When it comes to the question of whether we're in another bubble or not, I have to agree with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, not former "Microsoft chief blogger" Robert Scoble.
The International Herald Tribune quoted Gates, speaking to a group of journalists in Brussels last Thursday, as saying: "We're back kind of in Internet-bubble era in terms of people thinking: 'O.K., traffic. We want traffic. We want traffic,' There are still some areas where it is unclear what's going to come out of that."
Scoble responded: "It’ll be interesting to see if Bill has the last laugh in this game. I usually don’t bet against him, but I am this time around. Why? Cause I think Microsoft will end up spending more to clone some of this stuff than its competitors paid. Yes, even YouTube. Tell me, how will Microsoft create a video service that gets talked about almost nightly on mainstream media?"
Yes, YouTube does get cited often. But lately, many of the citations are legal ones. I can't blame Microsoft for wanting to avoid that headache.
Scoble also says he sees differences between the 2001 bubble and the alleged, current-day one, including the fact that he has yet to see a stupid business model. I wish I could say the same.
Many Web 2.0 companies pitch me on a regular basis, attempting to get my attention by claiming they are poised to unseat Microsoft with their free/open/ad-supported products. I have yet to see any of them make a compelling case as to how they will best the Microsoft monopolists. As I've said before, I'm all for more competition, but I have yet to see the Web 2.0 wolf pack offer hope of any.
Microsoft isn't immune from attempting to cash on the Web 2.0 wave itself, as its ongoing Windows Live/Office Live/"What Else Can We Make Live?" campaigns prove. But while Microsoft's recent announcements of Photosynth and Virtual Earth 3D are both "cool," but nowhere near as important as Windows Vista RTM'ing or the .Net Framework 3.0 becoming available for download.
Fat-client and server software are not as hot as YouTube and Writely. But I hear that Gates & Co. want to bring sexy back to "shrink-wrapped" software. The real question is, can it (and should it) be done?