Mix'06 Keynote: So far a history lesson

I've been sitting through Bill Gate's keynote for the last 45 minutes and, so far, it's somewhat of a history lesson.

It appears that they're really excited about the Yahoo Widgets-style tool that will be available in Vista. But... umm... Yahoo Widgets! :)

They had the CTO of MySpace on to praise their experiences using ASP.Net and SQL Server on their site with over 65m users.

At the moment, we have the head of the BBC's new media department talking about how they're going to be making their TV shows available online for free for a week after a show airs and how their video streaming service integrates with Vista. (The videos will be full-screen.) He was talking about DRM (yes, that term makes my hair stand on end too.) He was talking about how they're very serious about protecting "their content". Somewhat ironic given that we in the UK pay them to create that content via an annual license fee! He did mention the one-week free period as a sort of compromise. I really don't think that the BBC is serious about opening things up though -- not when they're singing such high praises of DRM (I was not much impressed with how they're embracing Web 2.0 either -- the restrictions they've placed on the use of their data are very, well, limiting.)

Right now, Tim O'Reilly is taking the stage. I actually bumped into Tim this morning in the elevator and didn't initially recognize him (he's now sporting a neat new beard that he didn't have when I originally met him a couple of years ago during his London MMUG presentation.) They're having a conversation with Bill at the moment on Web 2.0 and mashups, etc. Tim's asking Bill about the evolution of the Internet as an operating system: Does he see it as disparate systems communicating or a large behemoth system? Bill thinks it'll be a combination of both, though all the examples he's giving as he details his answer involve Microsoft technologies (passport, etc.) Tim's basic question is: Is your vision for the Internet OS similar to Win32? ("one ring to rule them all"). According to Bill, they're going to provide a "comprehensive framework" so you can create "Live Applications" (Bill's term for Rich Internet Applications) using just Microsoft technologies but sure, you'll be able to use other "vendors" too. Bill sounds like a salesman but not a particularly good one.

It's interesting to watch their body language too. Tim's relaxed, laid back, open. Bill's guarded, arms crossed, uneasy.

Tim asks: "You guys have a history of knocking competitors out of the ring – but they had the same business model as Microsoft You're facing competition from people who have very different business models

how do you see that changing the software business?"

Bill mentions that Microsoft has done more to bring software prices down than any other company

he concedes they didn't realize how important the advertising model would be. He concedes that you'll always have smarter competitors. He's talking about how Microsoft has to be user-centric not device-centric in order to compete. He says this will require easy authentication across devices so that you can use a friends cell-phone, for example, with your data, by authenticating.

But authenticating through what? I'm afraid it will involve a central Passport-like service owned by Microsoft.

Tim: "How do you see the competition shaping up with Adobe?"

(Bill basically goes off on tangent and doesn't really answer the question

they move onto talking about mobile devices.)

By the way, I think I'm only blogging this because I'm not really interested in the content. Which says something

I mean, it's supposed to be speaking to me but I'm having a hard time staying connected. (And, looking around, I'm not the only one.)

Could Microsoft be out of touch?

I look forward to the rest of the conference and seeing Expression and their other tools. I tried to install Expression the other day when I had a free hour or so but had to give up as it would have probably taken half a day with downloading all the dependencies, etc. I thought it was just me but I was talking to Branden Hall this morning and he apparently had the same issue. They definitely have to make this easier if they want people – especially those less geekier than I -- to play with this.