Sunday, March 2, 2008

That Whistling Sound

Some weeks you just feel like Wile E. Coyote, beat up and dazed at the bottom of a canyon you just crash landed onto, wavering back and forth in the swirling dust while new knots grow out of your head and little concussion spirals spin above your black and blue eyes. And there's a shadow. A shadow that's growing bigger and bigger around you, and you wonder, where did that new Acme anvil get to, anyway, and what's that whistling sound?

Time to pop up the little umbrella.

That's what last week sort of felt like to me. Fines. Stock beat to hell and back. Incriminating emails showing up in the Vista incapable lawsuit. The Yahoo acquisition stumbling forward against the better judgment of the world. Friggin' bugs in the review tool that causes feedback to disappear in the HR IT bit-bucket (hello, we have this neato homegrown technology called Word which tends not to lose things). OOXML on the ropes. Live-ID sign-in offline. Crap.

Fine, just fine: Shortly after the Steve / Brad / Ray show of all the new documentation we're unleashing on the world, the EU found that wallet they'd been feeling for as they groped us and slapped Microsoft with another big huge fine.

Dolores Umbrid- err, Neelie Kroes on this: "Talk, as you know, is cheap; flouting the rules is expensive, so to say. We don't want talk and promises, we want compliance. If you flout the rules you will be caught, and it will cost you dear."

To which she added, her eyes blazing in Steve Ballmer's direction, "I drink your milkshake!" Quickly followed by an email to SteveB of a photo of her cat sitting on a wad of euros, captioned "I'm in ur profitz, stealin' ur cash."

Intel certainly should be worried, too, having had an EU raid on a European office recently. And Google shouldn't be too smug either: Microsoft Is The EU's ATM Machine - And Google Is Next - Seeking Alpha. If you're #1 in something and not entwined around the success of an European partner / partner ecosystem, your butt is next to be hoisted upside down and shook until a few billion pop out.

And while I'm not going to go all Hank Reardon here and get upset about documenting how our particular kind of industrial steel works, I am having negative tit-for-tat protectionist reactions. I'm human: my company is bleeding fines - fines we'll pay especially given the Yahoo in-play factor - and nary a word from the US government saying, "Hey, whoa, we'd like some of that cash to stay local here." And don't get me started about fairness. This is international economic political reality, which is about as far from fair as you can get, although all sides can certainly enshroud themselves in the mien fairness as they speak their piece.

My expectation is, just like Windows XP N, a lot of this will just go unused. I mean, I guess if I go to Hell one of the first punishments will be "Here's the Exchange protocol documentation. Please write a server that works against this protocol." Probably followed by something much, much worse, "Here's the Sharepoint protocol doc-" "No! Just gut me or do something with fire ants and a poker already!"

I can only hope that the cash goes to something useful at the end of the day. You know, something better than ill-advised acquisitions, SPSA pay-outs, and hiring lots and lots of more Microsofties to do less and less. Hmm. Perhaps I could warm up to these fines.

Who said what? And they're still employed? Ah, email discovery. What's the point in having an ass if it you can't do something that comes around and gets your squarely bit in said ass? Some of those email exchanges I already kind of expected, but the one about possible collusion with Intel to support their chipset? Double d'oh with an oy-vey on top.

Busted. This is where you reach for the wallet (if you can evade Ms. Kroes sticky fingers on an interception route) and just pay-up. In my opinion, we screwed up here, badly. God forbid if any of those friggin' Vista Capable stickers showed up in the EU...

Rewarding: so how was the Microsoft Technical Recognition Awards in La Quinta, CA this year? I still don't know why they need to go all the way the hell down to California for the technical semi-Partner achievement getaway. Oh, wait, getaway. And hey, didn't the Watson guys win last year, too? Sorry, but with everything going on and the stock down on the low end of $27, more weenies and less shrimp for the SPSA crowd would be mighty nice.

Silverlight lining: I can only hope that some good will and interesting results come out of Mix08 and our own Tech Fest. The last two Tech Fest have been really interesting for me. This one I don't have as high hopes for, having gone through the initial list, but that leaves the door for me to be pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, after this week, you've got to wonder: can it get any worse?

What's that whistling sound?

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