Microsoft Mashups

I attended Bill Gates’ keynote speech last night at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The speech droned on for one and a half hours about all the seemingly wonderful things Microsoft is doing in the consumer electronics space. There were several good product announcements, but to me all those take a back seat to what’s really exciting about Microsoft technologies. Essentially, all the new products that Microsoft is releasing are mashups of existing technologies.

Microsoft creates great platforms. Whether it’s desktop or server operating systems, game consoles, information technology (IT) infrastructure, development environments and runtime engines, or business productivity suites, Microsoft’s platforms have matured to the point where they now create an ecosystem of platforms. By decoupling features from specific products and creating engines to host those features, products and platforms no longer exist in silos. Take a look at some of the product announcements made last night and think about these how products are enabled by platforms:

  • Xbox Live on Vista – Vista includes a user interface that looks and behaves very similar to the Xbox dashboard. A Vista user can connect to Xbox live and invite other people in their social network to play online games.
  • Flight simulation of 3D maps on Windows Live using an Xbox 360 controller – The demonstration of 3D maps on Windows Live was a big yawner until the demonstrator picked up an Xbox 360 controller and started “driving” down the virtual Las Vegas strip. That’s just cool.
  • TV, movies, and other entertainment offerings on Xbox Live – Not only can you get movies and music from Xbox Live, Microsoft plans to offer IP TV – streaming television over broadband – via Xbox Live. This bullet is only news to me because I’m probably the only person in the world who thinks a media PC is a custom built home theatre PC (HTPC). RIP All-in-Wonder!
  • Windows Home Server – Microsoft has been quietly working on a Windows Home Server appliance that will be used for centralized storage and backup for all the PCs and digital media that folks are now managing in their homes. The lead partner is HP, but several other partners have designs in the works. I’m fairly certain this is Vista-based, not Windows Server-based. I’m excited about this because I believe there’s a need for it. I personally probably won’t buy something like this, but I recognize that most home users aren’t sophisticated enough to demote their old HTPCs to media servers.

Of course, the product/platform that I really care about is SharePoint. I’m happy to say that when Gates talked about the biggest releases for Microsoft, he said Vista, Office 2007, and SharePoint all in one breath. While most people in that audience have no idea what SharePoint is, I’m pleased to hear Gates dropping the SharePoint name every chance he gets.