A farewell to Gates

I haven’t said anything about Bill Gates’ announcement that he’ll be stepping out of day-to-day work over the next two years, yielding the chief architect reins to Ray Ozzie. Primarily it’s because my life has been pretty busy, but partly it’s because Gates has seemed, from the outside at least, like a non-factor in recent years. With Vista coming to market without big features like WinFS and several years overdue, and with Microsoft continuing to struggle to get customers to re-up for the newest versions of Office, it feels like Bill hasn’t had anything really new and compelling to show the market in a really long time.

Scott Rosenberg does a good job of connecting the dots in his supposition about Bill’s role in the Vista slip: on the one hand Bill had to watch as the scope of Vista was pared down and many revolutionary features were put aside, and on the other the culture that Bill and the Windows team had fostered meant that slips in the schedule were never acknowledged until it was far too late (thanks to Microsoft blogger Philip Su for some incisive and honest observations about the management culture in Windows).

My perspective from a greater distance is this: Bill and Steve Ballmer centralized Microsoft’s strategic decisions to an enormous degree, despite the generally broad operational freedom that individual product units enjoyed. And it’s not clear that that organizational move paid off. Might Microsoft be further along the path in dominating the enterprise software market—a place where the company does well with SQL Server and Exchange but has yet to make a splash with other business and IT apps despite years of investment—if the enterprise business had been able to duck the Windows tax? And by that, I mean the internal Windows tax that every business at Microsoft faces: every business has to show how it’s relevant to the corporate cash cow, and heaven forbid that the busines s plan suggests that the new initiative should embrace a multi-platform, multivendor view of the world instead of the Windows party line.

The result is that Gates rides off into the sunset as the champion of the desktop, but with many goals for Microsoft in the enterprise, on mobile devices, and in the home left unrealized. And with many users frustrated by years of vulnerabilities and diminishing returns.

Can Ray Ozzie turn this around? Maybe. He certainly has more enterprise cred than Bill. I’m not convinced that his vision is as broad as Bill’s, but that just might be a good thing for the long-term health of the company.

Misson of Burma in the Berkshires

Hat tip to reader Kate, the blogging intern at MASS MoCA, who commented on a recent post that unfrozen rockers Mission of Burma will be playing a gig at MassMoCA on Saturday, July 1:

Mission of Burma has an upcoming show you may want to check out. It’s at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), Saturday July 1 at 8:00 pm. It will be outdoors in Courtyard C if the weather permits, otherwise in the Hunter Center. Tickets are $22 advance, $26 day of show.

If you’re not familiar with MASS MoCA, it’s in North Adams, in northern Berkshire County. Directions are available on our website at www.massmoca.org.

Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the box office, (413) 662-2111.

Normally I don’t really post commercial advertisements in this space, but hey, it’s Burma. Thanks to Kate for the info.

Friday Random 10: Sir Nose edition

So I get all jazzed up about Funkadelic and what does the iPod turn out for the Friday Random 10? With two exceptions, the most unfunky collection of tracks that never moved a booty. Somewhere Sir Nose is laughing. At least Gil Scott-Heron and the Felaesque Talking Heads track are holding him at bay.

  1. The Mendoza Line, “Throw It In the Fire” (Fortune)
  2. Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (Evolution (And Flashback))
  3. Gemma Hayes, “Day One” (Night On My Side)
  4. Brodsky Quartet (Dmitri Shostakovich, composer), “String Quartet No. 12 in D flat Major: I. Moderato” (Shostakovich: String Quartets 11, 12, 13)
  5. Talking Heads, “Double Groove (unfinished outtake)” (Remain in Light)
  6. Paul Westerberg, “Looking Up in Heaven” (The Wired Cd)
  7. Robert Shaw Chorale, “Medley: Good Christian Men, Rejoice; Silent Night; Patapan; O Come, All Ye Faithful” (A Festival of Carols)
  8. Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Pick Up Sticks” (Time Out)
  9. R.E.M., “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” (Monster)
  10. My Computer, “Hole in the Road”

Standing on the verge of downloading

As if eMusic’s value proposition wasn’t already compelling (subscription prices as low as $0.22 a track, DRM-free 192bps MP3 downloads, a wide catalog of jazz, indie rock, and classical offerings), there’s now an even more compelling reason: many of the classic Funkadelic recordings on the Westbound label are now available for download from eMusic.

That includes the absolute masterpiece Maggot Brain, the fine self-titled album, the political party album America Eats Its Young, and the finest album title ever, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On, which features some really tasty Eddie Hazel guitar work as well as the stone classic “Jimmy’s Got a Little Bit of Bitch in Him.” Missing are Funkadelic’s earlier classic “Free Your Mind…And Your Ass Will Follow,” and the late “One Nation Under a Groove,” “The Electric Spanking of War Babies” and “Uncle Jam Wants You.”

There’s a lot to explore in what is there, though. Standing on the Verge and Maggot Brain alone should keep me occupied for weeks. Now if y’all will excuse me, I need to free my mind.