Thursday, October 25, 2007

Microsoft buys a stake in Facebook -- now what?

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As you probably all know, Microsoft bought a 1.6% stake in Facebook last night. This valued the Facebook startup by another Hardvard-dropout at $15 billion dollars.  Maybe all these Harvard students have a big conspiracy, or maybe Microsoft is simply scared at IBM's Lotus Connections and this is the only way they can get in the game.  I'm sure it's a combination of the two ;) 

I'm a big Facebook user (but only after hours, never on company time). Now that this purchase has gone through, I'm sure many end-users, like myself, are wondering how secure is our data? Does Microsoft now have the right to crawl our data ?  Will they be able to develop some usage patterns based on what I've posted in my Facebook profile?  Or is the purchase simply a way to acquire the software and compete against IBM.  Sure Facebook can't compete entirely with Lotus Connections since it doesn't have all of the same features.  (At most I think it only competes against Profiles).

I'm sure we all know at this point that Microsoft is really bad at innovating.. but they are very good at copying software that already exists and making it prettier.  Should we be concerned, or rather, should the Lotus Connections development team be concerned about this acquisition.  Will Microsoft take the pretty UI from Facebook and make their own version of Lotus Connections?  I'm sure they'll take the angle "our UI is so much prettier -- and end-users know it already"!! And, of course, they won't talk about how our features are much better and richer.

One of the biggest advantages that I see in Facebook, compared to our product, is the easy plug-ability.  Microsoft has never been too keen on letting customers customize their products or integrate them with other stuff?  But maybe this is the beginning of a new era ?  Facebook has also proven that it's scalable, and we all know that Microsoft products aren't.  So is this another way for Microsoft to gain intellectual capital on how to build enterprise-ready, scalable solutions ?

1.6% is a small stake, so perhaps this is just an investment and nothing else... but still, there are so many unanswered questions...

P.S.  I recently saw a Microsoft document where it said that enterprise-ready software was software that could handle around 1,000 total users -- WHAT??  I think the smallest customer I've ever worked with had a total population of 7,000 employees!  And the biggest had 300,000 - now that's big; but I digress.
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