing a good job when your customers and product support team don’tthink to complement you on how smooth the last upgrade went, because they all gosmoothly.

Related article: Drivers Problems Hold Up Vista SP1 Upgrades

Cloud, Microsoft, Podcasts

COM Podcast #2 – Jeff Kaplan talks SaaS

30 Jan , 2008  

Compodcast_logoEpisode 2 Living In A SaaS World of the Converging On Microsoft Podcast is up and available.

This week former Meta analyst and SaaS On Demand software industry thought leader Jeff Kaplan joins me to talk about Software as a Service, SaaS. Jeff is managing director of THINKstrategies, a consulting firm working with software companies, investors and SaaS end user companies.

Jeff_kaplanDuring the interview, Jeff jumps right into why SaaS has so quickly become a popular mode of buying software, how Microsoft is "delicately" going about Software plus Services so as not to disrupt current embedded software revenues and their huge channel, and new efforts by SaaS companies directing SaaS at IT.

Most of us are familiar with SaaS companies like Qualys and Salesforce.com but the industry is much broader than those two examples. Gartner estimates that 25% of new software sales will be SaaS by 2011. I recently announced my own jump into the world of SaaS by joining Boulder based SaaS On Demand software and enablement company Absolute Performance, Inc. On Demand software, virtualization, and utility computing are making profound changes in the way our industry is operating and I’m going to continue doing my part to make it all happen!

If you are interested in finding out more, Jeff has some resources on his  site you might find helpful, including SaaS Showplace , Managed Services Showplace   and Jeff’s blog ThinkITservices.com.

If you have any questions, ideas, feedback or suggestions about the Converging On Microsoft Podcast, please send me email at podcast@mitchellashley.com. Thanks for listening.

Download MP3 fileSubscribe to COM Podcast RSS feed

Credits: Voice over by Jessica Freemann, music by Michael Reese

Blog, Microsoft

Network World Blog Post about Google Gets 740+ Diggs

4 Jan , 2008  

I’m blown away by today’s events! No, not by Obama’s or Huckabee’s stunningwins, but by one of my blog posts on Network World that received a ton of Diggstoday. I blogged about Google’s efforts to not only use open source but alsofoster the creation of open source developers and software, giving Google adefensible position to effectively compete against Microsoft.

That Network World blog post was picked up on Digg earlier this morning. Thisis my first blog post that was Digg’ed (that received more than 1 Digg.) By endof the day the Google / open source post received over 740 Diggs, and over 95comments were posts on Digg in addition to those on the Network World blog.

Digg_google_open_source_small

That also created a lot of traffic on the Network World Microsoft Subnet blogsite. Mid-day there were more than 5,500 page views. That pushed the blog postonto the Network World front page Hot Topics section, at the number 2 spot.

Thanks to everyone who has been following and reading my blogs and podcast.And thanks to all of you who took the time to Digg the Network World post. Ifyou are a new reader, welcome to the Converging Network and to my Network Worldblog. I appreciate your reading, commenting and digging the posts.

Microsoft, Security

Better Security Doesn’t Automatically Mean A Better Product

17 Dec , 2007  

I’ve been writing quite a bit about Vista (and February’s Vista SP1) and amnow beginning to write about the Windows Server 2007 RC1 on myNetwork World blog. It’s not news to anyone that Vista has had some roughspots since it’s introduction in early 2007.

What’s interesting is that we all anticipated the introduction of Vistabecause of improvements in security. Today we hear very little about security inVista. That could be good, and could be bad. In many ways Vista is a big leapforward from the security model in Windows XP. Though there have been manypatches and fixes, we’ve not had a major vulnerability scare to date with Vista(cross our fingers, lets hope we don’t.)

But the focus on improving security in Vista caused Microsoft to take theireye off of something very important; the user experience. User Account Control(UAC) forgot the lessons of so many personal firewalls and created another"barking dog" Vista users had to put down. Performance and reliability issues,something any operating system rewrite will inevitability face, became front andcenter because new dual core machines and big disk drives don’t have don’t havethe same zip we are accustom to in Windows XP and Windows 2000. While addingsomewhat of a "cool factor", Aero and 3D icons only updated the Windows Explorerexperience, not made it easier or more useful to end users.

The lesson is that while intending to fix or improve an area of your product,security in the case of Windows, it cannot come at the expense of the experienceto which users have grown accustom. This is a lesson I’ve learned myself in myown product development experiences over the years. Sometimes you do take a hitand delay new features to address a more fundamental need in a product, butforcing the user to step back and accept reduced functionality or lesserperformance caused a significant backlash for Vista.

Rewriting something like the Windows operating system is a massiveundertaking. Frankly, I’m surprised in many ways there haven’t been biggerproblems than we’ve experienced. I’ve used Vista since it’s introduction and nothad to revert back to Windows XP. That I’m pretty surprised about. But I thinkit is still worth stepping back and learning from what Microsoft hasexperienced over the past year with Vista.

Blog, Microsoft

Announcing – Microsoft Bloggers Network!

14 Dec , 2007  

Microsoft_bloggers_network_2I’m pleased to announce the formation of the Microsoft Bloggers Network.

On of the things that really helps me follow security topics is the Security Bloggers Network, set up to help aggregate blog information related to security topics. It also greatly increased the visibility of The Converging Network and readership of my blog. The two other networks this blog participates in have 32,795 and 224,343 subscribers in them. That’s powerful networking to get the word out!

I’ve started reading many more blogs related to Microsoft since joining Network World where I now blog about topics related to Microsoft and the broader industry. So, it naturally made sense to create a network for blogs covering Microsoft topics.

Add your blog to The Microsoft Bloggers Network, if you…

  • Blog on topics related to Microsoft
  • Want more readers exposed to your blogging
  • Want to increase subscribers
  • Enjoy easily finding other bloggers who blog on these topics
  • Want to be able to look at one feed with lots of content about Microsoft

If you already use Feedburner, you are 90% there. If you don’t use Feedburner, you can still easily join the network.

To join, just send me an email.

Microsoft, Network

Is Microsoft Becoming Another Cisco?

11 Dec , 2007  

I put a blog post today on my Network World blog about Microsoft turning intoanother Cisco, that is, Microsoft has ramped the acquisition engine and is nowbuying its way into product categories to keep up with more innovativecompanies. I’m thinking specifically of Google.

A commenter to that post reminded me that even DOS was an acquisition, whichis true. I think the difference I’m pointing out here is that Microsoft is nowplaying a game of reactive cat-and-mouse. Google makes a move, Microsoftacquires a technology or company so Google doesn’t gain the upper hand.

Will Microsoft become so bloated they’ll drop under their own weight? Havethey already reached that point? Well, Microsoft still as dominant as they’veever been so it’s not time start call out "the sky is falling" by anystretch.

Microsoft

Windows Mobile 6 making its way into customers’hands

27 Oct , 2007  

Wm6_phonesSeveral colleagues of mine have either upgraded their existing PDA/phones to Windows Mobile 6 or have purchased new WM6 based devices. It seems when trends like this start, several people quickly follow suit and get the latest gadget. It only happened with just a couple people I know for the Apple iPhone. WM6 devices though seem to be making a bigger impact than the iPhone though, at least with the crowd I run with.

I’m not at all surprised that people in technical jobs like IT or technical support find WM6 powerful for their jobs. But I am surprise that quite a few business people have moved to WM6, folks in a sales or management roles. Again, I think Wm6 speaks more to the gadget crowd (which I definitely fall into) and technies (same) but I’m curious to see how WM6 will play with the management and executive crowds. WM6 integrates seamlessly with Exchange for email and I suspect this will make it an obvious choice for those who have not gone the way of the BlackBerry already. That’s been a major barrier for the iPhone and their Exchange support that’s coming may be too little too late, at least in the short run. IT will certainly help the push for WM6 so it may have a serious chance at displacing some BlackBerries, a lot of Palm OS Treos, and opt out the move to iPhones.

Cell phone carriers like Verizon are gearing up for the Christmas crowd with lots of music and a strong push for PDA and navigation equipped phones.Two new strong entrants, the Samsung-made SCH-i760 and UTStarcom-made XV6800, run WM6 Pro along with the WM6 Standard SmartPhone UTStarcom SMT5800. November and December 07 will give us a good picture about whether WM6 makes significant inroads into the consumer and business markets or if it remains a platform for IT techies. Verizon is currently out-of-stock of the Samsung i760 WM6 phones. At this point, the results look favorable for Windows Mobile 6 making some great progress gaining customers.