As Mike Vizard calls it at the end of today's AttentionTech with Barb Darrow, whether it's Office Live or Office Dead is for the jury, I mean the audience, to decide. That's because the reboot here is about the users being in charge. For me, the interesting things about yesterday's media announcement were what wasn't said. Windows Live, once the bandwidth was restored, was slick, fast, and convincing. Office Live was negotiated, tentative, and political to the extreme. Not good news for those of us who see another Last War ground war looming.
As Darrow notes, Office's Steve Sinofsky is the general noted for bringing Office in on time, regardless of which new or down level OS it needs to run on. But here the Waterloo for Office will be conducted on a much leveler playing field than Microsoft is used to dealing with. By the time small shops mature to the point where they can be upsold to the subscription tier, the trenches will be littered with the bodies of VARs and gadget vendors who make the mistake of not building cross-platform gadgets.
That means cross-cloud attention recorders, so that we (users in control) can maximize our return on the investments Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, and Google are making in our attention. If the cartel (using the RIAA/MPAA metaphor) is unwilling to make transfer of attention metadata legal both in and out of their clouds, then those who will will exact a greater and greater tax on their proprietary and less trusted streams of gestures. As the network moves toward enhanced fidelity of gestures with its increased ROI and self-selecting lead generation, the others will follow.
That of course is why Robert Scoble is encouraging his company to jump before they're pushed. That is wise advice from the Bunny, who has carved out a trust algorithm that Microsoft should examine carefully. After yesterday's Q&A, Ray Ozzie came over and demonstrated quickly how well he's listening to this debate. Respnding to the inevitable and man-bites-dog spin that this is Hailstorm II (yes it is, and here's why) Ray noted that this is oh so 2005 and Google has been leading the charge to indemnify Hailstorm with Gmail and every other trinket they've thrown at us.
This makes the mincing tiptoing of Office Dead seem tragically underwhelming. It reminds me of two friends--brothers--in the Sixties who signed a deal with Columbia Records. Brother B, the Dennis Wilson of the group (meaning good looking, athletic, makes it look easy Willie Mays type) had a terrific song that he refused to put on the first record. He was saving it for the thrid record. The deal was cancelled after the second one bombed.
In this new war, the Attention War, keeping quiet is only a good move when it says more than talking it up. Google was all over yesterday's launch, from the Windows Live email clone which lacked the very rebooted seek-and-ye-shall-find model that drove folders into the dustbin of history. Sure, for Microsoft it makes sense to go with the one that brung you and extend the file system to the Net. That in fact was the only strategic move against Google made the entire interminable 3 hours. GoogleBase by comparison seems like a service about the file system, not the system itself. I'll stick with Gmail and switch for storage.
But it wasn't clear just what part of storage Microsoft is willing to give away, as Dave Winer so astutely pointed out to the first meeting of the (Gillmor) Identity Gang on New Year's Eve. "Everybody has to give something up to make this work," he said, and it may hold true here in this strange brew we're mixing. If Ozzie doesn't give storage away, well, then it will have to be a calendar. I've already got mail, no matter how cute Live Mail looks. But Office Dead gives coupons to calendaring, in the form of a subscription upsell. The fundamental problem is that Google/Yahoo/Skype can lose less by making an offer we won't refuse.
Sun and Jonathan Schwartz spoke the loudest in the silence yesterday. Jonathan may not have invented the idea of driving out competition by reducing their profit to zero (Microsoft did with Internet Explorer and Option Pack 4) but he was the first to prove it could work against Microsoft with Java Desktop and Linux in emerging Asia. When Steve Balmer reopened the door to Office negotiations in Malaysia, the can of worms spilled all the way to yesterday's coup. For that is what it was, as the new guard inside Microsoft, led by the first guy to beat Microsoft in the application space post-Office, figured out how to pin a price on the tail of the Office group. It's all downhill from here for Raikes. Now we get to see how quick Ozzie can grab at the opportunities so dearly won.