Linux on the Laptop

There’s an excellent article by Glyn Moody in Thursday’s Guardian. It’s about the ASUS Eee PC (which I want still, by the way), its likely effect on Microsoft, and lots of good points between.

The size of a paperback, weighing less than a kilogram, with built-in Wi-Fi and using Flash memory instead of a hard drive for storage, the Eee PC has been winning positive comments… it’s so small, the build quality is high, it boots up quickly, it just works… One thing that is almost never mentioned as a problem is the fact that the Eee PC is running not Windows, but a variant of GNU/Linux…

One of the signal achievements of the Asus Eee PC is that it has come up with a front end that hides the richness of the underlying GNU/Linux.

GNU/Linux has always been less successful on the desktop than on the server side. Now we see that it can work on the laptop, and not just for geeks. It requires less memory and storage than Windows, and much less than Vista. This is particularly important for the Eee PC, which uses flash memory.

More generally, solid state drives are a better fit for battery-powered devices than are disk drives, with their fragile and power-hungry moving parts. And solid state prices are falling quickly…

In fact, the article bears the rather lame title “Why falling Flash prices threaten Microsoft.” In my unbiased opinion, any of the following would have been a better title.

  • Hasta la Vista, Windows: Linux Eats Your Laptop Lunch
  • Linux Leaps to Laptop, Deferring Desktop Dominance
  • Linux on the Laptop

Top 5 Microsoft Internal Emails

There have been some great Microsoft-internal-then-leaked emails over the years. Todd Bishop, who blogs about Microsoft for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, picked his top 5 yesterday. Recent Vista-related emails show that Microsoft still has it.

But for me, you can’t beat the class Halloween documents. Here’s where the author asserts that OSS (Open Source Software) may be proof against the (FUD) (fear, uncertainly, and doubt) tactics for which Microsoft is well known.

Loosely applied to the vernacular of the software industry, a product/process is long-term credible if FUD tactics can not be used to combat it… OSS systems are considered credible because the source code is available from potentially millions of places and individuals.

The likelihood that Apache will cease to exist is orders of magnitudes lower than the likelihood that WordPerfect, for example, will disappear.

A tip of the hat to Matt Assay for the link, and for a typically even-handed assessment.

They illustrate that Microsoft has long been one of the most forward-thinking and self-aware companies in the business…but also one of the most threatened (and threatening).

Microsoft was first to spot the open-source threat. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t also recognize the open-source opportunity.

MicroHoosDay

The saga of Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo goes,as does the coverage. On Friday, Greene and Hof of Business Week described the game of chicken. Will Microsoft increase its offer or initiate a hostile takeover. Since I loves me some deadpan, I’ll share the following quote.

Pushing Microsoft is Bill Miller, a legendary fund manager whose Legg Mason (LM) firm owns 9% of Yahoo’s stock. Miller recently told his investors that he estimates Yahoo’s value at $40 a share. He encouraged Microsoft to sweeten its offer.

Yesterday, Kara Swisher had a very good piece on Yahoo’s board, and how each director seems to view Microsoft’s offer. The directors themselves might not share my opinion, given Kara’s use of phrases like “wake Yahoo’s directors from their persistent narcoleptic state” and “most directors… are pretty clueless and hands-off when it comes to the companies they are supposed to be overseeing.”

Then Mashable Stan interpreted some remarks by Bill Gates to mean that Microsoft will not raise the bid, and is quite prepared to spend its money elsewhere. His colleagues Adam and Kristen looked east, remarking on the possible involvement of Alibaba (China) and Yahoo! Japan respectively.

I still think that the deal with go through. I don’t think that Bill Miller’s fund is going to get a (Chinese) new year gift in the form of a better offer from Microsoft.

BigCo Banter

Just a few comments on goings-on at the web BigCos in the last week.

OpenID: BigCos on Board

This morning the OpenID Foundation announced that Google, IBM, Microsoft, VeriSign, and Yahoo! have joined the board. This is good news, since OpenID is good.

However, there are limits to the goodness of the news. As Michael Arrington points out:

OpenID looks like it’s going to be a winner, so big companies making their user accounts OpenID compatible is a good hedge. Everyone, of course, wants to be an ID issuer, since they get to “own” the user. Less attractive is allowing users from other sites to log into your services, so don’t expect that functionality to come for some time.

Yahoo, Not Acquired Yet

Takeover bid? What takeover bid? We’re just doing business as usual here at Yahoo!. Thus Stan refers to a couple of musical moves.

One is the closing of Yahoo Music Unlimited. YMU users will be able to migrate their libraries over to Rhapsody. However, as Duncan points out: The move itself may be short term with Yahoo users likely to be forwarded to the Zune marketplace if Microsoft’s acquisition of Yahoo is successful.

Y!’s other musical move is the acquisition to Foxytunes. Hence Y! isn’t changing its mind about the importance of online music; what it’s changing is emphasis. By the way, I like the Foxytunes plugin. I trust Yahoo not to mess it up, but I’m not so sure about Microsoft.

That’s similar to how I feel about Flickr. I am not alone in my fears for Flickr, although I have yet to join the group stridently named MICROSOFT: KEEP YOUR EVlL GRUBBY HANDS OFF OF OUR FLICKR.

I’ve seen several arguments that Yahoo will be able to fight off the Microsoft offer. Fred Wilson’s argument is one of the better supported.

But I just bet that Y! will accept Microsoft’s bid by February 8. I did so at the new Industry Standard, which includes a prediction market. I’m already annoyed with the Standard over niggling user interface details. For example, it took me multiple attempts to get through the signup screen. Once signed up, I spent some of my “$100,000” by entering “10,000.” I was told that my bid couldn’t include letters.

Microhoo

Danny Sullivan is working hard providing updates and analysis as things unfold. What things? In case you hadn’t heard, Microsoft has made a bid for Yahoo! It offered $31/share, which represents a value of $45B and a premium of 62%.

In its letter to the Yahoo! board, Microsoft identified four areas of synergy (I quote):

  • Scale economics: This combination enables synergies related to scale economics of the advertising platform where today there is only one competitor at scale. This includes synergies across both search and non-search related advertising.
  • Expanded R&D capacity.
  • Operational efficiencies: Eliminating redundant infrastructure and duplicative operating costs.
  • Emerging user experiences… such as video, mobile services, online commerce, social media, and social platforms.

At first glance, I find the first of these the most convincing. The second makes me reflect that Microsoft’s already huge R&D capacity produced Vista, while much of the software I like came from smaller, leaner organizations. Flickr is a case in point. I think that Yahoo! didn’t mess with Flickr, and I hope that Microsoft won’t.

“Operational efficiencies” mean more layoffs, in addition to the 1000 announced at Y! before the Microsoft bid. I’m not sure how many there might be, and how they might be distributed between the M and Y! sides. As for the last of the four areas: the buzzwords about “emerging user experiences” don’t add much to the case for the deal.

The Yahoo! board will give this offer very serious consideration. It would be hard to claim that Y! looks more ready to take on Microsoft and Google than it did when Jerry Yang took over as CEO six months ago.

To make more adventurous and premature predictions: the deal will go ahead; post-acquisition integration will be very difficult; Google doesn’t need to worry.

Update, to correct a couple of typos, and to note that Paul Kedrosky’s view is similar to mine, and he makes the Google point more vividly.

This is good news for Google, of course. It gives the company carte blanche for other large acquisitions, if needed, and, more importantly, it means that two elephants will be busily mating out back so that it can march merrily in the confusion to further share gains in both search and advertising.

Portadentity: All Right Then, Data Portability

Your portadentity is your identity, portable across web services. You probably haven’t heard the term before, because it just occurred to me, and Googling it yields no hits. The concept may well be familiar, since it has received a lot of coverage in the last month or so. A recent example comes from yesterday’s Financial Times.

It is a frustrating fact of modern internet life. Users of websites such as Facebook and Google spend hours building up and maintaining friend lists and e-mail address books, but when it comes time to move such social information to another online service they frequently find it impossible to get their data back out. Instead, they must start re-entering their personal details from scratch.

Another statement of the problem is the Smashcut video. It provides part of an argument for “data portability.” I don’t find that term very useful, but suspect that we are stuck with it, and regard it as a price worth paying for the achievements of the Data Portability Working Group (DPW).

At the heart of data portability is your identity. The DPW, consistent with its policy of using existing standards, uses OpenID for digital identity. Your OpenID, together with the data attached to it, is what I’d call your portadentity.

Today’s big news about the DPW is that Microsoft has joined. Read/Write Marshall reacts as follows. Microsoft’s joining the group is an event of sufficiently complex historical meaning that I’m hesitant to try and interpret it here. I won’t try to interpret it either.

I’m more inclined to spend my interpreting energies on Matt’s statement yesterday about Automattic’s vision of a better web not just in blogging, but expanding our investment in anti-spam, identity, wikis, forums, and more. I added the emphasis on identity.

Here’s what I hope Automattic will do about portadentity… all right, data portability.

  • Appoint someone to the DPW.
  • Make WordPress.com a consumer of OpenIDs. It’s currently a producer only.
  • Make it clear where Gravatars might fit in to all this.

DRM at the Home Movies

This year will, I hope, see the death of DRM. For an example of why it deserves to die, let’s go to the (home) movies, and to Seth of the EFF. The central character is Davis Freeberg, but his blog has been so busy it’s been down recently.

The trouble all started when Freeberg bought a new monitor for his Vista computer. When he decided to watch streaming movies from Netflix, Netflix documentation warned him that the recommended means of fixing a problem with DRM-restricted Netflix programming “may remove licenses to other content using Microsoft DRM” — including, in particular, restricted programming he had already purchased through Amazon Unbox…

Freeberg’s conundrum is likely the product of… (mis)features that have been added to Microsoft’s Vista operating system… Unfortunately, these kinds of (mis)features generally (1) don’t stop pirates and (2) result in compatibility headaches for paying customers.

Microsoft Invests in Facebook

The big story of the moment is Microsoft’s paying $240M and taking a 1.6% stake in Facebook. The WSJ states that this represents a $15 billion valuation. I don’t agree. It’s not the arithmetic I disagree with, it’s the implication that Microsoft or anyone else considers Facebook worth $15B. What the deal means is that Microsoft considers it worth almost a quarter of a billion dollars for a small slice of Facebook plus a larger slice of the advertising on Facebook.

Read/Write Richard states that Microsoft won out over Google. I think that the real winner here is Facebubble. The nature of Microsoft’s victory remains to be seen.