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Maritz at TechEd – still embracing and smothering

Trial or no trial, MS carries on screwing-up the standards

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Opinion Paul Maritz, self-demoted in March to looking after developers, had his first major outing at Microsoft's TechEd meeting in Dallas this week. It's interesting to see how his role has evolved, since he was one of the two principal Microsoft mastiffs (the other being Steve Ballmer). It is quite understandable that after the pasting he took during the first session of the Microsoft trial, he would want an easier life -- at least that's what his chums have been saying. Readers will recall that Maritz was accused of threatening to "cut off Netscape's air supply", and it was Maritz who wrote the smoking-pistol email that said: "To combat [Netscape] we have to position the browser as 'going away' and do deeper integration on Windows. The stronger way to communicate this is to have a 'new release' of Windows and make a big deal of it." And it was Maritz who said that he wanted to keep Sun's version of Java "from getting established" in the industry, and that Microsoft would "kill HTML by extending it". So this mastiff has an interesting pedigree, but does he still bark in his new role? The short answer is "yes", and he can still work an audience. Maritz is one of the few Microsoft execs who has ever coded in a real job - even at St Andrew's University it transpires. He knows (knew?) a few things about Algol 60, as well. So what could be better than to try to establish his street cred with the remark that he "still surreptitiously writes code every now and again", but if this is true, it must be a sad come-down to write in VisualBasic. Looking at Maritz' sub-text, he spoke of how Microsoft went from first generation architecture with "very high quality implementations of the key protocols HTML [and] HTTP and building those into our operating system". That's a generous way of describing being late to the party and not having the time to corrupt the standards. But "building them in" is pushing it: "gluing them on to screw Netscape" is the truth, as we all now know from abundant evidence. The history of the development of Microsoft's architecture for the Internet is now being rewritten. Microsoft likes to call this architecture Windows DNA, which now means Distributed interNet Applications Architecture -- one of the sillier names that Microsoft has introduced, although it does have a Gatesian pseudo-knowledge ring to it, but it ain't deoxyribonucleic acid, and the analogy is ridiculous. A better name, and one that could be broadly applied to all Microsoft's so-called architectural efforts, would be "design-as-you-go", or DAYGO (TM). An example of DAYGO architecture would be a thatched Palladian house with twin towers, one Norman and the other a space needle, prominent solar panels, mock Tudor windows, and an adobe garage with a portico. An example from the DAYGO IT world would be Windows. It was amusing that Maritz chose to cite Boeing as an example of a company that had applied DNA, especially as he had just mentioned COM and DCOM (Boeing is a prominent CORBA user). Scott Vesey, a Boeing product manager who was originally named as a trial witness (and appeared on video), was characterised by Microsoft as a low-level employee because Boeing did not want to distribute IE with Windows 95. It preferred Netscape, so had to use the earliest version of Windows 95, which does not have IE. Maritz announced that an in-memory Data Engine (MSDE) would be a DNA [DAYGO] product. It became clear that Microsoft has decided that to encourage SQL Server use, it would be a good idea to have a junior version that was "100 per cent SQL Server compatible" (allegedly). It will be included in Visual Studio and the developer edition of Microsoft Office 2000. Let's hope users have a better time trying to go to SQL Server from MSDE than has been the case with Access. We can't wait for the first reports as to how quickly MSDE engine runs out of steam and needs the SQL locomotive. There were several demonstrations (and they apparently "worked"), although the audience had to take a great deal on trust about alleged loadings, and Microsoft's previous record does not allow it the benefit of doubt. We must however protest at the use of phrases like "I am very excited" by almost every microserf, and by our American cousins generally. Apart from being overdone, it doesn't necessarily mean in English what they think it means. But to continue. Maritz said that Microsoft was integrating its interoperability services "to transform any protocol to any protocol, any data source to any data source, any component architecture to any component architecture, and do it bidirectionally". So can we really expect to have good conversion from TCP to Novell's IPX, from all those incompatible MS Word formats to WordPerfect, and from COM to Corba? It looks as though Maritz may live to rue the day he made this statement. How long do we have to wait for this nirvana? Well, Maritz said it will be "delivered in beta form later this year", so there we are. But does this mean it will get into Win2k? And let's remember that Brian Valentine said the previous day that Microsoft would put in its service packs only bug fixes, and not include late-shipping code that didn't make the release. The next theme that Maritz took up was standards, by which is meant the abuse of standards of course. Immediately after Maritz uttered the name of XML - the "classic" Internet standard that he said is emerging [but how can it be "classic" if it is emerging?] - than he was on about extensions. As we all know, this is what Microsoft calls "driving the standard", which can be paraphrased as "corrupting the standard so that it will only work with Microsoft software". Microsoft evidently has plans for XML extensions with its BizTalk initiative, but to use the word "standards" in the same context is unwise (see separate story). Maritz said that "we use standard industry off-the-shelf components" for Microsoft software, but he was evidently using that special Microsoft definition of "standard", which to everybody else is better rendered as "proprietary, non-standard protocols". Microsoft is evidently feeling left behind in the e-commerce world compared with the likes of IBM and Sun, so Maritz arranged a demonstration of electronic commerce, Microsoft style. The best that Microsoft could come up with was a purchase of what was called "industry stress release" tools, to wit(less) Close Combat, Russian Front, and Combat Flight Simulator. It was neither simulation nor stimulation: it was just pathetic, especially as Maritz called it a demonstration of "the new Internet standard for business-to-business application integration, realisation of e-commerce". Another demonstration showed how developers who spoke Chinese could be found by searching on "Chinese" in a developer's database: never mind that there are very different versions of Chinese. It is now becoming embarrassing for any testing facility with integrity to agree to test on behalf of Microsoft, in view of what we have seen emerging from the court and otherwise about test results to order. Those putting themselves at risk, so far as Maritz' presentation was concerned, included the National Software Testing Laboratories (in itself suspect, because it is a commercial organisation disguised as a institution), and RSW Software. The "new" technology that Microsoft is putting in Windows includes fail-over and load balancing. Certainly fail-over was used in Digital's OpenVMS in the early 1990s, and readers may well recall earlier usage. So far as load balancing is concerned, this was being described for Unix in 1982, so Microsoft is not so far behind as you might have thought. Then there was the Apricot VX9000 series of blessed memory from the early 1990s, for example, that could have up to thirty 80386 processors in a single Unix operating system (up to 108 MIPS), with dynamic load balancing, autoconfiguration, and automatic failure detection and compensation. It used TCP/IP for networking as well. Such accomplishments are of course unknown to the average TechEd attendee, which is why Microsoft is able to get away with the reinvention of Unix capabilities. The attendees even greet such reinvention announcements with applause. The embrace of Microsoft is becoming a bear hug. Not only does Windows Update automatically configure and update software, there are also plans afoot to do the same thing with MS Office, and probably Visual Studio and MS Developer Network. Another aspect of the creeping control that Microsoft exerts is seen in Microsoft's desire to ensure that all discussion between developers is on a Microsoft-moderated newsgroup. Maritz certainly shows no signs of having eased up on his relentless desire to "invent" and control everything in a wholly-Microsoft world. Every day, life at Microsoft is getting closer and closer to the world Orwell described in '1984', the land of Big Brother. ®

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