Facebook Day – $15 billion!

Post ImageTo my knowledge there is no "Facebook Day" but that seems like a fitting label for today. Until the company eventually goes public, today is probably the most important day in Facebook’s (incredibly short) history. Today Microsoft announced that it would pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook, which means:

The investment values the three-year-old Facebook, which will bring in about $150 million in revenue this year, at $15 billion.

“We are now stepping outside what is typically a business decision,” said Rob Enderle, the founder of the strategy concern Enderle Group. “This was almost personal. I wouldn’t want to be the executive that’s on the losing side at either firm.”

Yes, Facebook is officially worth $15 billion. I wrote in February that Facebook missed the boat by not selling to Yahoo, but also pointed out they’d get another shot. Turns out I was wrong on the first part, and right on the second. All of a sudden Mark Zuckerberg looks like a genius for saying "no thanks" to Yahoo’s paltry offer of $1 billion.

Microsoft and Google were said to be fighting over the deal to the very end, with Microsoft having the slight advantage thanks to a previous ad deal with Facebook. This deal is all about positioning – Microsoft couldn’t afford to let Google cozy up to Facebook’s growing network of eyeballs.

There’s a ton of commentary on this story in the blogosphere, so I won’t rehash that here, but there is one thing that seems odd to me: the amount. No doubt $240 million is a lot of money, but I was expecting an announcement in the billions today. Something more in line with Google’s purchase of YouTube or Microsoft’s purchase of aQuantive.

On the other hand, a smaller piece of a big pie is better than no pie at all.

Read: NYTimes.com

realDEVELOPMENT_07 Edmonton

Post ImageMSDN is touring the country again, this time to talk about strategies for today’s web application development. They’ll be in Edmonton at SilverCity in WestEd (actually I guess it’s Scotiabank Theatre now) on October 25th:

If you are a Canadian Web developer, this free event is for you. We will look at common challenges such as security, accessibility & usability, AJAX, Javascript debugging, using patterns to improve your development process and working with external services. In a nutshell, this is a two-part tips, tricks and tools presentation.

It will be focused primarily on Microsoft technologies (like ASP.NET), however if you develop on other platforms, you can get a lot of value from the event in terms of techniques and free tools for debugging your client side code to load testing your websites. This event is sponsored by MSDN Canada.

I like that they mention right on the details page that tools like Fiddler and the Developer Toolbar will be demonstrated. The page also mentions HTML and Javascript by name! It’s not your typical MS-marketing-speak event, that’s for sure.

I was on the community conference call where Microsoft solicited feedback on their web-related developer events, and the key point was to go beyond Visual Studio and ASP.NET proper. It definitely looks like they listened!

Read: MSDN

Bungie splits from Microsoft


Today Microsoft announced that Bungie Studios, the developer of the Halo games, will once again become an independent company. Microsoft will still own part of Bungie, and will continue the long-standing publishing agreement between the two for games developed by Bungie. From the Inside Bungie blog:

Bungie has long been built on creativity, originality and the freedom to pursue ideas. Microsoft agreed, and rather than stifle our imagination, they decided it was in both our best interests to unleash it. We’ll continue to make Xbox 360 games, and we’ll continue to make amazing games for MGS. In that regard, nothing has changed.

It sounds like everyone is happy with this arrangement. Both MS and Bungie seem pretty adamant that nothing will change, and I don’t see much reason to doubt them. I would assume that Microsoft will make slightly less money on future Bungie games, but I think they can live with that as long as the studio continues to pump out winners.

This quote from the Bungie press release made me laugh:

“Working with Microsoft was great for us, it allowed us to grow as a team and make the ambitious, blockbuster games we all wanted to work on. And they will continue to be a great partner. But Bungie is like a shark.  We have to keep moving to survive. We have to continually test ourselves, or we might as well be dolphins. Or manatees,” said Jason Jones, Bungie founder and partner.

Heh, well we can’t have them turning into manatees!

Mary Jo Foley has a good post up with five reasons why the split is a smart move for Microsoft. Her fifth point is the most important, I think:

5. Quasi-independent subsidiaries come up with more interesting ideas. As it has done with Xbox and Zune, Microsoft no longer believes innovation only happens when a unit is physically and psychically locked inside the Redmond headquarters.

I hope that shift in thinking really is happening inside Microsoft. For instance, I’m sure the new Vancouver dev centre will do some great things if they aren’t forced to go through Redmond for everything.

For lots more on this story, check out Techmeme.

Read: Microsoft

.NET Framework Shared Source

Post Image Microsoft announced today that they will be making the source code for the .NET Framework 3.5 available when the framework ships along with Visual Studio 2008 later this year. From Scott Guthrie:

Having source code access and debugger integration of the .NET Framework libraries is going to be really valuable for .NET developers.  Being able to step through and review the source should provide much better insight into how the .NET Framework libraries are implemented, and in turn enable developers to build better applications and make even better use of them.

This is pretty cool news. I think it’s great for .NET itself too, as I suspect Microsoft will receive a ton of really useful feedback after developers have had a chance to get their hands dirty. There’s literally dozens of ways that this will positively impact the .NET community.

Of course, not everyone is impressed. Already the news has been called a “poison pill” by some, and simply a bad idea by others. Well, you can’t please everyone. And when it comes to Microsoft, there never seems to be a shortage of conspiracy theorists.

For more thoughts, be sure to check out TechMeme and also this post from Miguel de Icaza of the Mono project.

Read: ScottGu’s Blog

Bring on personalized Xbox manufacturing!

halo3xboxTuesday is going to be a big day for Microsoft. September 25th is the release date for Halo 3, the much anticipated third installment in the Halo video game series. If you thought Halo 2 was a big deal (it sold more in the first 24 hours after release than most movies generate during their entire box office run) you’d be right – but Halo 3 is an even bigger deal.

Everything about Halo 3 is bigger and better than before, but especially the marketing. Heck, there’s a page at Wikipedia dedicated solely to marketing for Halo 3. Microsoft seems to have figured out that blogs like Engadget are important too. Look at what they sent to Engadget editor Ryan Block:

Listen up kids — the holidays have come way early. We’ve got our hands on the special edition Xbox 360 all done up in Halo 3 fashion… but that’s not all. The boys from Redmond sent a massive, massive package our way, including a giant, custom army bag, custom dog tags, two army meal rations, a first aid kit, the Xbox itself, two Halo 3 controllers and a headset, plus some other stuff hidden in the nooks and crannies.

The photo gallery is pretty darn cool, even if you’re not a Halo fan. One photo in particular caught my eye. Not only did Ryan receive a Halo 3 themed console, but it has his name engraved on the side! How cool is that? The bag and dog tags also have his name on them.

That got me thinking. What if Microsoft offered this package for sale, instead of just sending it to the press? I am sure people would happily pay more for a personalized Halo 3 kit. In fact, they could cut out the middleman altogether. Imagine pre-ordering Halo 3 online from Microsoft, with the ability to fully customize the package – colors, your name, etc. I’d pay for that, and I don’t think I’m the only one who would.

The Halo 3 themed console isn’t the first special edition Microsoft has launched – there was also the yellow edition for The Simpsons Movie. So it seems that personalization can be done, they probably just need to perfect the process. Microsoft made a big deal out of software themes and the faceplates for the Xbox 360, but maybe the next version of the Xbox will be truly customizable? Fully personalized manufacturing?

It could happen!

Read: Engadget

US students get Office 2007 for teh cheap!

If you’re a student in the United States with an email address ending in .edu, you can get Office Ultimate 2007 for just $59.95 USD. That’s an incredible deal considering the ERP on that SKU is about $679 USD. They call it “the ultimate steal“:

Seize the deal! Get Microsoft® Office Ultimate 2007 for just $59.95. It’s a total steal: save time and money with this premium offer. Office Ultimate 2007’s brand new features and fresh look will help you organize and get all your work done in the blink of an eye. The Ultimate Steal is finally here, so grab it now!

It sucks that the offer is open only to students south of the border. I guess students here in Canada will have to “steal” it the old fashioned way.

The other interesting part of the promo is the blogging contest. Write a blog post explaining how to you plan to use Office for your academic studies, and you could win a spring break getaway, an American Express gift card, or an Xbox 360 Elite console. Again, open only to students in the USA.

Come on Microsoft Canada, how come we don’t have cool promos like this?!

UPDATE: Disregard everything about Canada in the above text! Apparently this offer is available in Canada, and a bunch of other countries too. Their website strategy is shitty though, because the .com site totally doesn’t make that clear. The press release clearly states Canada however. I should have tried this earlier, but here it is: http://theultimatesteal.ca. Cost is $64 to buy, $22 to subscribe for a year.

UPDATE 2: Okay, either I was totally blind today, or they just added this sometime this afternoon, but there are little flag icons on the top of the website. Maybe their website strategy isn’t so shitty after all! I/O error I guess…anyway, wicked deal for students, and it lasts until April 30th, 2008.

Read: the ultimate steal

I got buried on Digg

My latest article at last100 was published today, titled: Windows Media Center – a Microsoft success story? If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you probably know that I’m a bit of a Microsoft fan. I think they’re a great company, and I like their products (for the most part). Sure they do some stupid things from time to time, but name a big company that doesn’t!

Anyway, back to the post. I’ve written a few Microsoft-related posts for last100 in the last month or so, and I don’t think I’ve said anything terribly negative in any of them. A few of the posts became really popular on Digg, and the feedback was mostly good. I was kind of surprised, to be honest. Communities like Digg, by their very nature, don’t like big companies. Or perhaps more accurately, the community members don’t. Well, I finally got buried on Digg. My latest article made the front page, then quickly disappeared. I guess I had it coming!

Essentially my post demonstrates that Windows Media Center has become very successful. I don’t really attempt to explain the reasons for the success, aside from glossing over the features and that sort of thing. It seems most people think that WMC is only successful because it is installed by default on many new computers. Even if that’s the case, does it matter? I don’t think it does.

Forget about how it happened – the simple fact of the matter is that there are more than 50 million computers out there with really great media center functionality. Even if the majority of users don’t use that functionality today, that doesn’t mean they won’t tomorrow. There’s something to be said about saturation. Not enough people know about media center features. And maybe they shouldn’t have to. If everyone had media center PCs, they could just start using the functionality without thinking about it.

Oh well, getting buried was bound to happen sooner or later. I wonder if they make a t-shirt for this!

Read: last100

Flash, Silverlight and H.264

Post ImageAdobe launched a new version of Flash on Monday. The update is codenamed “Moviestar” because it adds support for H.264, a video compression codec. The release is significant because it allows Flash to play really high quality video. Adobe expects the final version to be ready this fall.

I think it’s clear that Adobe added H.264 support to Flash as a way to compete with Microsoft’s Silverlight and VC-1. SmugMug’s Don MacAskill thinks the announcement gives Adobe the edge:

Silverlight 1.0 is focused almost entirely on video, including HD, and clearly gunning for Flash. So why wouldn’t they go right for Flash’s big Achilles heel – no H.264 support?

Oh well – that opportunity is now lost, and I believe this basically nails Silverlight 1.0’s coffin shut.

Don goes on to say that he had high hopes for strong competition among Rich Internet Application frameworks. I really value Don’s opinion, and I think he’s a really smart guy, but I think his comment is somewhat misleading and I have to disagree with him here. Why? Because it’s only August 22nd, 2007, that’s why.

I realize that Don specifically mentioned “Silverlight 1.0” but I wouldn’t fault you for skimming over the version number, and that’s what needs to be addressed. First of all, Silverlight 1.0 hasn’t even been released yet. Secondly, the first real release is going to be Silverlight 1.1, which is currently in alpha. There’s a lot of time left before the final version of 1.1 is released. Who knows, maybe Microsoft will even add support for H.264 before that time (though Don says he has been told by MS employees that no more codecs will be added).

The point is that it’s still early. Don’t count Silverlight out just yet. Lots can happen between now and the final releases of both Flash “Moviestar” and Silverlight. I think it’s safe to say there won’t be a lack of competition in the RIA framework space.

I completely agree with Don’s last statement though:

You’re going to see a massive boom in the online video space shortly. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Exactly. Lots to come still. It’s an exciting time!

Read: SmugBlog

Imagine Cup goes green in 2008

Post ImageThe winners of Imagine Cup 2007 were announced yesterday in South Korea. The winning team in the Software Design invitational was from Thailand. The team members are: Prachaya Phaisanwiphatpong, Vasan Chienmaneetaweesin, Jatupon Sukkasem, Pathompol Saeng-Uraiporn.

Yeah, I don’t know how to say their names either! Imagine Cup is truly an international event. Dickson and I participated a few times, winning in Canada the first year back in 2003. The competition is for students, so I can’t compete anymore, but I still like to read about it.

Next year’s event will take place in Paris, France, and the theme is hardly surprising. Yep, you guessed it, Imagine Cup is going to tackle the environment in 2008: “imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment.”

Actually, that’s probably a fairly difficult theme for software development. It’s easy to come up with ideas for healthcare or education related software, but much more difficult to build something that helps the environment. Here’s a decent article on the topic.

Congrats to all the 2007 winners!

Read: Imagine Cup

Microsoft's Internet TV strategy

You’ll recall that last week the first post in a two part series I wrote for last100 on Microsoft’s Internet TV strategy was posted. I’d say the post did very well, receiving over 20 comments from readers and 300 diggs. Today, part two is up:

The product to keep an eye on is definitely Mediaroom (and Mediaroom on the Xbox 360). There’s a reason Microsoft chose Mediaroom as the brand instead of simply Microsoft TV: they are looking to the future of entertainment, where TV is just one piece of the puzzle.

You can read the entire post at last100, and you can digg it here. As always, let me know what you think!

Read: last100