MIX: Microsoft promises new software architecture
Ray Ozzie, Bill Gates' successor as chief architect at Microsoft, gave the keynote address at Microsoft's Mix Conference in Las Vegas. Ozzie explained that online advertising will play a crucial role in Microsoft's web strategy. While he did not rule out paid subscriptions for special software services, Microsoft's Chief Software Architect did say that the company would mainly finance its web investments from advertising. This, he said, is one of the main reasons why Microsoft is working so hard to take over Yahoo. He did not wish to comment on the tug-of-war that has resulted from Microsoft's attempt to take over the search engine and media provider.
When he addresses the Mix audience on Thursday, CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to provide more details on the issue, especially now that Yahoo plans to fend off a hostile takeover by restructuring its supervisory board. Yahoo, number two in the online advertising market, is also reported to be negotiating with AOL, Disney, and News Corp. about possible holdings as alternatives. In February, Microsoft offered Yahoo nearly $45bn, which the company declined.
Ozzie focused more on Microsoft's plans to restructure its software portfolio to get more users to switch to Windows Live and other services. He explained that the entire software portfolio would be redesigned to provide greater symmetry between locally installed software, software as a service, and Web Services. Windows Live Workspace, which enables internet-based access and storage of office documents, will be the centrepiece for individual users of productivity applications. In contrast, the Sharepoint Server content management system will be provided for corporate users.
Since the beginning of the week, Microsoft has been offering a web-based version of SharePoint Server that is not installed on corporate servers, but accessed via the web from Microsoft. Such services were also launched simultaneously for Exchange Server and SQL Server. At the moment, these beta versions services are reserved for a select group of users.
Ozzie's keynote address climaxed with a demonstration of Silverlight 2 and Internet Explorer 8, both of which are available to all users for downloading as a public beta test. Expression Studio 2, Visual Studio 2008 and ASP.net MVC Preview are available for both of these programs as new developer tools.
IE 8 focuses mainly on interoperability with Firefox and Safari. Judging from what has been seen already, Microsoft has done quite a bit of work. Special functions for grouping and bookmarking related websites provide some interesting ways to find bookmarked documents and preview updates of entire groups.
Silverlight 2 has an new zoom function for animated websites and videos. Web developers also have a new set of tools to combine multiple images in one view. Users can then zoom in on details from this view. There is also a fast rewind and replay function for live videos, which was demonstrated on NBC's website for the Olympics. In a procedure called "adaptive streaming", video streams automatically adjust to the conditions of the network connection and the target computer, to provide the best playback quality for each user.
Silverlight is already available on mobile operating systems, as demonstrated by a Nokia representative on an S60 Symbian mobile phone. Web developers can write software for PCs and mobile systems in the same programming environment. (Erich Bonnert)