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April 2009
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2009-04-11 »

Of Lotus Foundations, Microsoft Server Foundation, and real-life straw men

You've probably never heard of Windows Server 2008 Foundation, the new product (released April 1st, 2009, how ironic) with a name suspiciously similar to Lotus Foundations, which you have probably also never heard of.

Now, I happened to know about the latter, because it's actually the new name for Nitix, the product I spent about 10 years of my life building. We sold the company to IBM in 2008. (Note: I don't work there anymore, so nothing I say here represents the company, and certainly doesn't represent IBM.)

On some level, it's a huge compliment that Microsoft has acknowledged all our hard work by releasing a whole new product to compete with it. But on the other hand, when Steve Ballmer himself describes this competitive new product as "low-cost, low-price, low-functionality," you have to wonder if the compliment is a bit... backhanded.

Hey, wait a minute. Did I just say that Ballmer described their product as "low-functionality?" What about IBM's product? Did someone get the message backwards?

No, not at all. And this is the genius part.

Microsoft doesn't want you to buy, like, or even respect Windows Server 2008 Foundation. They want you to think it's a cheap, crappy alternative to Serious Windows that nobody would buy unless they were thoroughly desperate. Or as Lisa Szpunar says, "When I read the above list a bell goes off in my head that says nonprofit."

And those other wannabe Foundations products like IBM's? Well. I mean, we wouldn't want to say anything bad about them. That might get us sued. It's kind of an ugly market segment, though, mostly filled with poor, unlucky saps, mostly nonprofits, who are just going to get screwed by paying too little for their computer infrastructure. You're not one of them, are you? Oh, that's too bad.

Windows Server 2008 Foundation is like a straw man argument made real. It exists primarily as a marketing black hole; easy to criticize, and all too easy to become associated with.

(Thanks to Bilal Jaffery for the posting that led me to this.)

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