The Microsoft report

The Microsoft report

Microsoft crisscrossed the technology landscape last week like a drunken sailor, stopping to hoist pints in a variety of industry establishments, including telecom, messaging, desktop computing and mobile devices.

Meanwhile, the company's lawyers in Washington, DC, and Bridgeport, Connecticut, faced the sobering proceedings of antitrust litigation.

First stop for the software giant was the SuperComm '99 tradeshow in Atlanta. The bottom-line message from Microsoft president Steve Ballmer during his keynote was that software may be Microsoft's everyday drink, but telecommunications will become the jewel of its wine cellar. Although Microsoft won't join the telecommunications rat race as a service provider, it intends to supply as many chunks of cheese as possible, he said.

And as if scripted (wink, wink), Hewlett-Packard and Nortel Networks announced systems based on Windows NT that converge voice and data. HP and Microsoft said they would deliver 99.999 per cent uptime.

Sun officials snickered before announcing their own convergence platform -- on Solaris. The Redmond revellers also said that a group of telecommunications vendors, including FORE Systems, had formed a working group to create and promote application interfaces based on Microsoft's Component Object Model. After Sun snickered again, it announced its own initiatives -- based on Java.

Watson, my e-mail is down

Ballmer raised the voice theme again at SuperComm, this time saying the next version of Exchange Server, code-named Platinum, would focus on unified messaging. Although the concept of unified messaging has been around longer than trade show promises, it has failed to resonate. Microsoft will beat the drum using Platinum's Web Store to house voice and data messages and a new Super Long Value database format to offer streaming of large voice data files. Platinum also will support the Voice Profile for Internet Mail standard for unifying disparate voice mail systems.

A tip of the cap to IT

For those stuck in the boring world of data, Microsoft has shipped Office 2000. Although the company touted its new collaboration features, the suite actually includes a host of slick tools that cut deployment and management costs. The suite's Custom Installation Wizard controls configurations and installations, and the Office 2000 Language Pack "plug-ins" mean only a single code base needs to be deployed in an enterprise. The suite's applications also have a self-repairing feature. Now if it could only make the morning coffee.

Size doesn't matter but timing is everythingIn Denver, Microsoft must have gotten a little lightheaded in the thin air, because it announced a product at its CE Developers' Conference that won't even be in beta until early next year (if computing survives the millennium, that is). SQL Server for Windows CE is based on a subset of SQL Server APIs designed to provide a consistent set of tools to developers regardless of platform or form factor.

Can we be friends?

When Borland was Borland, Microsoft was an enemy. But since Borland is now Inprise the relationship is on the mend. Microsoft bought $US25 million of Inprise stock last week, and the two announced a wide-ranging partnership, including Inprise licensing Microsoft Foundation Classes for Inprise's C++ Builder. Microsoft also paid Inprise $US100 million for some patented technology and to bandage a number of festering licensing issues between the two. Ooo, that feels much better.

All rise

It got ugly this week during the Government's antitrust case against Microsoft when IBM executive Garry Norris took the stand. Norris, who negotiated IBM's Windows licensing agreements for its PC line, said Microsoft threatened to retaliate against PC makers that offered IBM's OS/2 and other applications, most notably Netscape's browser and Lotus' SmartSuite. Microsoft tried to discredit Norris on cross-examination but quickly drew the ire of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. And in Bridgeport, in an antitrust case brought by Bristol Technologies, expert witness Richard Langlois, a University of Connecticut economics professor, testified that Microsoft did build a monopoly in the workstation and server market with the help of a source-code licensing agreement with Bristol before terminating that licence. Microsoft calls it a mere contract dispute.

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