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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Microsoft and the End of the Intellectual Hierarchy

The three most important hierarchies in the Western World are the power, wealth and intellectual hierarchies. It is very interesting to watch the intellectual hieararchy deteriorate throught the prevalent market-speak in technological circles.

Let's start with some quotes from Tim O'Reilly's take of the Microsoft Conference from yesterday:

The big takeaway: Microsoft is fully engaged with thinking about what I've called "Web 2.0." They are focused on the internet as the platform, on software as a service, on creating rich experiences across multiple devices, on live update as a metaphor for both software and documents, on grassroots adoption as a result of user conversations. They are also very clearly focused on advertising as a new business model. We're hearing all the Web 2.0 buzzwords: RSS, AJAX, social networking.

I might be missing something, but I thought this was one of the most underwhelming major announcements I've heard from Microsoft in the past 15 years. But Tim seems to be excited as the announcement was sprinkled liberally with the appropriate buzzwords and phrases.

I went to Dare Obasanjo's site to see his take on this:

From a practical perspective, when I think about Windows Live I think about three things:

1) User-centric web applications with rich user interfaces: You can expect more applications with rich, dynamic, user interfaces such as has been shown in the Mail beta and on For the geeks out there this means that you'll be seeing a lot more AJAX applications coming out of us and a focus on software that puts the user in control of their online experience.

2) Smart desktop applications that improve the Windows user experience: The MSN division has slowly become Microsoft's consumer software division. From desktop search to instant messaging, a number of key applications that were once thought of as bits that ship with the operating system are now being shipped on a more frequent basis by MSN. With Windows Live, this reality is being acknowledged and embraced. Expect to see more beneficial integration between consumer applications coming from Microsoft and our web properties such as the integration between MSN Messenger & MSN Spaces.

3) The Web as a platform: was just the beginning, expect a lot more. Coincidentally I just finished giving a presentation to a few hundred of my co-workers from across the company on MSN Windows Live services as a Web platform. This is definitely an area I will be spending a lot of my time on in the following months.

This sounds a lot like Microsoft's 1995 and 2000 embraces of the Internet but maybe from deep inside Microsoft it looks like something new.

I think I figured it out. Microsoft in the past decades hired a great percentage of the smartest people in America, as Microsoft is fond of telling us. They then spent their time dumbing these people down with endless marketing hype and some good money to keep the restless happy. Now they plan to continue to substitute market-talk for good ideas and useful products.

Unfortunately it seems to be working.