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June 3, 2008  2:45 PM

Ballmer Bot debuts at TechEd

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

A dextrous-armed, Wi-fi-equipped “Ballmer bot” wheeled itself on stage to join Bill Gates at his TechEd 08 keynote today.

A rotating torso capped with an LCD bearing Steve Ballmer’s face, the robot re-enacted Ballmer’s famous “developers, developers, developers!” rant.

Ballmer Bot’s dextrous arms can “even throw eggs,” Tandy Tower, general manager of Microsoft’s Robotics Lab chimed in helpfully. (Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was recently “egged” at a European event. Whatever you think of Ballmer, his recovery from the flying eggs was priceless: “That broke my train of thought.”)

It was hard to tell from the streaming video whether Ballmer Bot was greeted with laughter or screams or indifference.

Full video of the TechEd keynote is here. Ballmer Bot is about an hour and 20 minutes in.

June 3, 2008  11:16 AM

Some takeaways from Bill Gates’ finale

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Bill Gates just finished what Microsoft has billed as his last public speech as a company full timer. Gates is stepping down from day-to-day involvement as of July 1.

At TechEd 2008 part one (for developers) Gates hit on some familiar themes and presided over demos of upcoming modeling, database, and development technologies. Continued »

June 3, 2008  9:34 AM

Forrester: Windows 7 neat, not revolutionary

Bcournoyer Brendan Cournoyer Profile: Bcournoyer

Waiting for Windows 7 to swoop in and save your business from poor Windows Vista sales? Don’t hold your breath, according to Forrester Research.

In a blog post yesterday, analyst Benjamin Gray wrote that Windows 7, Microsoft’s next-generation operating system, is “clearly going to be an evolutionary update, not the revolutionary update that many are hoping for. So the challenges that organizations are experiencing with Windows Vista today will also occur with what’s coming next.”

Continued »

June 2, 2008  9:49 AM

Dynamics AX 2009 debuts

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Microsoft’s new Dynamics AX 2009, now available, targets multinational companies. This release lets companies combine multiple time zones and currencies in a single ERP instance. — something that should suit mid-sized and even large companies with sites in multiple countries, according to Kees Hertogh, Microsoft Dynamics product manager.

Also new: Bi-directional support for Arabic languages. That means that PC screens in Arabic-speaking offices will read right to left with the appropriate character set while other offices can retain their screen look-and-feel. Continued »

May 29, 2008  7:48 AM

Dell vs. Jobs: Steel cage match

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

So it’s come to this: Michael Dell, asked at AllThingsD if he could vanquish Steve Jobs in a fight summed it up: “I could take him.”

Engadget ran with the bit under the headline: “Oh no he didn’t!”

Given that Jobs is credited — fairly or not — with being a creative force in tech while Dell is seen –fairly or not–as a logistics pro, there’s bound to be some bad blood. A few years back, Dell was asked what he would do if he were in charge with Apple and he said he’s shut it down.

No response yet from Steve Jobs, Fake or Real.

May 27, 2008  11:01 PM

A (teeny) bit of Windows 7 news

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Steven Sinofsky and Microsoft are talking, a wee bit, about Windows 7, aka the successor to Vista.

In a post to the Windows Vista blog, Chris Flores tries to explain the secrecy surrounding this release, basically by saying, “It’s better for you if you don’t know.”

Continued »

May 27, 2008  9:34 PM

Google sets pricing for App Engine use

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Google has said it wants developers to write apps to run in its “cloud.” Now, on the eve of the Google I/O conference, it disclosed how it will charge developers for the use of its server- and storage-farms and related infrastructure.

Developers can use Google App Engine free for up to 500MB of storage and enough CPU cycles to power five million page views per month. Google says 150,000 developers have already signed up.

Above and beyond the 500MB, five-million-page-view cut off, Google will charge ten cents to 12 cents per additional core CPU hour; 15 cents to 18 cents per GB storage; 11 cents to 13 cents per GB of outgoing bandwidth; and 9 cents to 11 cents per GB of incoming bandwidth.

That might sound confusing, but the race is on among vendors to lure developers into their own ecosystem with a pay-as-you-go model. eBay,, Google are among the Web 2.0 giants vying for developers’ attention. Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to balance its existing .Net development dominance in the on-premise software world with a more Web-savvy Live efforts.

For its part, Google will also soon furnish the new Google Web Tookit 1.5 as well as two new APIs. The first API promises to enable developers to scale, rotate, and crop images on the server. The second, a memcache API , a high-performance caching layer to speed up page rendering.

Barbara Darrow can be reached at

May 27, 2008  2:55 PM

Google Web Toolkit grows up with Java 5 support

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

A new version of the Google Web Toolkit (Gwit to Google insiders), promises full support for the latest Java language as well as faster-running apps at the end of the process.

GWT 1.5 will be formally introduced by Google’s top engineer Vic Gundotra Wednesday at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco and be available for download within days.
“The biggest news is the Java 5 language support. Java itself has evolved a lot in the last few yeas and GWT 1.5 supports those new language features including the more modern syntax, generics and enumerated types,” said Google engineering manager Bruce Johnson.
As before, the goal of GWT is to make it easier for developers to create JavaScript code that can run on a wide variety of devices.

Johnson said early testers report better application performance. “Additional compiler optimizations in 1.5 result in noticeable application performance improvement,’ Johnson claimed.
Alex Moffat , engineering manager at Lombardi, Austin, Texas, is fully aboard. “The big benefit in 1.5, he says, is the support for all the new Java 5 syntax improvements. “They’ve added support for generics so you can write code that gives the compiler more information so you can catch more errors at compile time. You can now avoid a whole class of mistakes,” Moffat said.
Much of Lombardi’s Blueprint document discovery tool’s front end was written in GWT while the backend is all Java.

“If you are a Java shop, you’d have to be an idiot not to use GWT for the Web front end these days,” Moffat said. Non Java (i.e. .Net) shops would have to acquire Java expertise before venturing in.

With GWT, Google is making a play for business developers. Companies like Queplix, Contact Office, DoubleCheck LLC and Lombardi Software all use the current GWT 1.4 to develop applications ranging from customer care to business process management. 

This year Google  is even charging conference admission fee for the first time,  apparently trying to weed out non-serious programmers.  

Barbara Darrow can be reached at

May 27, 2008  9:45 AM

VMware beta features: hype vs. reality

Bcournoyer Brendan Cournoyer Profile: Bcournoyer

VMware’s “cloud computing” strategy set me off on a little rant last week. I wrote that VMware was likely getting into SaaS because it was either inspired by or jealous of Google’s success in the “cloud.”

Now it turns out that VMware is following Google’s footsteps in another area as well. And luckily, someone else has taken care of the criticism this time.

If you haven’t noticed, nearly all of Google’s services — including GMail, Google News and Google Apps — are still in beta, even though they’re years old. Andrew Kutz, who writes on our sister blog Virtualization Pro, points out that several new VMware features — including Storage VMotion and Virtual Machine High Availability — are also in beta or labeled “experimental.” Kutz writes:

Excuse me for being old fashioned, but it isn’t enterprise-ready if it is beta or labeled experimental. And VMware makes no bones about this; they plainly state that these features should not be used in production. However, on the other hand they make a big show about the same set of features, whipping the crowd to a fever pitch of excitement. You can’t have it both ways, guys.

… VMware needs to make sure that features that are experimental should be announced with an asterisk next to their headline.

VMware should be doing a better job separating hype from reality when talking about these products. But it looks like that job will instead fall to VMware partners. When your customers ask about Storage VMotion, for example, tell them it’s promising, but also point out that it doesn’t yet have a GUI option. You’re the last line of defense to keep customers from heading down the dead-end road of hype.

May 22, 2008  10:49 PM

CompTIA: Mobile security represents a big gap, and opportunity

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Intuitively, I think we all knew this was coming. But now, there’s some research out of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) that validates the notion that many companies are still seriously unprotected when it comes to their notebooks and handheld computers.

CompTIA just conducted a survey of more than 2,000 people responsible for information security within their organization. More than 50 percent of them said mobile security threats had grown dramatically over the past 12 months. But while 71 percent of these companies allow employees to tap into their networks from a remote location, only 39 percent have provided any kind of security awareness training about what they should worry about, or why. Another 19 percent said they DO intend to provide this sort of education before the end of the year.

Because there hasn’t been a seriously malevolent virus on cell phones or smart phones, we tend to be kind of blase about the threat. But compliance has got people downright spoked about the notebook thing.
Ironically, I just wrote a story earlier this week for Entrepreneur magazine about mobile whole disk encryption, which is being used increasingly to protect data on a notebook in case it is lost or stolen. Some 45 percent of companies of all sizes now are evaluating or planning to buy disk encryption software to protect against this, according to some recent Forrester Research data.

The take-away is pretty simple: Disk encryption is definitely a growing mobile security area, although there are some pretty big downsides — like your data isn’t recoverable if your hard drive dies. While the handheld market is less developed, the iPhone has got people evaluating handheld computers in ways that IT departments are wholly unprepared for. So, a VAR with expertise in this area, such as D&D Consulting in Albany, N.Y., stands a good chance to differentiate themselves.

Heather Clancy is a business journalist and strategic communications consultant with SWOT Management Group. She can be reached at

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