Saturday, February 09, 2002

Cyberposium day 2 Tom Seibel canceled his speech this morning, so Matthew Szulik took over instead. I was thrilled at this, because I was more interested in what Szulik had to say than Seibel. He delivered a great address, focusing on the importance of choice, and how that forces technical integrity and high standards. This is right on--locking customers in destroys incentive to improve software in a meaningful way and shifts the vendors focus to driving upgrades and further entrenchment. The complete stagnation of not just the Office suite, but the Microsoft desktop itself is a good example of this dynamic. Red Hat's problem is capturing enough of the value it creates to remain viable and grow. They invest 20% of revenue (not profits) into R&D that feeds back into the Open Source community and I don't know how they plan to recoup this investment.

I also attended a panel on Web Services with Sun, Microsoft, IBM, and Accenture (important in the integration space). Much of the discussion focused around standards creation, with IBM commenting that collaborative development usually isn't very successful here, they're usually driven by some small group just declaring them and rolling them out. This fits well with Winer's SOAP experience, (SOAP was mentioned often, Userland never). It's also the story behind HTML. Simple, open standards are useful to developers.

Microsoft was the the villain in the group, and I don't think their cause is helped when they cite kereberos was a way in which they're embracing open standards (seeing as how it involved abrupt proprietary extensions). Steven Lewis (the Microsoft representative) also spoke heresy when he said Microsoft did not care about Hailstorm and was thinking of joining the Liberty Alliance. We'll see what happens.

(Had a worthwhile hallway conversation with James Adamczyk of Accenture (who sold mustard online for a while) about the semantic problems of webservices. Essentially, interop does not happen because of business reasons, not technology reasons. XML might have solved some syntatic niggles, but the real business value lies in semantics, and whether or not there's a market for interoperability. Often there might not be.)

Other highlights: DRM folks see privacy as being the major growth markets for these systems, allowing sensitive documents like medical records to be passed around online. In the entertainment sector, they primarily see DRM as a mechanism for perfect price discrimination (although they did not use that term) which would transfer all surplus from producer to consumer, perhaps increasing efficiency in the process. If this space is competitive, bare MP3s just like those used today will win by offering maximum surplus, and all the DRM systems will be worth squat. Had a good conversation with Jorge Contreras, Jr. a lawyer for Hale and Dorr (who were on the right side of the challenge to the Michey Mouse Copyright Act) who beleives the DMCA will be weakened.

Oh yeah, it's hard to sell big expensive software in a downturn. Some firms, like Juniper, bring in very beta products, get access to source in case the company goes under, negotiate cheap terms, and has excellent scripters glue everything together with Perl. Sounds like a good way of building a robust, heterogeneous IT environment.


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