From the early reports coming out of the Mix07 conference, Microsoft is making revamped offers to Web 2.0 developers that they are not supposed to be able to refuse. It worked in the client/server world, where getting your applications into a mainstream channel made the Microsoft ecosystem hard to resist. The price was you -- and your customers -- had to use Microsoft everywhere.
Now, in the Web 2.0 iteration of the same model, we're seeing Microsoft come to table with a rich smorgasbord of enticing offerings: tools, integration, mash-up-able services, a big crowd of end users, a way to easily add Web ads into your mix, and even a cheap way to get into full production -- up to 1 million unique users per month without having to pay Microsoft. Beyond that, Microsoft will charge 25 cents per user per year.
So wait. Microsoft wants to attract the entrepreneurs, ISVs and developers who will create the Internet's new largest-volume applications and services, and so is offering them a quick, cheap on-ramp while later taking a modest toll based on volume. At the same time Microsoft gets to maintain its killer profits position due to the ongoing revenues from other tools, licenses for clients and platforms, and -- the real icing on the cake, an ever larger piece of the online ads business -- while retaining some ability to lock the end-users into using Microsoft software and online services/marketplaces everywhere forever.
So let me get this straight. The developer players with the best applications should partner with Microsoft early and often so that Microsoft can continue to have its cake and eat it ... but the developers get automation, low-cost and a ready Internet consumer market. Developer/entrepreneurs will be sizing up this deal, but they should look at the big picture, not just the early attractions.
The deal will not be so sweet for the best of the mashup and Web 2.0 development crowd because they only thing Microsoft can bring to them that they can't already get is the large, ready-made audience. They can already get cheap, easy tools; cheap hosting; mashup APIs that work well and mostly free, and integration if they are decent developers thanks to open source and open standards. But, as we know, getting a large web audience quickly -- if you're good, early and lucky -- has never been easier ... or cheaper. Just ask Digg, YouTube, and Twitter. But it is still hard and risky.
Here is Microsoft's secret sauce ... it's big MSN and browser audience that it can help you to. But is it any bigger or better than ... Yahoo!. Google, Salesforce.com (B2B), Amazon (retail)? How about Time Warner? Or Viacom? Perhaps News Corp.? Wouldn't any of these have a nice audience for your applications and services too? Microsoft is by no means the last word on Web ecologies. (But it has tried.)
Microsoft's value to the Web 2.0 development milieu is attractive, but it is not unique -- even when packaged as it is becoming clear it will be. So the question is who will go for it?
If the best and brightest of the Web 2.0 crowd probably won't line up to drink the Microsoft cool-aide and buy-in to the revamped volume market quid pro quos, then who will? Enterprises that are dabbling in SOA? But they won't be building up to 1 million unique users per month, I dare say.
Well, perhaps the developers and ISVs that need all the help they can get from Microsoft (and/or don't have the stomach for entering into a web-based business without the help of a large, global, multi-faceted powerhouse provider like Microsoft to provide the role of loan shark) will. We give you the goods you need now, and we take out our cut forever, is what Microsoft Live seems to be saying. Perhaps that will attract a crowd, but won't they be bottom-feeders -- not the top dogs?
Loan shark may be a good business, except for the clientele. I'd rather be Bank of America.
Will those bottom feeders that like the vig and think this is all a good deal quickly bulk up to 1 million unique users per month each? Seems less a bet than a hedge.
So is Microsoft really expecting this all to work at this late Web 2.0 date? Or are these Mix07 moves not so much to attract the best and brightest of the Web 2.0 innovation and creativity field, but rather a rather tepid response to the following:
1) Adobe Flex goes open source.
2) Google adds PowerPoint-like services to stable of Office-like business productivity services and communications offerings.
3) Amazon S3/EC2 now holds 5 billion objects.
4) BungeeLabs offers up Connect, a software development and deployment as a service model.
7) All of the above.
Yep, it's 7. That's the real "mix07" that has me jazzed about Web 2.0.