James Governor's Monkchips

Why Microsoft is the most important company in RSS

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Because you need to subscribe from somewhere.
The A-list may prefer pure web-based solutions but the Vista wave will take feeds into the mainstream…. allowing Metcalfe’s Law to kick in.
Remember when Microsoft adopted TCP/IP? HTML? XML?
Embrace, extend, and explode the market.
If feeds are to move into the mainstream its going to need offerings packaged for both mainstream consumer and enterprise users. I just can’t see anyone else out there set up to provide such a package.
  • Google pack? I don’t think so. Office may have begun life as a bunch of shrinkwrapped seperate apps held together with a rubber band, but I don’t think that kind of model will work for RSS/IM/multimedia integration that my mum can use.
  • IBM? Apparently doesn’t want to build a Microsoft client alternative, not one that will touch consumers anyway. Maybe if IBM does something like this it will be in the game.
  • Sun? Could maybe do something with Google around a network appliance endpoint like a Sun Ray. If Google does announce such a thing as CES then I take this post back…
  • Apple’s new Intel machines might change the game, but I am not sure the timeframe is on the Cupertino company’s side.
  • Wireless providers? Won’t get it, because they like walled gardens.
I have a post in mind about why Vista is going to be major launch, like Win 95, which not even the Microsoft Vista team seems to believe. But its not the OS that will sell the OS, its the integrated handling of standard specifications that will sell the OS. I am not the biggest fan of integrated aggravation but its a model that works for hundreds of millions of people. RSS, rather than XML per se, may be the killer spec for Office 12.
Microsoft even has time to steal some of the emerging ideas in OPML handling before the big launch. Talking of stealing ideas, that is one of Microsoft’s problems. There is no obvious target yet for the “IE” of the RSS wave. If anyone else had of really nailed what a RSS client looked like it would be a shoe in.
I take Alex’s point. But would argue we’re still just at the very beginning of the upcoming dirssruption. 2005 was not the end of RSS adoption, or the beginning of the end of RSS adoption, but rather the end of the beginning. Turn the Long Tail the other way round. The mainstream is way up there.
So this post is really just a flameholder. Or maybe a prediction for early 07.
Without all the delays to Longhorn, Microsoft wouldn’t be in a position to package all the bits and pieces needed to make feeds valuable and provide a reason to upgrade. Who would have thought product delays would create such a great opportunity.
Longhorn was technology in search of a set of use cases. Vista on the other hand, will be technology packaged to fulfil a set of use cases, loosely defined as Web 2.0. That’s a big difference. 
Google, Yahoo, MSN, all need a client to get the most out of the service. That is the bottom line. If we’re going to the GYM we still want PCs that make the most of the services available. 2006 will be about building cool Web 2.0 apps, more flickrs, deliciouses and so on.
2007 will be the year when they cross the chasm. Networks needs endpoints to be valuable.
Volume wins.
I thought about back-pedalling on the headline but couldnt be bothered. I am happy to see why and how people disagree.
Disclaimer: IBM, Microsoft and Sun are clients. Google and Apple are not.


  1. James,

    As always the insightful James Governor cuts through the crap and calls it like it is. Lots of people might not like it but I think you are right. Having MS embrace RSS will have a major impact on the mainstream.

    Looking forward to more Redmonk insights in 2006.


  2. I’ve just (p)reviewed Vista build 5270 for a magazine. I was pleasantly surprised.

    It’s the easiest build to install yet, it runs on off the shelf hardware (I bought a £360 box from PC World for it), and the bundle of integrated applications is shaping up to be a rival to Apple’s iLife. Not feature complete yet (I undestand the next CTP will be), but getting there.

    I suspect the rumoured August 31st Gold code target date will be met, which gives us a an October launch.

  3. I think this is the most penetrating and succinct analysis of the whole Vista/Longhorn ordeal that I’ve seen. You are absolutely right: the technologies we thought we’d get in Longhorn aren’t there and nobody is too upset about it. On the other hand, the technologies that have captured everyone’s imaginations of late are prime to be integrated and exploited in a fantastic way. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Microsoft will necessarily capture that opportunity, but it is there.

  4. I consider the dissent a badge of honour, james.

    A couple of slight pushbacks:

    I was thinking of RSS beyond blogs, as a workflow mechanism, with some OPML preference and navigation-sharing, and replication, thrown in for good measure (see alex barnett if that sounds like gibberish, there are screencasts there that show what i mean on the latter point).

    I would also say that I dont necessarily call it soon – this is a 2007 timeframe call. Thanks for the install story and the timeframe Simon!) The wave wont really start to hit the shore until next fall at the earliest.

    We will need applications to drive a client refresh, you are right on the money there.

    I am with you on DRM. I hear your pain, or at least I could if you weren’t using that Apple Fairplay stuff… But who exactly do you think is going to provide something unencumbered for the mainstream?

    Also – my point about the decomposition of Longhorn talks to your tarball point. The fact Vista is not one big monolith, as per the original blueprint, is actually in Microsoft’s favour in terms of shippability.

    Can Microsoft build a real buzz around Vista and the associated software portfolio? I believe it can, if it plays it right. Scoble might be able to help just a little bit there.

    Can Microsoft provide tools and APIs developers are willing to develop to? That is surely a rhetorical question. Navigating the thicket is a key challenge though as you say.

    Finally I don’t think we should write off the influence of Ray Ozzie. I have a post in the works there too. Richard Schwartz from the Lotus community opened my eyes on that score. Fast and loose and sloppy (meaning good) small pieces loosely joined. creative commons, working with Dave Winer, that kind of thing is interesting and potentially significant.

    The argument is about clientside pull for server side RSS (or maybe that’s just 20th c hierarchical thinking)- the Vista wave is going to create plenty of opportunities for web services (with a small ws) players. develop to the cloud, expect to be deployed often on Windows. the more RSS hooks and entry points in the client the better. I have a lot of faith in developers to do really cool things. Will Firefox thrive? Absolutely. But I also expect MS to get its act together around the post-HTML browser.

    Thanks very much for the high praise Anthony!

    Ian, that’s a really useful contribution. Eclipse’s view on Vista is extremely valuable in this context.

  5. “Can Microsoft build a real buzz around Vista and the associated software portfolio? I believe it can, if it plays it right. Scoble might be able to help just a little bit there.”

    You do realize that people who read weblogs (especially techy ones) is like, nothing, right? Nobody I know personally has any idea what a Scoble is.

  6. Hi

    RSS is just the beginnig and if you look closely at Vista you will see the OPML object repository in the OS couple this with SSE and you have Notes/Groove in the OS but over the internet. Couple that with MetaData and searcxh in everything and Vista begins to look interesting once again.


  7. Notwithstanding your view of RSS being important (which might be the case), you’re identifying the main question: what gets Vista over the Chasm. Everyone is on this side of it now.

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