Sunday, May 30, 2010

Microsoft Reshuffling Server and Tools Org

Microsoft plans to enable closer ties between its systems management and endpoint security teams. In addition, Microsoft will move its identity and federation security efforts closer to its online services efforts.

Effective on July 1 (the start of Microsoft's fiscal year), Microsoft's Forefront team responsible for endpoint security protection will become part of the System Center development team. Specifically, the endpoint protection team will be part of the STB's Management and Services Division overseen by Brad Anderson.

Anderson was promoted to corporate vice president of the Management and Services Division in July of last year. However, Microsoft's bio now lists him with a different title: Corporate vice president of the Management and Security Division. The change, announced on Wednesday in a Microsoft blog, is a little confusing since Anderson is still described in the blog post as leading the Management and Services Division.

At the 2009 Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas, Anderson described what the Management and Services Division does and the technologies involved.

"You should think about our group as responsible for all of the manageability and all the management technology that comes out from Microsoft," Anderson said, in a keynote talk transcript. "So the underlying technology in Windows, that's PowerShell and WMI and WS management, group policy, Windows update, all the desktop optimization pack and System Center. We think about this as one cohesive set of capabilities."

The endpoint protection team is currently led by General Managers Amnon Horowitz and Vinny Gullotto. This team has been working on integrating Microsoft's Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 product with its System Center Configuration Manager solution. Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 checks for security threats at the file, application and network layers within a Windows environment.

Microsoft plans to release Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 in the second half of this year. A beta is expected to appear in the third quarter of 2010, but Microsoft plans to describe more about the product at its June Tech-Ed North America event, according to this blog.

Microsoft also plans to bolster its STB efforts by moving the development team associated with identity, access and application security to the STB's Business Online Services Group. Lee Nackman, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Identity and Security Division, and his development team will join the Business Online Services Group. That group is led by David Thompson, corporate vice president of Microsoft Online.

This latter organizational move aims to address the use of identity and federation technologies with Internet cloud-based services, according to Thompson.

"Security and identity are core to Microsoft's efforts to help customers realize the benefits of cloud computing," Thompson explained in Microsoft's announcement. "Today's changes better align our engineering teams so customers get better experiences with Microsoft online services."

The announcement of the organizational changes was attributed to Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's STB.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Microsoft Should Get a Tablet Partner, Report Says

Microsoft's Windows consumer empire is at stake if it doesn't quickly find a tablet device manufacturing partner.

Such is the advice that comes from Forrester Research in a report published today, called "The Windows 7 Tablet Imperative." The report sees a menacing trend ahead for Microsoft, even though 90 percent of U.S. online consumers surveyed late last year by Forrester said that they were running some version of Windows on their home computer.

Many thought Microsoft already had a tablet OEM partner with Hewlett-Packard. In January, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the HP Slate tablet device running Windows 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. However, since that time, Microsoft has said little about its plans, and subsequent press reports have stated that the Slate project was killed (unconfirmed by Forrester).

Inquiries sent today to Microsoft on the status of the HP Slate project did not produce any definitive answers by press time. An HP spokesperson stated via e-mail on Thursday that "we're not disclosing additional information at this time." However, HP's purchase of Palm, announced in late April, and HP's plans to create its own tablet device using Palm's webOS may have complicated partnership plans with Microsoft on the Slate device.

In any case, Forrester's report urges Microsoft to find a tablet device OEM hardware partner fast or the company risks losing its Windows consumer market. Threats include Apple's iPad, in which one million devices were sold in the first month of its release. Google Chrome OS, planned for release on netbooks later this year, is another potential threat. Chrome OS will bypass Windows altogether and all applications will be accessed over the Internet.

The lesson Microsoft must learn, according to Forrester, is that a full-featured Windows OS is not required on smaller form factors and is actually a problem in terms of the user experience. Instead, Forrester advises that Microsoft should adopt a "curated computing" approach with its device-based operating systems. The analogy is that Microsoft should limit user choice and make the experience more relevant to a small device. Like a curator in a museum, Microsoft should select only the art objects that enhance the user's experience.

Microsoft may have accomplished this sort of limited user interface with Kin, the company's new mobile phone. Forrester argues that Microsoft could leverage parts of the user interfaces in its Kin and Zune products for the new tablet device.

Apple's runaway iPad market share can still be attacked if Microsoft were to link up its technologies, according to a Forrester blog post. Microsoft can sync a future tablet device using a Windows OS with the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming device, creating a digital entertainment hub in the home. Future applications might include using the tablet device to stream TV to Xbox consoles, according to Forrester.

In late April, Microsoft told some media outlets that it had cancelled its plans for a dual-screen Courier tablet device. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that long-time executives were leaving its Entertainment and Devices Division, including J. Allard who had fostered the Courier device.

The executive shakeup came as Microsoft was edged out by Apple in market capitalization. Many have interpreted this financial turnabout as further confirmation that Microsoft's consumer Windows market grip may be starting to loosen, or at least Wall Street has that concept.

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Cloud Takes Different Shapes for Two Exchange 2010 Deals

Many organizations are grappling with whether to offload the hosting of their e-mail system to a vendor such as Google or Microsoft, to a third-party-hoster or to go with a premises-based managed services offering. Two enterprises -- both with nearly 20,000 users -- this week said they are taking diverging paths to deploying large Microsoft Exchange 2010-based networks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is displacing an underperforming hosted Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 service with a private-cloud deployment of Exchange Server 2010. Simultaneously Microsoft announced that the University of Arizona is going the other route -- it has decided to standardize on Redmond's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) to provide 18,000 faculty and employees with e-mail and scheduling services.

Neither are blockbuster deals but they underscore the decisions many organizations looking to upgrade their aging e-mail systems are confronting and the different paths they are choosing. "It really is something that has to be taken on a case-by-case basis," said Scott Gode, a vice president at Azaleos Corp., which won a $3.4 million bid to manage the CDC's new Exchange Server 2010 platform over the next year, with an option for another year.

Seattle-based Azaleos offers managed Exchange services in which the e-mail system resides on the customer's premises, while Azaleos manages the messaging platform on behalf of those enterprises. Gode believes the CDC deployment is one of the largest Exchange 2010 deals to date outside those rolled out via Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program (TAP).

"We think it's one of the largest, if not the largest, Exchange 2010 deployments in a private cloud architecture so far," Gode said in an interview. Azaleos will transition the CDC from an Exchange Server 2003 deployment archived by IXOS (recently acquired by enterprise content management vendor Open Text Corp.), according to the request for proposals (RFP).

"The CDC has experienced issues with stability, performance and adaptability with the hosted mail system -- including the IXOS archival platform," the RFP stated. "CDC anticipates the new system to be flexible, expandable, reliable, and provide high-performance metrics."

In addition to Exchange Server 2010, the new platform will consist of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and SANs based on EMC storage, which will replace the IXOS archiving platform. Azaleos will provide monitoring and availability services and is expected to provide 99.9 percent uptime, the RFP noted.

"They took a specific strategic decision to bring it in-house to establish their own sort of on-premise cloud," Gode said. "While Microsoft is pushing [with BPOS] to make it more public, in the case of CDC, they're going in a reverse direction in trying to bring it more under control."

By comparison, the University of Arizona determined that controlling an Exchange implementation would be too costly and would take up too many internal resources, said CIO Michele Norin, in an interview. "We were considering standing up our own Exchange environment and decided against that," she said.

The cost of deploying Exchange Server 2010 for its campuses would have exceeded $1 million on top of unspecified annual costs, she said. The BPOS service will cost about $500,000 per year.

The University of Arizona had first considered going with Google Apps -- the platform used by the students -- but when the IT organization compared it with BPOS, the Google platform lacked certain capabilities, such as mobile features allowing employees to delegate their calendars. "BPOS had an advantage," Norin said.

For Microsoft the win is a minor but notable coup as Google Apps continues to gain momentum by partners and customers alike, as reported this month.

Norin said the system was procured through Dell Services, which provides the university's Microsoft Campus Agreement through a state contract. В It will be rolled out in the Fall, she said.


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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Apple Found To Be Worth More Than Microsoft

Apple Inc.'s market capitalization on Wednesday surpassed that of Microsoft Corp., signifying that the Cupertino, Calif.-based maker of iPods, iPads and Mac computers is a more valuable company.

The market cap for Apple weighed in at $222.12 billion, while Microsoft's trailed at $219.18 billion, according to Wall Street estimates. However, Microsoft has more cash at hand, estimated at $35.7 billion for Microsoft vs. Apple's $23 billion, according to the New York Times.

Still, it was almost 13 years ago that Apple appeared with hat in hand, seemingly at the mercy of the Microsoft colossus. Back then, in August of 1997, Bill Gates (Microsoft's CEO at the time) bailed out Apple with a $150 million investment. Gates appeared onstage at MacWorld with Apple founder Steve Jobs to make that announcement. The deal was associated with Microsoft's promise to continue to develop software for Apple's Mac.

Wednesday's financial turnabout comes after Apple's strong showing in the consumer mobile computing market. Microsoft, on the other hand, continues to make the bulk of its revenues from its Windows operating system and Office, with a firm presence in the small-to-medium business software markets. Microsoft's recent quarterly financial reports still show consumer sales of Windows 7 buttressing the company. Businesses have been slower to adopt the new OS.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced management changes at its Entertainment and Devices Division. The move wasn't billed by Microsoft as a reorganization of its consumer division per se, but long-time executives Robbie Bach and J. Allard will be leaving the company. The changes at the top come even as Microsoft rolled out new consumer-oriented products, such as its Kin mobile phones in partnership with device-maker Sharp. Devices based on the new Windows Phone 7 OS are planned for release this holiday season, as well as Project Natal-based games for Microsoft Xbox.

Microsoft still sees itself as a software company that maintains partnerships with device makers. However, Apple's strategy has been notably different as the company maintains a firm control over both the software and hardware used in its products. Apple's strategy frees it from having to produce software for a variety of devices and form factors, unlike Microsoft.

Microsoft and Apple both face challenges from Google, which has been gaining strength in the consumer mobile space. Android, an open source mobile OS developed by Google, now ranks second among the most used mobile OSes, displacing Apple's iPhone OS, according to a recent study. RIM's OS for Blackberry devices hold first place.

In addition, Google has used the consumer space to slowly attack Microsoft's two cash cows -- Windows and Office -- in the small-to-medium business market. Google Apps are free to consumers but are offered as a paid service to businesses. Google touts its Apps Premium Edition service as low-cost substitute for Microsoft Office, while Microsoft disputes the claim.

Microsoft's second major threat may arise toward the end of this year, which is when new netbooks are expected to begin appearing using Google's Chrome OS. Google's new operating system supposedly would not require Windows, or any other OS, to run applications, which will all be hosted and accessed over the Internet.

Some industry observers, such as Joe Wilcox, are now claiming that "the Windows era is over," especially with the increasing popularity of mobile computing and the rise of cloud-delivered services. According to his view, Apple's market cap rise just confirms the fact that this shift is happening.

Wilcox also cited Microsoft's straying partner power, with Intel deciding to support Macs in 2006. In addition, long-time Microsoft partner HP announced the acquisition of Palm in late April, with plans to build mobile tablet devices using Palm's webOS. In January at the Consumer Electronics Show, the talk then was that HP would build a Slate tablet running Windows 7, but such talk has since disappeared. The Slate was to be Microsoft's challenge to Apple's iPad.

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IBM Acquires Sterling Commerce

IBM today said it has agreed to acquire Sterling Commerce, a supplier of software that performs large scale business-to-business transactions, from AT&T for $1.4 billion.

One best known as a leading provider of electronic data interchange (EDI) software, Dublin, Ohio-based Sterling Commerce processes large volumes of transactions between b-to-b trading partners through public and private networks and cloud-based exchanges.

Sterling was acquired in 2000 by AT&T, then known as SBC Communications. But as AT&T is now focusing more on broadband communications and wireless services, observers say Sterling was less strategic to the carrier.

Meanwhile, for IBM, Sterling compliments its WebSphere Commerce server portfolio. Sterling said it has 18,000 customers, including large banks, telcos and retailers. "This is a big customer acquisition," said Altimeter analyst Ray Wang, in an interview. "These are typically the largest clients that are looking at scaling issues here, so when you fit that into the IBM portfolio by vertical, then you can see a lot of synergies happening."

On a conference call announcing the deal, Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM Software Group's WebSphere business, said IBM will bring Sterling into the WebSphere suite, and layer Big Blue's rules management, analytics and business process management software into Sterling's software.

"We will now be able to offer clients the flexibility of managing their business partner networks in their own premises under traditional enterprise model or through a cloud computing delivery model -- something we believe is very appealing to a large number of our customers," Hayman said.

IBM said it expects the deal to close in the second half of this year, pending regulatory approvals.

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Ballmer Thumbprints Seen in Microsoft E&D Shakeup

Microsoft is shaking up its Entertainment and Devices Division (E&D) with the departures of two veteran executives.

The reorganization at the top is widely viewed as an effort by Microsoft to rev up its gaming and mobile business segments. Per Microsoft's announcement on Tuesday, Robbie Bach, president of the E&D, and J. Allard, senior vice president of design and development at the E&D, will be leaving Microsoft.

Bach will be retiring but will stay on through the fall to ease the transition. Microsoft didn't announce a replacement for Bach. Allard will switch to an outside advisory role, according to Microsoft.В 

Don Mattrick, senior vice president at Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, will stay on in that role. Andy Lees will continue to head the Mobile Communications Business. Both will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, beginning on July 1.

Microsoft also announced that David Treadwell, corporate vice president of Live Platform Services, will be moving to a new position. Treadwell will lead the core technology organization at Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business segment, reporting to Mattrick.

The organizational moves may give Ballmer a firmer hand at the E&D, according to Rob Enderle, analyst at the Enderle Group.

"Steve is going to step in and fix something that's been very wrong at Microsoft for a long time," Enderle said, in a telephone interview. "The Entertainment Division at Microsoft has been a drain on other much more profitable divisions in the company, and with analysts now predicting Apple overtaking Microsoft in valuation (market cap) in the near future, Steve is going to take a very personal interest in the future of its offerings."

The E&D is responsible for products such as Xbox, Zune, and mobile offerings such as Windows Phone 7 and Kin. According to Enderle, Zune is a distant number two to Apple's iPod. The new line of phones is not competing well with offerings from Apple and Google, and Xbox is "in decline," he added.

"This is the division that introduced proprietary hardware into the Microsoft mix, and it has pissed off a lot of OEMs," Enderle said. "Microsoft had built solid relationships with its OEMs over the years, and products such as Xbox went to the core of relationships with Dell and HP that profit from making machines for high-end gaming."

Whether the reorganization will change the offerings from the E&D is yet to be determined, according to Michael Gartenberg, a partner with Altimeter Group.

"Right now, we can't say whether this move will be good, bad or indifferent because we don't know who all the players are and who they will be reporting to," noted Gartenberg, in a telephone interview. "They have put some placeholders in, but until we see who is doing what, it's hard to say."

Both Gartenberg and Enderle agree that change within the division was inevitable, given the competition in the space.

"Microsoft is enduring major competition in the consumer market, and it's imperative for them to stay focused with their mobile efforts as well as other consumer-facing products," Gartenberg noted.

Enderle said the tension the division brought to Microsoft "torqued" company officials to make the move.

"I never felt comfortable with this division because it was basically living off of other divisions and really torpedoing Microsoft's legacy business, which is selling software," Enderle said. "I think, overall, it's going to be a good thing for the company, but it's hard to say. It should have happened six or seven years ago."

Both Bach and Allard had long careers at Microsoft. Bach, a 22-year veteran, led the E&D since its inception in 2005. Allard, who spent 19 years with the company, was the driving force behind products such as Xbox, Zune and Kin.

Microsoft also tucked in a few other executive moves in its announcement. Antoine Leblond, senior vice president in the Office Productivity Applications Group, will serve as senior vice president at the Windows Web Services team. Kurt DelBene, senior vice president in the Office Business Productivity Group, gets additional work overseeing "all of the engineering responsibilities for the Office business," according to Microsoft's announcement.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

VMware's SpringSource Partners with Google on Cloud Computing

VMware and Google are joining forces to make life easier for developers aiming their apps at the cloud.

The two companies announced this week a series of collaborations that will enable Java developers to use Google and VMware tools on cloud apps and deployments of Spring Java applications on the Google App Engine.

VMware CEO Paul Maritz unveiled the collaboration plan this week during a keynote at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco.

"Companies are actively looking to move toward cloud computing," Maritz said. "They are certainly attracted by the economic advantages associated with cloud, but increasingly are focused on the business agility and innovation promised by cloud computing…. VMware and
Google are aligning to reassure our mutual customers and the Java community that choice and portability are of utmost importance to both companies. We will work to ensure that modern applications can run smoothly within the firewalls of a company's datacenter or out in the public cloud environment."

The collaboration plan includes new support for Spring Java apps on the Google App Engine; combining the capabilities of Spring Roo, a next generation rapid application development tool, with the Google Web Toolkit (GWT); and tighter integration of VMware's Spring Insight performance tracing technology and Google's Speed Tracer.

"Google needs an ecosystem, and VMware is moving to create a larger stack for a cloud computing platform, so it makes sense that these two companies would try find ways to be complementary," said Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. "But beyond that there's an implicit acknowledgement here by Google that Spring is an important development framework, and that the community around it is essential for the cloud ecosystem that Google wants."

"We're not going to see one-cloud-fits all when it comes to application development and deployment," Gardner added. "We're going to see domains around specific development frameworks, toolsets, IDEs, and environments. And they will need to find their own way to the cloud. If you're developing cloud capabilities like Google is, you're going to be careful to pick and chose how you crawl walk and run toward the right platforms, formats, standards, communities, etc. They're clearly saying that they think Spring is a front runner, and we're going to make sure that the Spring community knows and likes Google's cloud services."

VMware also recently partnered with software-as-a-service provider to build a platform, dubbed VMforce, for building and running Java applications in the cloud. The new platform combines VMware's vSphere virtualization platform, the SpringSource Java development framework, and Salesforce's cloud computing platform.

The Salesforce and Google partnerships indicate that VMware wants to provide the "picks and shovels" to the cloud providers, but does not want to become a cloud provider itself. "That's a very interesting and savvy approach," he said. "Microsoft and IBM are providing the picks and shovels, but also the clouds. We should probably expect the same thing from Oracle and a few others. It remains to be seen how effective a do-it-all approach will be. VMware's ecumenical approach allows them to work with any pure cloud provider."

Google also unveiled a new version of its App Engine, called App Engine for Business.

The App Engine is a suite of the tools and services for building and scaling Web apps on Google's infrastructure. Applications developed using the App Engine Software Development Kit (SDK) can be uploaded and hosted by Google. Those apps can then utilize Google's bandwidth and computing power. The new Business version is designed to allow companies to build and maintain their own apps on Google's infrastructure. App Engine for Business adds features designed to make it easy for enterprise developers to build apps that are secure by default and easy to scale as traffic and data storage needs grow.

"Google's App Engine for Business offering basically says, you don't have to look under the covers," explained Frank Gillett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. "We'll take your Spring app, make it scale, and you don't have to think about it. It's platform-as-a-service for the Spring Framework on Google's infrastructure."

Google is aiming the new version of its App Engine squarely at companies building their businesses in the cloud. According to Google, it supports "internal applications used by individuals, teams, or the entire company;" as well as "external applications such as the company website, public web services, customer-facing or partner-facing applications, or even the company's product."

Gillett isn't so sure that VMware will stick to the tools and stay out of the cloud-provider business. "They might run their own instance just to get the experience and knowledge that comes from running it," he said. "Microsoft is very clear that operating your software on behalf of your customers is a good learning exercise, a good way to learn about your software. So I wouldn't be surprised to see VMware offering its own version down the road."

A preview of the App Engine for Business is currently available now by invitation. Sign up here to get invited.

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Microsoft Offers Dev Tools for Outlook

Microsoft today released two new open source tools to help developers take advantage of the .PST file format that's used in the Outlook e-mail client app.

The tools, released on the Microsoft CodePlex open source portal, include the .PST Data Structure View Tool and the .PST File Format Software Development Kit. Both are available under the open source Apache 2.0 license.

The first tool is mostly for educational purposes, providing a graphical user interface that shows the internal data structure of .PST files, according to Daniel Ko, a Microsoft Outlook development manager, in a Microsoft-produced video. The second tool, File Format SDK, provides a library of source code and high-level APIs that developers can use to build their own applications.

The SDK can be used to support data migration scenarios to move .PST files from one platform to another, according to Ko. It can also help facilitate searches for particular content in the .PST files, such as might be used in e-discovery software for legal purposes. Ko also explained that developers could use the SDK to check outbound e-mail content, such as might be used in corporate compliance software. He also drew a whiteboard sketch showing how photos saved in the .PST file format could be extracted and used for a cloud-based photo album, or some other type of application.

The kit currently lets developers read the data in a .PST file. However, Microsoft is working on a capability in the kit that would enable writing to .PST files too, according to Ko.

In essence, the tools will better enable third-party software developers to build e-discovery and data migration solutions for use with Outlook, according to Sheri McLeish, an information and knowledge management analyst at Forrester Research.

"What they're enabling is easier access to those [.PST] files to scan them for issues around e-discovery potentially, or to migrate or move them to other new hardware devices or locations," McLeish said by phone. "So it's really an enabler and a continuing effort on the part of Microsoft to make that [.PST file format] more portable and open."

Microsoft decided to release these two tools to supplement about 200 pages of documentation on the .PST file format that the company has already released as part of its "open specification promise." This initiative, announced in February of 2008, opens up the documentation of file formats and APIs used with a number of Microsoft's applications. According to William Kennedy, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Office communications and forms, Microsoft has published more than 33,000 pages of these technical documents, which help third-party developers interoperate with Microsoft's products.

"While the .pst file format previously required a Microsoft Outlook license to access, the documentation and tools obviate that need, enabling greater interoperability with the data than ever before," Kennedy, explained in a Microsoft blog.

The SDK adds to existing developer tools. Previously, developers had access to the data in a .PST file through the "Messaging Application Programming Interface and the Outlook Object Model," according to Microsoft's announcement.

The new tools will help Microsoft's partners as well as its competitors. However, Microsoft benefits too because the tools will aid migrations to different Office versions, McLeish said.

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Supreme Court Rejects Microsoft Appeal in Alcatel-Lucent Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected reviewing a ruling that found Microsoft had infringed a patent owned by Alcatel-Lucent.

The focus of the case is an Alcatel-Lucent patent, referred to as the "Day" patent, which includes a method of entering information into fields on a computer screen. Alcatel-Lucent claims that Microsoft's Outlook calendar and other programs illegally used this technology.

According to Alcatel-Lucent's complaint, Microsoft infringed on the patent with methods used in Money, Outlook and Windows Mobile. One feature called out in the complaint was the date picker used in Outlook's calendar. Microsoft argued (PDF) that the Day patent, filed by three computer engineers at AT&T in 1986, was invalid for being anticipated or obvious. Even if the patent were valid, sales of Microsoft products did not infringe the patent, according to Microsoft's defense.

Lucent originally initiated patent litigation in 2002 against Gateway, with Microsoft joining the case. However, the key action leading to Microsoft's appeal before the Supreme Court was a September 2009 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which upheld a lower court's patent infringement ruling.

At that same time, the Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the damages portion back to a lower court. The Court of Appeals found that the $358 million in damages the jury awarded to Alcatel-Lucent lacked sufficient evidentiary support.

The hearing concerning the damages portion of the trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 3 in San Diego at the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Southern California.

The Court of Appeals focused primarily on Outlook, rather than Money and Windows Mobile, which also were in question. The Court said that because infringement by Outlook was not supported by evidence and a new trial on damages was required, the lower court or a jury would have to assess infringement on the other software.

The Court of Appeals noted that infringement only occurred when the Outlook date picker was used to fill out a form. Moreover, the damages award ought to correlate with the degree to which the infringing method was utilized, the court said. Alcatel-Lucent had argued that it was owed damages representing eight percent of the revenue of Microsoft's sales.

The case is just one of a number of patent infringement cases the two companies have filed against each since 2002, including cases focusing on the MP3 format, communications technology and digital speech compression, CNET has noted.

In November 2008, Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent settled most of their patent litigation, though financial terms were not disclosed.

In the Court of Appeals ruling, the Day patent is described as including a method of entering information into fields on a computer screen without using a keyboard. The system may display menus of information for filling in a particular field and also may be adapted to communicate with a host computer. Also, one of the displayed fields can be filled in by writing on the touch screen with a stylus.

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Microsoft Sues Salesforce, Alleging Patent Violations

Microsoft filed a lawsuit against rival software-as-a-service company, alleging nine patent infringements.

Microsoft's lawsuit lists nine of its U.S. patents, covering broad invention concepts. The complaint, filed on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, can be accessed here (PDF download). offers customer relationship management (CRM) software via its platform, providing sales and contact management software to organizations over the Internet via its server farms. The company competes directly with Microsoft, which offers the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online service, as well as a customer premises-based version of the product.

While the two companies compete in the CRM market, Microsoft's complaint is more general. The patents alleged to have been infringed cover such concepts as user interface controls, timing controls for graphically displayed information, data mapping, Web site creation using Active Server Pages-based applications and remote computer access.

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, pointed to's CRM product as the culprit while citing more general intellectual property (IP) claims.

"Microsoft has been a leader and innovator in the software industry for decades and continues to invest billions of dollars each year in bringing great software products and services to market," Gutierrez said in a released statement. "We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard that investment, and therefore cannot stand idly by when others infringe our IP rights."

A spokesperson for stated on Wednesday that the company had no comment on Microsoft's lawsuit.

Microsoft typically strives to settle IP matters out of court rather than sue, according to Roger Kay, president and founder of market analyst firm Endpoint Technology Associates, commenting on Microsoft's recent settlement with mobile device maker HTC. At the time of the HTC settlement, Guitierrez commented that patent battles in the mobile space are shifting more toward general functionality and away from the earlier IP battles over radio technologies.

Another notable legal action by Microsoft in the mobile space also had nothing to do with radio patents. Microsoft settled with GPS mobile device maker TomTom in late March 2009 over its old File Allocation Table technology.

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Shavlik Blasts Patch Management Into the Cloud

Patch-management pioneer and long-time Microsoft partner Shavlik Technologies LLC revealed this week new cloud offerings that the company will use to distribute patch data and IT-management applications rapidly to customers.

Shavlik Technologies is introducing two cloud platforms: PatchCloud and OpsCloud. PatchCloud is a Web-based distribution method that can send patch data to millions of endpoints in minutes. It uses Shavlik Technologies' NetPt agent, which is part of the company's NetChk line of applications, and also integrates with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, VMware's Update Manager and VMware Go platforms.

OpsCloud, which shares an underlying technology infrastructure with PatchCloud, offers SMBs cloud access to a range of IT-management applications. The new platform's Web site ( gives IT pros access to apps that handle asset management, software management and patch management, among other capabilities. The site also offers access to the VMware Go platform, which IT pros can use to deploy, migrate and manage ESXi virtual environments.

Mark Shavlik, CEO of Shavlik Technologies, said that the new platforms are ideally suited for companies that have hybrid cloud and on-premises environments -- which, at this point, includes just about every company that has any cloud-based infrastructure at all.

After some initial hesitation about creating cloud-based platforms, Shavlik came to see the advantages of cloud development: "I didn't think [the cloud] was right for us," Shavlik said in an in-person interview. "What convinced me was how rapidly we could innovate because of it. We can respond to the market very quickly."

For instance, he said, the new cloud platforms aid customers with deployment. Companies have long had issues setting up Web servers to use Shavlik Technologies' applications -- problems the company simply can't solve for every customer it has, Shavlik said.

But with the cloud, issues with Web servers disappear: "I can't fly a person around to set up a Web server" for every customer, Shavlik said. But now, he noted, "The cloud does that for them. Deployment efficiencies are important." Shavlik added that while a deployment might take a year on-premises, a similar deployment takes just six weeks in the cloud.

In creating PatchCloud and OpsCloud, Shavlik Technologies didn't just port its on-premises application to a cloud-based platform. The company actually built its cloud platforms from the ground up -- and separately from its on-premises offerings, Shavlik said.

Shavlik estimated that cloud development is a process that takes 18 months to 3 years. "For the first six months, you debate whether it's right or wrong and fight the forces of old school," he said. After that, Shavlik said, vendors need 18 to 24 months to figure out "how [they're] going to do it."

Shavlik has brought on a new team of developers into his company of about 100 employees for the cloud effort, he said. He expressly instructed his new charges not to build cloud versions of the company's existing technologies but to come up with completely new ideas. His only rule, Shavlik said, was: "We can do anything we want except what we already do." В В В В В В В В В 

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Google Goes Open Source With WebM, VP8 Codec

Google announced on Wednesday that it has released its VP8 video codec into open source under the WebM open Web media project.

The VP8 codec can be used to run video in Web browsers and devices and brings a second codec into open source after Ogg Theora. VP8 will be released under a "BSD-style, royalty-free license," according to Google's announcement.

Currently, H.264 may be the most widely used video codec. However, the right to use it commercially and in the public sphere is managed by a consortium of patent owners under the MPEG LA group.

The new WebM project consists of three basic elements. One of them is VP8, a codec that Google developed after acquiring intellectual property from On2 Technologies in February for about $125 million. The second component is the open source audio codec Vorbis. Finally, there's a media container based on the Matroska open source media container.

Google's announcement of WebM and VP8 as open source code comes after much discussion elicited by Microsoft's announcement late last month to support the proprietary H.264 codec natively in its forthcoming Internet Explorer 9 Web browser. Microsoft was a late-comer in announcing video codec support for HTML 5 video technology, which will be a big feature of IE 9 when it's released (IE 9 currently is at the pre-alpha test stage).

Microsoft has since clarified earlier this month that IE 9 will support other video codecs as plug-ins to the browser. On Wednesday, Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer, added further clarification, indicating that IE 9 will support Google's VP8 video codec, but only if the codec is installed on Windows.

"In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec on Windows," Hachamovitch wrote in the IE blog.

Various companies working on Worldwide Web Consortium HTML 5 committees have been helping to iron out the details of the HTML 5 specification, which may be 10 years away from being ratified as an actual standard. However, an agreement to use specific video codecs with HTML 5 was never reached at the W3C.

In that standards vacuum, browser makers have rallied around different video codecs. Microsoft and Apple (Safari) favor H.264 for their browsers, and they also hold some intellectual property rights to that codec under the MPEG LA consortium. Google supports its own VP8, Ogg Theora and H.264 in its Chrome browser. Mozilla (Firefox) and Opera Software (Opera) support Ogg Theora and now VP8, but they have rejected H.264 due to potential licensing costs.

Mozilla announced on Wednesday that it has joined WebM and voiced its support for Google's move to release VP8 as open source code without royalties for its use. Opera Software also announced its support for the WebM video format in a blog post on Wednesday.

Adobe plans to support VP8 in the Adobe Flash Player in a forthcoming release, the company announced on Wednesday. The Flash Player also supports the H.264 video codec. Adobe claims that 75 percent of videos viewed online uses its Flash Player. Adobe has long supported Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser with a plug-in Flash component. However, Apple has rejected Flash for use in its various products, including Safari and mobile devices.

One of the promises of HTML 5 video technology is that plug-ins like Flash will no longer be needed to view video over the Web.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Symantec to Acquire VeriSign's Security Biz

Continuing its buying spree, Symantec Corp. has agreed to acquire VeriSign's identity and authentication business, which includes SSL Certificate and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) services, for $1.28 billion in cash.

The deal, announced by both companies Wednesday and expected to close by September, will broaden Symantec's security portfolio making it a leading player in identity management and PKI services.

"Our business is about securing and managing information, but without the central theme of identity, we weren't able to provide the total solution," said Symantec president and CEO Enrique Salem, speaking on a conference call with analysts announcing the deal. "Now with the VeriSign security business … is going to allow us to ultimately create what I think is the most important thing, which is the user matters and the information matters. Devices and applications, quite frankly, they're irrelevant."

The acquisition of VeriSign's security business is the latest in a spate of deals by Symantec. Late last month, the company agreed to acquire PGP Corp. and GuardianEdge Technologies Inc., both leading providers of e-mail encryption software. Salem told analysts that the two deals and VersiSign are intended to give Symantec much-need platform of encryption and identity management software and services.

"The combination of our strong authentication of users with Symantec’s e-mail and data encryption capabilities from its pending acquisition of PGP will enable customers to obtain a solution suite from a single vendor to protect information at rest, information in motion, information in use and ensure that only authorized users can access this information," said Atri Chatterjee, VeriSign's senior vice president of user authentication.

In acquiring VeriSign's security business, Symantec gains its platform for providing SSL certificates, PKI services, the VeriSign Trust Services and the VeriSign Identity Protection (VIP) authentication service. Sites that have the VeriSign check mark using VeriSign's SSL's certificates are certified as legitimate and safe to conduct transactions with. The VeriSign check mark means the company has certified the authenticity of a site and allows for encrypted transactions using its SSL certificates.

The recently launched VeriSign Trust Seal is aimed at certifying that a Web site has passed malware scans. It is intended for sites that are non-transactional.

By acquiring VeriSign's security business, Symantec will be taking on RSA, which is the security division of EMC, and supplier of a broad portfolio of authentication and identity management infrastructure, notably SecurID, said Scott Crawford, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. "Symantec remains the vendor to beat in terms of security leadership, both in the consumer and enterprise space" Crawford said in an interview.

Symantec said it intends to cross-sell the VeriSign portfolio across its product line but most notably via its Data Loss Protection platform (DLP) and the Norton Internet Security suite. For Salem, adding identity management to its portfolio of data protection and security wares fills a key gap across all segments from consumers to large enterprises.

"It's really about us acknowledging very, very clearly that to be successful with our vision of securing and managing information, we have to be able to secure identities," Salem said. "Without that we're not able to provide a complete solution. In many ways I can tell a clear simpler story by bringing in this capability instead of having to continually answer why we are not in a position to effectively protect identities."

Report: Windows 7 Gaining Corporate Adoption

A report issued on Wednesday by Forrester Research chronicles the declining use of Windows XP, as well as Internet Explorer 6, as staples of the corporate desktop.

According to the report, this decline will start happening as aging PCs running XP begin to be replaced with new ones running Windows 7. This PC refresh cycle with Windows 7 may begin as early as mid-2010 in the enterprise segment. Organizations are currently determining their upgrade strategies and looking at client virtualization solutions as they prepare for a new operating system and browser, according to the report.

Windows 7 is tied to IE 8 as the recommended Microsoft browser. Consequently, Forrester suggests that organizations ensure that their Web apps designed for older browsers, such as IE 6, be updated to support IE 8. Alternatively, organization should consider using application virtualization to help these older Web apps run on Windows 7 without conflicts with other applications.

IT organizations should be off XP and IE 6 by the end of 2012, according to Forrester. However, the report warns that software vendors probably will stop supporting these products long before Microsoft ends its support. Microsoft has indicated that it will end support for Windows XP Service Pack 3 on April 8, 2014.

The report also recommends that organizations using Windows Vista should move to Windows 7 Service Pack 1 when it is released later this year. Such organizations will gain "three more years of free support from Microsoft" by doing so, according to Forrester.

Forrester's report -- "Corporate Desktop Operating System and Browser Trends, Q2 2009 to Q2 2010" -- surveyed traffic on Forrester's Web sites over a year's time, including samples from 90,000 client PCs. The survey found positive results for Windows 7 adoption.

In the second quarter of this year, Windows 7 now powers about 7.4 percent of corporate PCs, representing a better adoption rate than Vista. Meanwhile, Vista's use on corporate PCs has peaked at 12.6 percent. XP still dominates at 74.8 percent in the survey, but XP use showed an overall declining trend year over year in Forrester's report.

Internet Explorer still holds a strong grip on the corporate PC market. In the second quarter of this year, IE was used by 72.5 percent in Forrester's survey. The survey found Mozilla Firefox use at 20 percent and Google Chrome use at 6.9 percent. However, Firefox and Chrome have shown overall gains year over year.

The report also surveyed Apple and Linux operating system use, which still lags with corporate users.

SAP Seeks Agile On A Mammoth Scale

SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe this week reiterated the company's commitment to internal Agile software development and said the company now faces the challenge of scaling the process throughout its huge development organization.

"I promise you we'll write a book about how to do it," Snabe said Tuesday at SAP's Sapphire Now conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Responding to a question during a roundtable discussion, he said the company experimented with Agile methodology last year and has now made a commitment to using it.

"We see that the traditional waterfall model is not agile enough, not fast enough to capture the real requirements," Snabe said. "In fact, in the time it takes from the moment you define your requirements until you have them implemented, the requirements already changed."
Waterfall development also stifled employee innovation, he said, because developers just follow the requirements script when they have ideas on how things could be done better and cheaper.

As with most companies, SAP is using Agile in combination with other methodologies. "We are implementing a combination of Agile, which is typically used in very small organizations, and lean, which is basically scaling the Agile methodology to a 10,000-people development organizations on multiple locations around the world," Snabe said.

So far, so good, said Snabe, who by coincidence was marking his 100th day as co-CEO. "The first impressions are exciting. I see no drawbacks. In fact, you have faster innovation, you get better solutions because we work with customers early. We get higher quality because we get working software every four weeks and not at the end of the cycle, and we get more motivated employees."

Snabe and co-CEO Bill McDermott announced SAP's commitment to Agile during the CeBIT show in March.

With good results so far, Snabe seemed somewhat daunted by the prospect of rolling Agile out companywide. "So now the only challenge is to scale that, and not many companies have that done that to the size of SAP," he said.

Besides scaling, other obstacles to implementing Agile companywide include interconnected and legacy systems, said panel member Wolfgang Gaertner, CIO of Deutsche Bank. "The trick for me is to build the preconditions for Agile methodologies and to really practice them in areas where it makes sense, and from a risk point of view, you can do it."

Even so, Gaertner echoed the need to go Agile. "We have to get there," he said. "The traditional ways are not fast enough, they are too complex and they don't surface the innovation. So that is very clear."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SharePoint's Secret Sauce: Business Connectivity Services

Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 have enjoyed a warm reception since the official May 12 launch of the key application platforms. The new versions present a host of upgrades and improvements targeting IT administrators and.NET developers alike. In a report published on May 7, Directions on Microsoft Managing Vice President of Research Rob Helm broke down what Microsoft delivered with Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

His findings? Microsoft successfully improved key areas of both Office and SharePoint, though many features do require the presence of updated servers, tooling and other Microsoft software. From a development perspective, Helm found that SharePoint 2010 carries significant value, specifically when paired with the updated development tooling in Visual Studio 2010. With the latest versions of Visual Studio and SharePoint, dev shops are in a much better position to create applications for SharePoint than ever before, the report finds.

But Helm is quick to identify one technology as a vital underpinning for successful development for both SharePoint and Office - the new Business Connectivity Services (BCS). The follow-on to the Business Data Catalog in Office 2007, BCS enables SharePoint to connect to diverse external data sources so they can be displayed and manipulated in SharePoint lists and Web Parts, as well as in Office Outlook and Word 2010 clients. Using BCS, developers can extend the collaboration experience of SharePoint and the UI experience of Office to external data and processes.

BCS Uncovered
BCS provides a standard interface for developers, making it easy to tap into diverse targets. BCS supports a variety of external data sources, including SQL Server databases, SAP applications, Windows Communication Foundation and Web services, as well as custom applications and Web sites based on SharePoint. By surfacing external data in native, Office UIs, BCS helps Microsoft realize the goal of making Office a viable front-end for legacy, backend data systems.

Arpan Shah, director of the SharePoint Products and Technologies Group at Microsoft, said Visual Studio templates for BCS make it easy for developers to integrate applications with backend systems like SQL Server, Microsoft CRM or SAP. "That integration allows developers to integrate with data to bring it back into SharePoint or Office in a read-write capacity. That really improves productivity for the end user, and gives the developer the flexibility to integrate with any backend system," Shah said.

Helm described BCS as a one-stop shop for Office 2010 application development, noting that Microsoft has struggled for years to establish an effective platform for this activity. With BCS, Helm said, Microsoft has finally gotten it right.

"That's the one way to build Office oriented applications as well as Web-based applications on SharePoint that access critical backend systems," Helm said. "I think for corporate developers the message is, they finally have a stable set of Office and SharePoint technologies, especially in this Business Connectivity Services scenario."

Importantly, Microsoft has delivered quality tooling for BCS, both in the SharePoint 2010 Designer and in Visual Studio 2010. By contrast, Helm said, working with the Business Data Catalog was unreasonably difficult for developers. "You basically had to do XML editing with embedded SQL Server code with XML escapes inserted. It was really brutal."

The biggest obstacle facing BCS adoption could be the effort required to explain it, Helm said. To that end, Microsoft has been active legitimizing the technology. Microsoft and SAP worked together on a BCS-based interoperability solution for SharePoint 2010 and SAP, called Duet Enterprise, that enables SharePoint to access and manipulate SAP data. Helm also said that it is very likely Microsoft will leverage BCS for its Dynamics CRM and AX products.

Ultimately, Helm advises development shops to look closely at BCS when assessing SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 as targets for application development. "If there is one SharePoint technology to focus on, it's Business Connectivity Services."

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Resco Updates Mobile Development Components

.NET component maker Resco today announced it has released updated versions of two products: Resco MobileForms Toolkit and Resco MobileBusiness ESP. The company also announced today that it will support Windows Phone 7 and Visual Studio 2010 development.

Resco MobileForms Toolkit 2010 Volume 2 updates the mobile development component package for Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Compact Framework 3.5. The new toolkit adds an Image Manager module to streamline handling of images in mobile development projects. Also new to Volume 2 is the Resco MessageBox, an advanced message box class that the company says can display text or buttons "in a graphically attractive style."

An earlier version of Resco MobileForms Toolkit last year earned a Visual Studio Readers Choice Merit Award in the Mobility Tools and Frameworks category.

Resco MobileBusiness ESP 2010 Volume 2 is a mobile sales force automation (SFA) and customer relationship management (CRM) solution that includes a client application, Web service and Web client. The new version adds a Tablet Client for speeding the development of applications optimized for tablet form factors. MobileBusiness ESP 2010 is turned for Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Compact Framework 3.5.

Resco also announced that it is working to release a new suit of Silverlight development components for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile platform. The company says the new product will share programming interfaces and other elements with the WinForms-based Resco MobileForms Toolkit, in an effort to ease the transition for Resco customers moving to the Windows Phone 7 platform.

The new Windows Phone 7 controls, which will be integrated with Visual Studio 2010, are expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the company.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Microsoft Settles VirnetX Patent Case for $200 Million

Microsoft announced today that it has settled a patent infringement case with California-based VirnetX Holding Corp. for $200 million.

According to a joint announcement, Microsoft will make a one-time payment to VirnetX and also license the company's intellectual property for use in Microsoft's products. No additional information about the settlement and license was disclosed.

The agreement on patents owned by VirnetX follows three years and two lawsuits. VirnetX's patents describe methods for establishing a secure communications link, as well as transparently creating a virtual private network (VPN).

VirnetX first sued Microsoft in February 2007 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The company claimed that Microsoft willingly infringed two of its patents by including VPN technology in Windows and Office Communications Server products.

VirnetX cited several Microsoft products in that suit, including Windows Server 2003, XP, Vista, Live Communications Server, Windows Messenger, Office Communicator and other versions of Office, according to an account by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley.

The settlement comes after a jury had awarded VirnetX a $106 million verdict, announced on March 16, 2010. Microsoft officials had initially indicated that they would appeal that ruling, with Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz saying at the time that the damages were "legally and factually unsupported." But VirnetX sued again. On the following day, March 17, 2010, VirnetX filed a second lawsuit, claiming that Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 violated the same patents. Those products had not been released in 2007 when VirnetX filed the first lawsuit.

With today's announcement, the two companies have settled both lawsuits. Tom Burt, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, said that Microsoft was pleased with resolving the matter.

The Texas court that heard VirnetX's lawsuit was the same venue that landed Toronto-based i4i a victory over "custom XML" technology used in Word and Office. i4i was awarded $200 million for willful patent infringement by Microsoft and the judge added an additional $90 million in penalties and interest. Microsoft indicated last week that it is considering its legal options after i4i's patent was upheld by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

McKool Smith, the law firm representing VirnetX, also represented i4i, and the two cases had the same East Texas judge, Foley noted.

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Microsoft Office Web Apps Tied to SharePoint 2010

Microsoft on Friday provided a few more details about its forthcoming Office Web Apps, which enable document sharing and collaboration over the Internet.

This week, Microsoft announced that Office Web Apps are scheduled to be available on June 15, along with retail and online store copies of Office 2010. Previously, Office Web Apps were only available as a beta for testing. When released, Office Web Apps will be free to consumers, but organizations wanting to use them may need to consider beefing up their infrastructure to support SharePoint 2010.

Office Web Apps are Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications designed to run in a Web browser. Browsers supporting Office Web Apps include Internet Explorer 7 and 8, Firefox 3.5 (Windows, Mac and Linux) and Safari 4 (Mac), according to a Microsoft support page. It's not clear if Microsoft plans to expand this support to other browsers, such as Opera or Google Chrome.

Essentially, Office Web App users will fall into two camps: business users and consumers. Consumers will be able to access Office Web Apps for free through Microsoft's Windows Live software-as-a-service portal, although it's expected that Microsoft will push ads to them. A premises-installed copy of Office is not required to use Office Web Apps via Windows Live.

Business users, on the other hand, will have to pay extra, in one form or another, to use Office Web Apps. The upside for business users is that IT organizations will be able to manage the service if they host it using SharePoint 2010 or SharePoint Foundation 2010 (formerly known as Windows SharePoint Services), or they can subscribe to Microsoft Online Services.

Another benefit for businesses hosting Office Web Apps through SharePoint 2010 is that it enables mobile device access, according to a Microsoft support document. Microsoft announced this week that Office Mobile 2010 -- which includes mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace -- has been released. The apps are all free for Windows Mobile 6.5-based phones. A Microsoft blog describes the ability to edit the text of PowerPoint presentations using Office Mobile 2010 on a mobile device.

All basic features will be available in the four Office Web Apps when they become available on June 15, according to a Microsoft spokesperson via e-mail on Friday. Those basic features include document sharing and collaboration, as well as editing and saving files. Windows Live SkyDrive provides up to 25 GB of free storage space for consumers using the service.

Users of Office Web Apps can work offline too. Documents created using Office Web Apps will be accessible offline through premises-installed Office clients, starting from Office 2003 on up to the current Office 2010 release. New PC buyers using the Office Starter edition (which contains basic versions of Word and Excel) can also access Office Web App-created documents offline. Office Web Apps save files in the newer Office Open XML-based formats introduced in Office 2007, such as .DOCX, .XLSX and .PPTX.

Business users could tap into Office Web Apps for free using Windows Live, but the consumer service doesn't have the controls typically required by organizations, according to Microsoft. For that, SharePoint or a subscription to Microsoft Online Services is needed.

"While Windows Live is great for consumers, it lacks some of the SharePoint capabilities such as manageability, compliance, controls, etc. that are important to enterprise customers," the Microsoft spokesperson explained. "Microsoft Online Services adds a range of additional business services, plus the ability to manage these services with things such as Active Directory integration, auditing, compliance, etc."

Microsoft hasn't clarified whether Office Web Apps will be offered through its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) collection of hosted services or some other service. BPOS does provide that "range of additional services" by hosting applications based on Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office LiveMeeting and Office Communications Online.

Still, adding hosted Office to BPOS is part of Microsoft's plan, according to Sheri McLeish, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Microsoft's roadmap does indicate that the full functionality of Office will become available in BPOS in 2010, but I don't expect deep discounting or pricing comparative to Google Apps," McLeish stated in an e-mail.

McLeish noted that the free consumer version of Office Web Apps will have some limitations. "You can't create a table of contents, use mail merge, and many other advanced features," she wrote. "And there would still be compatibility issues of using Office 2003 in conjunction with a newer version, such as the loss of Smart Art or other newer features only available in Office 2007 or Office 2010."

However, one of the more anticipated features of Office Web Apps -- namely, coauthoring, which allows multiple authors to edit a document at the same time -- will be available to both business users and consumers. However, only two of the Office Web Apps currently support it.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Office and SharePoint 2010 Released to Business Customers

Microsoft today released its Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 products to enterprise customers as part of a global launch event.

The general public will have to wait a bit longer, however. Retail versions of Office 2010, as well as Office Web Apps, will be available on June 15.

Microsoft's launch event has been anticipated for several months and there were no surprises at the largely ceremonial event. Nevertheless, the launch marks a key milestone for Microsoft and its flagship enterprise products, which are updated every three years. For customers, the new products entail upgrade considerations. Waiting in the wings will be Microsoft's large ecosystem of developers and partners, who may gain new business opportunities.

Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, took the wraps off Office and SharePoint 2010 at NBC Studios in New York on the set of "Saturday Night Live." Elop described the new releases as "epic," pointing to productivity enhancements and social media support for both products.

"Our customers are responding to a changing face of the workforce reflecting the arrival of the millennial generation -- people who communicate in different ways from us -- and figuring out how to blend those people into the workforce," Elop said.

"The need [is] for IT to supply applications that facilitate effective collaboration of individuals, teams and organizations, regardless of their location," he added. "These phenomena have significant implications for all of us."

Office 2010 has a bevy of new features, including a more robust Outlook client with a social network connector. Microsoft also improved Excel with a built-in PowerPivot charting capability that enables "self-service" business intelligence by workers, potentially reducing IT service requests. Readers can find in-depth details on the new productivity features in the articles, "A New Decade of Office" and "Office 2010: Productivity Play."

SharePoint 2010 includes improved search, extended content management and social networking features. More details can be found in this "Chomping at the SharePoint Bit" article.

It remains to be seen how quickly Microsoft's customer base will upgrade, given the new product features.

"A lot of companies have made a lot of investments in 2007, so I think they are going to try to get some mileage out them," said Gartner analyst Mark Gilbert, in an interview at the launch event. Also, he pointed out that many organizations may not have the infrastructures needed to run SharePoint 2010.

"The initial feedback is that SharePoint 2010 is vastly improved but there are a lot of people who don't have those 64-bit farms in place. It's not just the server hardware, [but] the memory," Gilbert said.

Customers may wait to see what the 2010 version of SharePoint online looks like. It's expected to be a vast improvement over the current hosted version. That release is due out later this year, Microsoft said.

Other organizations opting for premises-installed products may wait until the first service packs are released, which some consider to be a traditional approach to new software releases.

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SAP To Acquire Sybase

SAP will acquire database vendor Sybase Inc. for $5.8 billion in cash, a 44 percent premium in the company's closing price Wednesday.

The blockbuster deal will give SAP access to a variety of Sybase's technologies including its column-based analytical database architecture, complex-event processing engine and middleware for linking enterprise data to multiple mobile device platforms and operators. Sybase says it has 4 billion mobile messaging subscribers through relationships with 850 various providers.

SAP said it plans to maintain the Sybase brand and run it as a subsidiary. SAP said it will be able to marry Sybase's complex event processing technology with its own new in-memory database engine built into the SAP Business Warehouse as well as into its core business intelligence (BI) wares. SAP in 2008 acquired Business Objects, supplier of the popular Crystal Reports BI front-end platform.

"If we take the SAP in-memory core into the analytic column-based architecture, I think that's going to be very profound in terms of the performance," said Sybase CEO John Chen on a conference call this morning announcing the deal.

SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said in-memory computing will impact not only analytical applications but other computational functions as well. "With in memory technology, the access to information is up to 10,000 times faster than if you have to read the data from a disk," Hagemann Snabe said. "This of course is not just a normal continuous improvement it is a true breakthrough."

Once a popular force among those in financial services, Sybase is now viewed by many as a legacy database platform. "I've talked to people who have worked with their database but they are not necessarily embracing it," said Boris Litvin, a principal with Livingston, N.J.-based Ortress, a consultancy who helps Wall Street firms develop risk management solutions.

There are numerous open-source in-memory database technologies available, Litvin noted and Microsoft is also adding components to SQL Server 2008R2 that will give it in-memory database functionality. Among those tools is the new PowerPivot add-on to Excel that can be enhanced by SQL Server 2008R2.

Chen said Sybase is forecasting database revenues this year of $800 million and an additional $400 million from its mobile middleware business, half of which comes from service providers processing SMS messages. "Over the last five years, we were able to grow our top line revenue by 9 percent on an annualized basis, and expanded our non-GAAP operating margin form 18 percent to 30 percent," Chen said.

Sybase played a large role in the development of Microsoft's SQL Server. Along with Ashton-Tate Corp., the three co-developed the first release issued in 1989. Years later, Microsoft wanted to take control of the code-base of SQL Server and parted ways with Sybase.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter. It remains to be seen if any other players such as Oracle, IBM or even Microsoft make rival bids.

Sybase also is the supplier of PowerBuilder, still a popular development environment among a segment of .NET developers. It remains to be seen whether SAP will keep that tooling or sell or spin it off.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Office 2010 Will Have SharePoint Hooks, Analyst Says

Microsoft plans to make a splash by announcing new 2010 products on Wednesday, but IT organizations should check the fine print.

New versions of Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Project and Visio may require a significant jump in infrastructure investment, especially for those organizations still using Office 2003 and other legacy Microsoft products. That's one of the conclusions of a report published on Friday by Directions on Microsoft, which provides consulting services.

Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 will offer advances in collaboration and business functionality, including improvements in data analysis and reporting. However, these improved functionalities may require "coordinated upgrades of multiple products," according to Robert Helm, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft.

"This latest offering represents an effort to integrate a lot of products together on a common platform and is something only Microsoft could have pulled off," said Helms, in a telephone interview. "It will be a big jump for users, especially those still using older versions of the products, because there will be significant compatibility breaks with new file formats and an increasing dependence on SharePoint for collaboration."

SharePoint 2010 is the key component for IT organizations to consider as Microsoft rolls out its 2010 products, according to Directions on Microsoft.

"The most interesting thing about the Office 2010 wave isn't Office. It's SharePoint," stated a Directions on Microsoft staffer in an e-mail. "SharePoint 2010 is the rallying point for the new Office application versions and the way Microsoft has packaged it, SharePoint is the mother of all dependencies."

According to Helm, SharePoint 2010 becomes the hub and a "prerequisite for collaboration" in larger organizations. To leverage improved SharePoint 2010 features, organizations will need the required on-premises infrastructure, including the latest versions of Windows client and server software installed, according to the report.

"In considering the upgrade, the most important thing for organizations to consider is not where they are going with their technological footprint, but where they coming from," said Helm. "For organizations deploying older [server and desktop] infrastructure, it is not going to be getting any easier to upgrade; and, as time goes on, it is going to get harder."

One such challenge is the move to 64-bit technology. The Directions report noted that the new version of Office includes a 64-bit edition, but it is not compatible with some components, such as macros and add-ins, in older versions. In addition, organizations that want to deploy on premises or have closed SharePoint functionality will have to have 64-bit infrastructure in place.

"Some organizations will be able to leverage the new Office and SharePoint using online access, but many large organizations still don't want to have all of the sensitive data in the cloud," Helm said. "They will need to be running 64-bit along with the latest Windows [client] and server technologies."

He noted that for many enterprise and large organizations, this situation means bringing in third-party, managed-solution partners for implementation.

"I think Microsoft is focused on the right things -- collaboration, business intelligence and consistent user interface across a wide set of applications -- with this offering. And there are some very positive improvements," Helm said. "They may, however, be asking customers to adopt too much [change] too quickly. For the enterprise, this type of new deployment cannot happen overnight and will definitely require significant time and resources."

Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 products were released late last month to Microsoft's volume licensing customers. On May 12, Microsoft will start its launch event, signaling the release of those products to business users. Office 2010's release to the general public will follow in June.

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Report: IBM, MKS Have Best Agile Management Tools

A new research report cited IBM and MKS as the best Agile development management tool vendors.

The two companies "led the pack with the best overall current feature sets," according to the executive summary of Forrester Research Inc.'s report, titled "The Forrester Wave: Agile Development Management Tools, Q2 2010."

The report stated: "MKS excels in process configuration, security and integration, while IBM demonstrates strength in the areas of undertaking work and task management." Forrester also gave the two vendors high marks for reporting and analytics.

The other vendors in the report are: Atlassian, CollabNet, HP, Micro Focus, Microsoft, Rally Software Development, Serena Software and VersionOne.

The companies are described as the top 10 leading vendors in the Agile space, which is "rapidly becoming the norm" for software development, according to Forrester. It referenced an earlier survey that found 35 percent of responding organizations used Agile as their primary development method, with Scrum as the leading development approach. Iterative development was cited by 21 percent of the respondents, while the traditional waterfall methodology is being used by only 12 percent of the surveyed organizations.

Besides ranking vendors, the new report also listed several best practices for Agile development. Forrester said its research indicated that scaling Agile practices is a common issue faced by organizations, and to scale effectively requires the use of automation tools. The two best practices for doing this are implementing "change-aware continuous integration" and "just-in-time demand management." Continuous integration is described as "integrating, building and testing source code changes early and often to reduce rework and integration issues." Just-in-time demand management involves connecting "business sponsors to project teams at frequent intervals to pull demand and, if necessary, reprioritize existing project tasks based on the latest information available."

The report also cited the importance of using dashboards to measure progress, quality and status; customizing processes to develop hybrid approaches that use only the most relevant Agile practices; and new ways of planning projects. These new ways include incorporating planning at many different levels, supporting collaborative techniques and providing an up-to-date visual representation of the plan.

While IBM and MKS received the highest rankings for their tools, CollabNet was cited as having the best strategy and Microsoft was said to have the best market presence.

Of the 10 vendors, VersionOne and MicroFocus received the lowest scores. The report said VersionOne "is less flexible than other products when it comes to reporting and integration with application life-cycle management (ALM) tools." MicroFocus "must clarify its future strategy for ADM before it can move into a leadership position," Forrester said. On Forrester's scale (from highest to lowest: Leaders, Strong Performers, Contenders and Risky Bets), none of the 10 vendors ranked below Strong Performer.

The full report can be downloaded from the Web site of Rally Software Development, one of the vendors examined by Forrester.

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VMware's SpringSource Acquires GemStone for Java Cloud Infrastructure

VMware's SpringSource division is acquiring data management vendor GemStone, and it plans to use that company's GemFire enterprise data fabric to give developers using the Java-based, open source Spring Framework the infrastructure necessary for emerging cloud-centric applications, the two companies said.

"This is a further step on our journey toward taking the enterprise Java audience and making them able to succeed in embracing cloud computing," said Rod Johnson, general manager of the SpringSource division.

A data fabric is a kind of grid-based, middle-tier data platform. GemStone's flagship GemFire object-oriented fabric provides an in-memory distributed data management platform that pools memory, CPU, network and local disk across multiple processes to manage application objects and behavior, explained GemStone CEO Richard Lamb in an interview with this site.

"It combines data caching, querying, messaging, complex events management nd global distribution of data," Lamb said. "It's a sophisticated piece of data management technology, and it's going to add quite a bit of capability to an integrated solution with Spring."

The product has, in fact, been a bit too sophisticated for easy developer adoption, said Johnson. "Currently there are a lot of very demanding customers who have been extremely successful with GemStone, but it's not the easiest product to embrace," he said. "There are obstacles to developer adoption. We believe through the Spring Framework and the Spring community we'll be able to substantially reduce those barriers and will enable Spring developers to very easily evaluate the capabilities of Gemstone and decide whether those capabilities are valuable to them."

Among the things, the company plans to make the GemStone programming model a natural extension of the Spring Framework, Johnson said. And also make the product easier to configure and more natural for the Spring community to adopt.

Johnson said he sees definite synergy between VMware's tc Server distribution of Tomcat and GemStone's technology. Another is the recently announced VMForce platform as a service offering.

This acquisition comes on the heels of SpringSource's acquisition last month of RabbitMQ, a provider of lightweight messaging. Both are part of the SpringSource group's "vision for the role of data management within cloud computing environments," the company has said

"We see the data management space as a kind of middleware that's a sweet spot for us," Johnson said. "It satisfies the needs of our enterprise customers today, but also helps with the requirements of cloud computing tomorrow."

"Modern, cloud-centric applications will be powered by a lightweight application platform, scalable data platform, and virtualized infrastructure as a service, and SpringSource is building out a portfolio to address all of those requirements," commented John Barr, distinguished analyst at The 451 Group, in a statement. "SpringSource clearly recognizes the fundamental emerging application infrastructure requirements, and therefore its customers are prepared for the data center of today and tomorrow."

GemStone competitor Terracotta weighed in on the acquisition in an e-mail from CEO Amit Pandey: "VMware's acquisition of GemStone is further validation of in-memory caching as a powerful approach to scaling enterprise applications and improving their performance. It also shows that VMware understands that this is a large and growing market, due to the huge demand from enterprise customers to scale out applications on cloud infrastructures…. We believe that VMware's entry will enlarge the market and that Terracotta is strongly positioned to take advantage of the resulting growth."

As for the company's other products, Gemstone's Lamb added that its Smalltalk-based GemStone/S Object Server, SQLFabric memory-oriented SQL data management platform, and now-in-public-alpha MagLev Ruby implementation, will continue to be supported by VMware.

VMware has been on an acquisitions tear recently. The company acquired the Zimbra groupware provider in January and SpringSource last July.

VMware also recently announced the hiring of Salvatore Sanfilippo, the lead developer of the open source Redis project. Redis is an in-memory key value store system, comparable to Memcached.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Microsoft's May Patch Aims at Office Vulnerabilities

After a thick April patch, this month's security update, released today, is light with only two "critical" fixes.

The first critical fix (MS10-030) in the May patch is a Windows-based update resolving a vulnerability affecting Outlook Express, Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail. The applicable operating systems for this fix are Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008, all of which have a severity rating of critical.

The second critical fix (MS10-31) also addresses a single vulnerability, in this case affecting Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Microsoft says that this fix applies to Microsoft VBA SDK 6.0 and third-party applications that use Microsoft VBA. Additionally, Microsoft Office XP, Microsoft Office 2003, and the 2007 Microsoft Office System are affected by this patch, with the risk implications described as "important."

Both fixes are for vulnerabilities that could allow remote code execution attacks. The vulnerabilities would require social engineering to exploit, according to security experts. However, the VBA vulnerability requires fewer actions from a user for a hacker to execute the attack. An attacker would simply have to convince a user to open a maliciously crafted file -- such as an Office document that supports VBA -- and the user's machine would be compromised, according to Joshua Talbot, security intelligence manager at Symantec Security Response.

"I can see this being used in targeted attacks, which are on the rise," Talbot said.

Both patches may require system restarts to take effect, but IT professionals at least have a light slate for this patch cycle. The next month may prove different.

"Lately, Microsoft seems to be alternating between lightly patching one month and then heavy the next," Talbot said. "So, one has to wonder what next month holds in store. I also wouldn't be surprised to see an update in June for the SharePoint cross-site scripting vulnerability that recently came to light. Though we haven't seen any exploits for it in the wild yet, it appears fairly trivial to take advantage of."

Microsoft issued Security Advisory 983438 late last month for this SharePoint vulnerability. At the time, the software giant said that it wasn't aware of any exploits but was monitoring the threat landscape.

Microsoft also released information about its nonsecurity releases through Windows Update, Microsoft Update and Windows Server Update Services. The info can be tapped via this Knowledge Base article.

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  • Microsoft Considering Legal Options After i4i Patent Validated

    Microsoft has been dealt another blow in its ongoing patent infringement suit with i4i, a Toronto-based developer of collaborative content solutions.

    On Tuesday, i4i announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) had validated i4i's patent on certain "custom XML" technology. This XML-based technology creates a metacode map to manipulate a document's structure without reference to content. It allows a document such as a Word file to be converted to XML without loss of content.

    "This latest ruling is an affirmation that the patent is legitimate and literally takes Microsoft's fundamental argument away," said an i4i spokesperson in a telephone interview.

    In 1994, i4i filed for a patent on the technology (U.S. Patent 5,787,449). In March of 2007, i4i sued Microsoft, alleging the software giant had infringed i4i's patent by including the technology in versions of Word with XML editing capabilities. In 2008, a federal court jury in Texas sided with the plaintiff and awarded i4i $290 million in damages plus court costs and interest. The court also ordered Microsoft to stop selling versions of Word with the technology in the United States.

    In response, Microsoft issued a patch for Word versions 2003 and 2007 that disables the technology, but it also filed an appeal. The initial appeal was blocked in December 2009 by the U.S. Court of Appeals, but Microsoft countered by filing for an en banc review that would have 12 judges consider the courts' decisions.

    In March, the court issued a revised opinion (PDF download) indicating that Microsoft willfully infringed on i4i's 449 patent and reconfirmed i4i's motion for a permanent injunction. On April 1, the court denied Microsoft's request for an en banc review.

    Microsoft had asked the court to reexamine the patent for validity. The U.S. PTO decision validating the patent may dampen those prospects.

    "Our patent claims were put under intense scrutiny by the PTO during its reexamination and this decision is a resounding confirmation and a further validation of the '449 patent," said Michel Vulpe, i4i founder and coinventor of the technology, in a released statement.

    Although i4i sees the U.S. PTO decision as a watershed moment, Microsoft may not be giving up yet.

    "We are disappointed, but there still remain important matters of patent law at stake, and we are considering our options to get them addressed, including a petition to the Supreme Court," said Kevin Kutz, director of public affairs for Microsoft, in an e-mailed statement.

    According to i4i, Microsoft has 90 days from April 1 to apply for a writ of certiorari to request a hearing at the Supreme Court.

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