Mike Arrington missed the Gillmor Gang taping today, even though he changed his travel arrangements to be there. I forgive him, because he's understandably starry-eyed by his lunch with Bill Gates at the Mix06 conference. But I don't forgive Robert Scoble for not inviting me, or Waggener Edstrom either.
Let me be clear what I am saying here so Scoble can cut directly to the chase: I'm thrilled that Bill got a chance to sit with Mike, one of the sharpest tacks in the blox and someone who is rapidly growing both in stature and experience with being played by the old guard. And I will always treasure the opportunity Frank Shaw at Wagg Ed gave me several years ago to sit with Bill and drill down for almost an hour--the only difference being that it was off the record.
But I was effectively running InfoWorld at the time, and Mike is running the hottest tech website, one that has done much to eviscerate InfoWorld's current product review editorial direction. I certainly can see why Robert and Frank might prefer to go with Mike than put up with my Office is Dead schtick. Here's the problem: Mike tells me (and you) that his impression was that Bill was kinda bored, or looked that way. Note: None of this is about the personalities here; it's all about what's going on at Microsoft and what impact it's going to have Real Soon Now in our lives.
I'm going to peel back the onion a bit here because I think Robert needs a little reality check. A few weeks ago Jim Allchin was making the rounds in the first of these blogger briefings. Mike mentioned to me that he'd been invited to a San Francisco dinner and had passed on it due to a prior commitment. I called Robert up and basically said "Why the hell wasn't I invited?" Of course I knew why: I've been very aggressive about Jim Allchin's hammerlock on the Microsoft strategy, second only to Bill Gates in influence and clout, and have earned the enmity of Jim and lost the mainstream press clout with my "descension" into bloggerdom. Let's just say that Robert's attempt to correct the guest list was squashed by Wagg Ed.
Here's why that was not a smart play, Robert. When I go on and on about Office being dead, and the Allchin Tax--which is about how Allchin protected Windows at all cost by killing IE functionality that undermined Office revenue--and then Allchin retires while still ducking a real conversation with someone about its implications for the ascention of some of those technologies (AJAX, Live, advertising-based free, etc.) that he taxed, well.....
Same thing here: When Mike reports Bill was bored, or that Bill doesn't get the preoccupation with thin Office plays like Gmail, it's not me who loses the opportunity to resonate with the audience, it's Bill. The users are in charge, not Microsoft. Not Google. Not the carriers, although Kevin Martin may think so. We are, and we'll vote with our packets. It's a subscription model, not a prescription model. Scoble understands this, but in recent weeks he's been making the mistake of cutting off the access of Bill and Jim and Steve to our gestures of intent. The customers/users/us will flow in the direction of a relationship, because as the expression goes, who wants to pay retail?
Now, Robert, I know you a long time, and you may not think I'm doing you much of a favor here by washing this linen in the clear, but you reap what you sew when you ignore your instincts. Stop calling for the head of a reporter or an editor or both about the 60% code story. Are you so sure that's untrue? Or put it another way--are you so sure anyone except maybe Bill really knows how much code has to be rewritten, or thrown away, to meet a January deadline which most likely will also slip? If anything has become clearer over the last couple of days it is that Ray Ozzie has moved more precipitously than even I thought (Office dead, office dead, office dead) to rework Redmond around services.
Here's my bet on the 60%--it's the real Office Live code, the stuff that GOffice is stripmining, injected into Vista. It's the real Windows bundle--Office hook line and sinker--free with the OS. Hell, they could even jack up the price 50% and no one would really complain. But Kevin Johnson and CAO Yusuf Mehdi will most likely subsidize it with ad revenue. How do you beat Netscape? Free the browser. How do you beat Google? Free Office.
But insulate these guys from the vanguard of the new messengers--from the hard questions, but the good ones--and you get bored Bill and boned Mike. I don't care, I get paid more for being right, and Bill sure wouldn't have been bored with me, or any of the Gang as well. As Mike Vizard said on today's Gang recording, (my paraphrase) better Microsoft do it to themself before it's done to them. Sell it the Republican way: it's a tax cut--the Allchin Tax Cut.