Subject: Hailstorm shelved, implications for FSBs
From: Frank Hecker <frank@collab.net>
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 11:03:02 -0400

Per an article in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/11/technology/11NET.html

(registration required), "Microsoft has quietly shelved a consumer 
information service ['Persona', originally 'Hailstorm'] that was once 
planned as the centerpiece of the company's foray into the market for 
tightly linked Web services."

A couple of comments:

First, the death of Hailstorm seems to have been a result of resistance 
from potential Microsoft business partners, and not necessarily because 
of any consumer outcry: "... after nine months of intense effort the 
company was unable to find any partner willing to commit itself to the 
program. ... 'They ran into the reality that many companies don't want 
any company between them and their customers,' said David Smith, vice 
president for Internet services at the Gartner Group ..."

This is consistent with my past comments in this forum that those who 
really should be concerned about Hailstorm were not end users but rather 
Microsoft's "partners", given that Hailstorm and its associated 
licensing arrangements appeared to have been designed to provide 
opportunities for Microsoft to expand the scope of its monopoly power to 
threaten non-IT businesses. As the NY Times puts it, "... in a variety 
of industries outside the desktop computer business there remain 
significant concerns about Microsoft's potential to use its personal 
computer monopoly and its .Net software to leverage its brand into a 
broad range of service businesses."

Second, according to the article, "Microsoft is now considering selling 
My Services to corporations in a traditional package form, rather than 
as a service. The companies would maintain the data for their own 
users." This seems to be a natural extension of companies' traditional 
desire to enable "single sign-on" for their employees, and intersects 
with the existing market for LDAP-compatible directories and various 
systems for authentication and authorization.

Given that there's lot of libre software in this space, and of course 
also given the plans of the Mono and dotGNU projects, there might be 
some opportunities for FSBs to offer "My Services" alternatives for the 
enterprise market, including managed services to handle corporate 
employee data. Of course that's dependent on their ability to overcome 
whatever roadblocks Microsoft puts in their way in terms of proprietary 
undiclosed features, blocking patents, restrictive licensing for MS 
products ("may not be used to interoperate with GPL-ed software"), etc.

Frank

-- 
Frank Hecker            work: http://www.collab.net/
frank@collab.net        home: http://www.hecker.org/