Microsoft Backs Off on Messaging

Thursday, Nov. 18 —

The latest version of Microsoft’s instant-messaging software, MSN Messenger, doesn’t even try to connect with America Online’s AIM instant-messaging software. This is a victory for AOL ( story) in its fight to keep a proprietary hold on its overwhelmingly popular system.

I can understand AOL’s reasons for this, and they’re not just about market share. Microsoft was effectively using AOL’s servers with its software, trespassing on another company’s property without permission. And Microsoft’s whining about AOL’s refusal to be open was beyond hypocritical, given the long, proprietary history in Redmond.

But AOL’s keep-away efforts were also hypocritical given its own ranting about the cable-TV industry’s refusal to open cable pipes to Internet service providers other than the ones it controls, such as Excite@Home. All in all, the dispute covered everyone in muck.

Meanwhile, more public-spirited programmers have come up with a nifty idea called Jabber (Source: OS Opinion commentary). It’s open-source software that could be just what we all need: a cross-platform instant-messaging package that isn’t subject to commercial vagaries and rivalries. I’m going to take a closer look at Jabber in the next few weeks. I’ll let you know what I find.

Another China Portal Person

Thursday, Nov. 18 —

Photo of Peter Yip

Say hello to Peter Yip, chief executive at He’s been in the Internet game for a while now, and his company’s stock price soared when the U.S. and China announced agreement on a deal to bring China into the World Trade Organization.

Yip’s company is one of several aiming for big-time portal status in this part of the world. I’m still trying to be sure I understand the business. Then I’ll try to gauge its prospects. More to come…

Where I’m Not This Week…

Thursday, Nov. 18 —

The technology industry’s traditional, irritating pilgrimage to Las Vegas, the Comdex trade show, is winding down. Part of me is grateful to miss this giant pain in the neck — endless taxi lines are the show’s signature — but another part wishes I’d gone.

I’m keeping up with the show, to some degree, via the Web and e-mail. More than ever, that’s turning into a decent substitute for physical presence.

What I’m missing is person-to-person contact. That’s always the highest value of these kinds of events, along with the inevitable, serendipitous sightings of interesting new products or concepts.

Show exhibitors are highlighting a variety of information appliances (source: Associated Press story via, non-PC devices that are connected to the Internet. Even though I fully agree that appliances will take off soon, I sense some wishful thinking here. PCs are still the dominant way we get access — at least the most sophisticated kinds of access — to those networks, and they will be for some time to come.

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