Gates Says Business Blogging Is Serious Business

When Bill Gates starts talking about blogs, you know it's time to take the technology seriously as a business tool, an analyst said Friday.

May 22, 2004

3 Min Read
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When Bill Gates starts talking about blogs, you know it's time to take the technology seriously as a business tool, an analyst said Friday.

On Thursday, Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, touted blogs in a talk before a number of top business leaders at the Redmond, Wash.-based developer's annual CEO Summit.

"What blogging and these notifications are about is that you make it very easy to write something that you can think of, like an e-mail, but it goes up onto a Web site," said Gates. "[Blogging is about] getting away from the drawbacks of e-mail, that it's too imposing, and the drawbacks of a Web site, that you don't know if there's something new and interesting there."

Gate's emphasis on blogs and notifications via RSS (Real Simple Syndication) are the most extensive and official yet by Microsoft, an indication that the company is evaluating the technology, said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

"We're talking about Mr. Microsoft here," he said. "If Gates starts talking, it's time to take it seriously, and if I'm inside Microsoft and have a visionary chairman like Gates, I'd better take this very seriously."Blogs, short for Web logs, aren't new: they've been used for years by tech enthusiasts to spew out personal opinions on everything from politics and religion to family news and notes. But they've started to attract attention from the corporate world, which sees blogs as a way to communicate to larger groups than are possible via e-mail or instant messaging.

"Gates comments are an indication that Microsoft is working on blogging as a communications tool," said Wilcox.

Gates boasted of blogs' prowess. "The ultimate idea is that you should get the information you want when you want it," he said.

By highlighting blogs and RSS notifications, Gates is giving notice, said Wilcox, that Microsoft sees both a business opportunity in and a threat from the technology.

Wilcox likened blogs, and Microsoft's current lack of blogging tools, to the opening rounds of the Internet, when Microsoft woke up and smelled the threat from then-major competitors such as Netscape."I see a lot of similarities with the early days of the Web, when people published sites out of self expression. The commonality between the two was that in their infancies, neither required Windows. The company has reason to be concerned [about blogging], because it's an information infrastructure that doesn't require Microsoft technology."

The issue is complicated by the fact that Google, a company many see as a growing competitor to Microsoft, is pushing blogging. Last year, Google purchased Pyra Labs and its Blogger, and just last week refreshed the Web publishing tool.

Both Microsoft and Google are active in or exploring the same areas, including search technology, e-mail, and blogging. Microsoft, for instance, is developing a search engine for its MSN service, and plans to introduce sophisticated search tools within the next generation of Windows, dubbed Longhorn. Google, meanwhile, is pushing into Microsoft-dominated territory like free Web-based e-mail with its Gmail service.

It's no mystery why Microsoft and Google are competing, said Wilcox.

"There's a tremendous synergy between search and e-mail and blogs. There's no reason why Microsoft shouldn't be looking at those technologies. It's already stepped up its efforts, and its e-mail anti-spam efforts are trying help users get to the information they want rather than have to wade through messages. A natural extension is blogs."Or maybe Gates' comments are a way of rallying the Redmond troops.

"Notice how Gates talked about RSS, but Google is backing Atom [a competing blog notification standard] with Blogger," said Wilcox. "That makes Google the new enemy."

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