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2004-06-19

 

Cattle-Driving the Future

Phil Wainewright: Avalon - Microsoft's Microchannel, in his followup on Joel Spolsky's API Wars article, Phil compares Microsoft's Avalon efforts to IBM's PS/2 and Microchannel misfire.  I suppose that makes Microsoft's Bob interface the mate to PC Jr.

Phil bases his speculation on Avalon GUI technology being delivered exclusively with Longhorn.  Unless we are to believe that our existing applications won't run on Longhorn unless we convert to Avalon somehow, I don't see the danger.

I have no idea whether the sharp minds at Microsoft want to confine Avalon to Longhorn as an attractor.  It's not that I'd be surprised that Microsoft is positioning to serve more than one agenda by developing a very high-performance graphical capability.  I just can't see that as an area of concern for me.  I think I'm going to pay more attention to integrative technology (.NET and Web Services) that is already available.

But I am left to muse about unspoken agendas and the Microsoft-IBM history.

Sometimes, unspoken agendas have us be wary.  It's as if what isn't being said is shouted very loud on the human backchannel.  I think it is natural to feel wary at those times.

Here, context is everything.  When Heathkit advertised "We won't let you fail," it was heard quite differently than IBM's expression of that.  IBM is known historically for aggressive maintenance of "account control," and the PS/2 might well have been seen as a way of re-establishing a "franchise."

I see in this a different insight than Phil's into the OS/2 fiasco.  The breakup of Microsoft and IBM over OS/2 seems like a complements clash of the kind that Joel Spolsky has noticed: "smart companies try to commoditize their product's complements."  From that perspective, we should not be surprised about the antagonistic breakups of partnerships where one company wants software to be nearly free and the other wants hardware to be nearly free.  That the guy with the franchise on the operating system owns the toll-booth for that particular racetrack is also not surprising, nor is the effort of hardware floggers to break away from that rat-race for their own mercantile purposes.

In the game of "who do you trust" that customers are left to figure out, I think we should just notice where they put their money and where do they aggressively seek substitutes, realistically or not.  I bet Avalon is not part of that equation.
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