A Mix of Microsoft: Azure, MinWin, BizSpark and Small Basic [Best of November '08 #1]

Microsoft dominated the news this week (Nov 3-9 2008):

  • A couple of weeks ago Microsoft announced AzureMicrosoft Azure, which is their offering in the hot cloud computing business. It's not easy to grasp what it implies, but it is a platform "in the cloud", on top of which there runs services including Live, .NET and SQL services. For now at least, you're dependent on Microsoft's development tool Visual Studio to develop for Azure. Microsoft's new offering does not depart from the usual confusion surrounding all their web-based products. Also I think that it implies some serious lock-in effects. So unless you have already invested heavily in Microsoft technologies, you are better off staying out.
    Ted Dziuba gives an alternative view of Azure, with some interesting points. Though he thinks it is a bit confusing compared to the offerings by Amazon and Google, he still thinks Microsoft could be a winner:     

    Fortunately for Microsoft, decision makers don't choose a hosted application platform based on specifications. They choose based on the number of stock photos of clouds and the amount of sans-serif blue typeface you have on your webpage. In that regard, Redmond is the clear winner. [...]
    This is all within one standard deviation of the average amount of fail in any given Microsoft product. In fact, I think it stands a better chance than Google's or Amazon's offering.

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  • Microsoft's coming operating system Windows 7, might contain something called MinWin, reports Mary-Jo Foley, referring to a webcast featuring Mark Russinovich. MinWin lies at the core of the Windows OS, containing basic services and is a self-contained executable unit, independent of any outside services. Mary-Jo seems uncertain about whether MinWin will actually ship as a part of Windows 7, or if it's just a development project aimed at future Windows version like Windows 8 or even Midori. Possibly it's part of the much awaited from the ground up rewrite of the Windows code base?
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  • In another move to increase its customer base, Microsoft has launched BizSpark, a partner program for startups who for free (almost) get access to Microsoft's development tools via a MSDN Premium subscription, web hosting rights and access to the Azure services platform, for a three-year period. The major catch perhaps is that to join you have to connect with a Network partner, which are venture firms and other businesses and organizations focusing on services for startups and entrepreneurs. This can be a trouble if you want to stay independent. Another catch of course is that if you're still in business after three years, you have to start paying the bills from Microsoft.
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  • Last week I wrote that Google now is an OpenID Identity Provider (IdP). Some folks argued that Google somehow had violated the specification and "forked" OpenID, something that is now denied in a post by DeWitt Clinton. A point of criticism stems from the fact that Google has used a new feature of the OpenID 2.0 specification known as Directed Identity, which is exemplified by Clinton as follows: 

    Directed Identity allows users to enter a generic domain name (e.g.., “example.com”), rather than a fully qualified identity (e.g., “example.com/users/bob”), so that they can use their identity provider to make an informed decision about how much personal information to expose to the RP [Relying Party]"

    Some commenter to Clinton's post argued that OpenID had forked itself by including such possibilities in version 2.0 of the specification. There is also an ongoing debate about whether it is a good idea to allow for email addresses as OpenID identifiers.

  • OStatic writes that the open source Ogg Theora video codec now has reached version 1.0 status. The Xiph.Org Foundation stands behind the open source effort, which includes the Vorbis audio codec, the Theora video codec, and the Ogg multimedia container format, which encapsulates the codecs. Ogg Theora is a good candidate for the HTML 5 video element, though no codec is officially sanctioned by W3C.
  • Lidija Davis writes about Small Basic, a new flavour of the original BASIC programming language from Microsoft, built on top of the .NET platform. The development environment is purely text based, in contrast to the visual environments provided by the alternatives Scratch and Alice. A commenter to Lidija's post also mentions the commercial alternative Phrogram, which I haven't checked out further.
    The help texts and introductions to Small Basic are written in a quite advanced language, hardly comprehensible to smaller kids. You probably should be at least around 12 years old and a bit nerdy inclined to enjoy Small Basic. I think Scratch, which I first wrote about in May, is better suited for smaller kids, 8 and up, whereas Alice seems to be aimed chiefly at college kids.
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