Newsgator and the future of Microsoft
A few weeks ago I had a planning session with Microsoft where we discussed requirements for the version of windows to follow Vista. During that meeting I used newsgator as an example of my ideal service, it embodies in principle – and increasingly in execution – all that I see as good in the new world of service enabled software.
I thought it would be useful to describe some of the characteristics of the newsgator approach:
- A loosely integrated client and services platform
- The services platform only asserts itself when it can add value to the user, otherwise it gets out of the way and lets me get on with the job
- An eco-system of different client software optimised to address different platforms, user-types and user preferences, some supplied by newsgator but others just integrated with the services platform using their APIs
- Different installations of newsgator online enabled software are aware of activities on the other clients, for example my work client is aware of what I have already read or subscribed to at home
- Each installation of a client can optionally have a different configuration, so my work client could be configured differently to my home client if that’s what I wanted
- A complementary web interface for when an optimised smart client is not available, or for when a web interface is the optimised solution
- All of my configuration data is held by the services platform and be easily extracted and moved some place else, in fact other systems can use it in place as it is all url addressable
- All (actually nearly all but they are moving in the right direction) configuration data is held by the services platform, so that once I have authenticated to it from a freshly installed client it seems like my environment again
- Higher performance than would be possible with a client only approach
In summary, the approach provides me with considerable freedom of choice, great performance, optimisation without sacrificing flexibility and openness, pretty inspiring!
Now if Microsoft can do the same thing by utilising Windows Live to make the experience of multiple personal PC’s, work and personal PCs, a household of PCs, PCs and Mobiles, multiple identities, sharing data, PC migrations and upgrades etc more seamless and deliver freedom of choice, great performance, optimisation without sacrificing flexibility and openness then I will be very impressed.
It’s interesting that watching Ray Ozzie perform at the Financial Analyst meeting recently he definitely seems to have a newsgator-like vision for the eco-system of Microsoft products and services, and some of his recent innovations around the use of Live Clipboard and RSS and Simple List Extensions seem to indicate that he sees the value in delivering these innovations using standards so there may be hope.
The only thing I really need to round off the newsgator experience is for every bit of configuration data to persist server side (flags, snippets, saved searches etc) and applications that stream down to my new PC automatically with no possibility of conflicts with other applications and no administrative rights to run or install, for that I guess we need them to be .Net ClickOnce applications or wait for Microsoft to build Softgrid like virtualization support into their operating systems and Softgrid like streaming into their packaging approach and yes I do know that Microsoft has just acquired Softricity!
This would be a vision for Software as a Service that would really appeal to me!
What you are describing is exactly what RIM did with version 4 of the Blackberry Enterprise Server. They made it easy to manage the configuration of the clients and all the setting changes made by the users were automatically backed up on the server. Not exactly sure how that would work with a full blown desktop environment, but I have seen the benefits of such a situation.