Abhi 2.0 on Technology

Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan’s Tech Archive: Columns, reports and video

Posts Tagged ‘microsoft

Tech Tonic #1: Micro Going Soft?

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I’d barely finished putting the final touches on my first column for this magazine when the news started flashing on the wires, that Microsoft had made a 44 billion dollar bid for Yahoo. There had been rumours floating for a while but they’d been the usual, ignorable ”everybody buying everyone else” theories that keep circulating on the wonderful interweb. In any case this column was supposed to be about everyday tech not corporate takeovers and silicon valley politics. However this particular bit of news was slightly different. Unlike January’s other mega-deals like Sun buying MySQL or Oracle buying BEA, which matter only to IT departments of companies, this story is a reflection of how humble users like you and (often not very humble) me are driving the world’s most powerful software company to make such a big gamble.

The text of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s letter to Yahoo’s board clearly says that Google is the common enemy and that this merger is a play for the online advertising market which is expected to touch 100 billion dollars in the next two years. However, what is not obvious in the letter is the growing threat of Microsoft being rendered redundant in the life of the common user. Now lets get this straight. I’m no Microsoft-bashing open-source evangelist trying to change the world by defeating evil capitalists. Heck, i’ve been a Windows user forever. I tried installing Linux a couple of times and was not convinced, I hated the alternatives to MS Office such as Star Office and Lotus Notes and the very fact that I need to write a column to make a living is proof enough that I can’t afford to be a Macintosh user ;-). I just want to be able to use the best and simplest software out there to help me get on with my life – period. Of late though, Microsoft isn’t the best at providing that.

Lets start with the Operating System of my home desktop. I’ve steadfastly refused to upgrade to the new Windows Vista. It gives my poor PC an inferiority complex with it’s hardware requirements and yet does not have any real fantastic reason for convincing me to upgrade. More importantly my operating system doesn’t matter all that much anymore. The only thing I’m doing of late is starting up my PC, firing up my web browser and going bersek online. That’s the other thing. I’m among the 10% (and growing) of web users, who use a web browser called Firefox instead of the default option that comes with Windows called Internet Explorer. It’s just plain better!

Now let’s get to Microsoft’s other big cash cow. I have a secret to reveal. I haven’t installed Microsoft Office on my PC. I’m banging out this column on something called “Google Docs” which is frankly, the best thing I’ve used in a long, long time. If you’re a Gmail user, you’ll see a small link on the upper left side of your screen, saying “Documents”. When you click on it you’re transported into a world of stripped down, ‘essentials-only’ versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. All your documents are stored on the web and you can collaborate with other users by giving them permission to view or make changes to your stuff. Make no mistake, if you make a living on spreadsheets and presentations then Google Docs is not an alternative for MS Office. But the point is I have been able to manage very nicely. Of course every now and then, a merchant ship in the Mediterranean will plonk an anchor onto an undersea cable thereby cutting off internet access to most of India and leaving pompous journalists with no way of retrieving their half-written columns.

What about the gadgets in my everyday life? Let me do a quick survey of the gizmos around me right now. Umm lets see, theres a Nintendo Wii (currently outselling the Microsoft Xbox 360), an Apple iPod Touch (currently outselling the Microsoft Zune) and a Blackberry (currently outselling Windows Mobile). Yes yes, I agree this survey is completely unscientific using a random selection etc. but if I were to invest using Wall Street legend Peter Lynch’s philosophy of ‘look around you’, I would certainly be short on Microsoft.

Let me admit, I still don’t have the guts to put my money where my mouth is as far as my desktop computer is concerned. I need the safety net and familiarity of my good old Windows XP. The laptop though is a different story and I’m willing to experiment. Asus, HCL and ACI  have all just launched super cheap, tiny laptops that run on allegedly very user-friendly versions of Linux. I’ll be done playing with them within a fortnight so watch this space for the verdict!

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Written by Abhi 2.0

February 10, 2008 at 9:51 am

Hurricane Ballmer

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First published in the December 2004 issue of Mantram

“We need you, we need you, we need you, we want you, we want you, we want you, come on we can do it, yeah baby!”, bellows the 48-year-old as he smacks his fist with the Who’s Who of India Inc looking on, part bemused, part embarrassed but wholly overawed by Steve Ballmer’s theatrics at a CNBC-TV18 event in Mumbai titled ‘Unlocking Innovation’.

That classic football coach chant is what Microsoft execs are subjected to, when they muster up the courage to tell Steve Ballmer that they’re thinking of retiring. They rarely succeed! The Microsoft CEO was responding to a question from a fellow CEO in the audience, who was curious to know what occupies most of Ballmer’s mindshare. Pat came Ballmer’s reply – “People – I always want to know if we’re getting the best people and whether we’re retaining them.”

That’s terrific news for the 1,600 odd people who will soon be joining Microsoft in India over the course of the next year. Ballmer made the big headcount announcement in Hyderabad as he kicked off his India visit by inaugurating a sprawling new campus that would, within the course of a year house 3,200 employees in the India Development Center (IDC) and the Global Delivery Center, India (GDCI).

Already a favorite recruiter on India’s elite engineering campuses, Microsoft won’t have too much difficulty wooing away the country’s best and brightest from local rivals like Infosys, Wipro and TCS. That however didn’t stop Ballmer from meeting the head honchos of those three firms and signing comprehensive strategic tie-ups with them. After all, if Microsoft soon wants to dominate the world’s enterprise software, it better get the guys who’re most likely to be servicing it, acquainted with its inner workings. While this would mean development of .NET competency it obviously stops short of sharing proprietary Windows source code

That holy grail is only being offered to the Indian government– Ballmer flew to Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discuss methods of bridging India’s digital divide. The Indian government has been rather gung-ho about Linux and Ballmer was keen to get the government onto the Windows bandwagon by offering a sneak peek at the source code to clarify any doubts about security. Unlike the governments of Brazil, China and Singapore, the Indian government has not yet taken an official stance on using only Open Source platforms for e-governance and Ballmer’s meeting will probably ensure that it stays that way for a while.

Ballmer’s whirlwind India tour culminated in Mumbai where he spoke to an audience of top Indian CEOs. He was introduced by Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani and after taking the stage was quick to admit that he wasn’t sure whether either he or Ambani had the right to be addressing the august gathering considering that they were the only two dropouts from their Stanford MBA class. After hearing his charged-up and passionate take on innovation being the cornerstone of Microsoft’s existence, it was difficult to suggest that completing his stint at Stanford would have done him any better.

Written by Abhi 2.0

January 1, 2005 at 12:58 am

Posted in Moneycontrol.com

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