I met with Charles Fitzgerald this afternoon to talk about the MIX07 Silverlight and related announcements. He is general manger of platform strategy for Microsoft, which means he carries the evolving script for understanding how all the pieces at the company should fit together and cohere as an underlying, point of leverage platform.
Like Ozzie, Fitzgerald makes the case for Microsoft being a platform of record. "Windows has a consistent model. Look at the Web with all the moving parts you have to spend time stitching together....You still have to make a decision about runtimes, tooling and other choices if you are not working on the Microsoft platform," he said. "People don't get that applications are evolving in a multi-headed way--browsers, local code on clients and servers, various devices, mashups of servers and services and code deployed on multiple physical tiers. Microsoft is pretty good at that and takes care to make sure it's not an all or nothing proposition. You can learn one technology and deliver solutions across different spaces."
He added that with a comprehensive platform Microsoft close loop between developers and designers. I noted that many designers prefer the Macintosh. Fitzgerald said one word--Parallels, the virtualization software that allows Windows to run on Macs.
So far Microsoft has done alright competing against Apache, PHP, Symbian, Apple, Sony and Nintendo across different business units. The Web platform, exemplified by Google, which can bypass the Windows environment and pushes the traditional operating system down the stack, is just Microsoft's latest challenge. On the rich Internet application front, Microsoft hopes that its Silverlight platform will bring developers focused on Adobe's Flash and Apollo into the fold, but old Flash habits will die hard.
On the subject of Microsoft's new Silverlight Streaming service, Fitzgerald said the primary value will be uploading high quality (HD) video content. "It's not a Web hosting or content delivery network or S3 (Amazon's cloud storage service). It's about the delivery of Silverlight apps, most likely rich media, using Silverlight or Windows media video. It's not a place for your pirated music on the Web," Fitzgerald said. It's also not a place for content that isn't connected to Silverlight.
With ads, users can have unlimited streaming for free, or ad free unlimited streaming for a "nominal" fee. However, the alpha service won't allow for much HD quality video. Storage and delivery is free for up to 4 gigabytes, with streaming at 700 kbps (DVD quality). As it moves through the beta cycle, Silverlight Streaming will allow up to 1 million minutes of free video streaming at 700 Kpbs per site per month. But, the video file must be smaller than 22 megabytes, which equates to a video stream of 10 minutes at 300 Kbps or less than 5 minutes at 700 kbps.
I asked Fitzgerald if one could extrapolate from the Silverlight Streaming storage service that Microsoft would offer more infrastructure as a services, such as compute services such as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. Fitzgerald brought up a number of issues, such and the economics of infrastructure as a service (can you make money), latency issues and service-level agreements. It's doesn't sound like cloud computing virtual grids is Microsoft's next big thing.