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A New Kind Of Conversation Is Needed With Microsoft

Robert Scoble
Expert Author
Published: 2005-07-01

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Last week Microsoft made a big step on working with the community. We saw what can happen if you put something out there, put your ear to the ground, and then refactor based on what you hear.

But, now, it's time to step up the game. I'll be honest. We haven't been listening to the rumbling herd very well. We got blogging pretty well. MSN Spaces is on fire. More than 15 million spaces have been created since opening in December. 15 million!

The IE team is on fire. They understand the power of browse, search, subscribe. That's a deep transformation that I thought would take a lot longer to happen.

The Mappoint Team is coming soon with Virtual Earth. Yeah, Google Earth is 3D and all that (congrats to Google -- it's freaking awesome), but Virtual Earth is gonna suprise you as to what it helps you do and how it helps you connect to real-world things around you. Chandu over there understands the power of letting people put their own stuff on maps (he's the guy who built the blog map to my right).

But, there are other trees in the new media forest still to evolve. We need a new kind of conversation to make sure these teams not only do what's right, but do what's best for you as a customer and someone who uses this stuff.

"But I hate Microsoft and don't want to help you out," I can hear some of you saying.

Fine, but let's turn it around.

Let's say you're an iTunes user. Will Steve Jobs make sure that he keeps iTunes ahead of Microsoft's stuff? So far he has. He added podcasting support yesterday. Why? Cause he wants to make sure customers are given best-of-breed capabilities. He knows that the minute a better player or podcasting service comes along that the word-of-mouth network will bring that new service or player huge numbers of new customers.

So, let's go at it another way. What do you want in future versions of iTunes? Do you want to be able to take your feeds out of iTunes and put them into iPodder, for instance? Or Doppler? Or vice versa?

33,000 of you watched the RSS video on Channel 9 over the past few days. But, we've only heard from about 100 of you. That means there's a HUGE number of people who just are staying quiet and not becoming part of the conversation. Why? You think you have nothing to say? I tell you, if 1,000 of you wrote "I listen to podcasts" over on Channel 9 product planners around the world would pay attention. It takes a very small number of people to move companies. But they MUST show up, otherwise those of us who think we are hearing a new customer base get ignored.

Here's my agenda for the next couple of years:

1) I want an "Internet Content Sharing Suite" that does it all with simple, common, interfaces. Think back to 1989. Back then you needed to buy a word processing program from one vendor. A spreadsheet from another. A presentation program from another. And a database from yet another. Then Microsoft came out with the Office Suite that did it all. Why was that important? Cause the four apps in the suite worked together (yeah, I know it's not perfect, but it's a lot better than it used to be). They all came for one price. One support system. In one box.

Now, think about the Internet Content Creation software out there today. You need a blog tool from one vendor. A photo sharing tool from another. A wiki from yet another. A podcasting service from yet another. And a video blogging tool or service from yet another. None of these work together. Really. You should come and talk to me about how they COULD work together someday. But, they don't. The neat thing about RSS is that it shows the way how they all COULD work together. Everyone missed Dave Winer's demo of his OPML tool. Even Dave missed the power of that thing. OPML is the glue that COULD bring all these things together. But, Microsoft is so far away from understanding that it isn't even funny. And I work there, so I can't imagine how far away other big companies are from understanding this stuff.

A challenge to Microsoft: can we work together with the community to build such a suite without needing to own it all? Can we work with Google, Yahoo, iPodder, Technorati, Pubsub, Feedster, and all the others to build a really killer world where my son can share his info and his lists and his other stuff? Or, are we going to only want to live in our own world? Hint: this isn't like 1995. If we try to own it all we'll end up owning none of it. Apple is already kicking our ass. So is Google. Are we ready to cede EVERYTHING on the Internet to those two? (Hint: Yahoo isn't getting much of the PR -- yet, but they have grown their traffic dramatically over the past few months I hear. How did they do that? By supporting RSS before other big portals did).

2) I want a really killer podcasting device. I won't take knocks at the devices out there (my son will buy an iPod and I really don't have anything to say about it), but I watched how many of the Gnomedex attendees were doing podcasting. They had to do all sorts of weird things to get tags and descriptions onto their podcasts. And that was after they had recorded the podcast and had edited them with tools like Audacity or Garage Band. And, my podcast listening device, an iPod Shuffle, is frustrating to use for listening to podcasts.

3) I want another "Internet Memo. Back in 1997 Bill Gates said he was going to build the Internet into everything. That largely came true. I want another memo that says "we need to build Internet Content Sharing into everything we do." We need to be able to share all of our work and lives onto the Internet. Simply. Easily. Affordably. Heck, look at this. I'm typing right now in Microsoft Outlook. Great editor. Actually the editor is Microsoft Word. But, why can't I just click "publish on Internet?" Why do I need to copy it over to my weblog tool to publish it?

Look at every tool Microsoft makes. Look at how hard it is to get our stuff onto the Internet. Every team should be forced to work with the MSN Spaces and Mappoint teams to see how we can get our work. Our lives. Our creativity. Onto the Internet. Google wants to put all of the libraries onto the Internet. Bill Gates should think bigger. Bolder. Broader. Why do only the libraries? Why not put EVERY SINGLE EMAIL onto the Internet (if you want it)? Why not put EVERY SINGLE Word doc onto the Internet? Every single OneNote file? Every single music file? Every single Photoshop file? And so on? Yeah, you might say you can already publish those to a Web server. That's not easy enough. Can any of those publish to a Blogger site? A Typepad site? An MSN Space?

A few decades ago Bill Gates inspired me by saying he wanted to put a computer on every desktop. Now, let's inspire again.

OK, enough of my spin. I'm fired up. In the past two years I have attained every single dream I had. Now I need to put my ear to the ground again and figure out how to make it better for you.

Let's start. Since my comments are down, come on over to Channel 9 and tell us what you want in Media Player. What kind of podcasting support do you want? Or, do you think podcasting is just a fad?

Or, write on your own blog. Or talk on your podcast. Or shoot on your vblog. I'll point to the best responses.

Update: I started a thread for this discussion over on Channel 9.

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About the Author:
Robert Scoble is the founder of the Scobleizer blog. He works as PodTech.net's Vice President of Media Development.

Go to Scobleizer ...

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