'BlackBird' dropped/stopped by Microsoft Corp (fwd)

Jeff Huestis (mailto:Jeff-Huestis@LIBRARY.WUSTL.EDU)
Mon, 5 Feb 1996 13:03:58 -0600

Message-Id: <199602051905.NAA08900@library.wustl.edu>
Date:         Mon, 5 Feb 1996 13:03:58 -0600
From: Jeff Huestis <mailto:Jeff-Huestis@LIBRARY.WUSTL.EDU>
Subject:      'BlackBird' dropped/stopped by Microsoft Corp (fwd)
To: Multiple recipients of list WEBCAT-L <mailto:WEBCAT-L@WUVMD.WUSTL.EDU>

This may be of interest to this group, from a proprietary vs.
non-proprietary client perspective.

Jeff Huestis Washington University Libraries -------------------------------------------------------- Microsoft Ends Plans for Tool Designed For On-Line Service as It Shifts Focus

By DON CLARK Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal

Microsoft Corp. plans to halt work on a long-awaited programming tool for its on-line service, a potential blow to some of the software giant's partners.

The company last week decided to pull the plug on the product, widely known by the code name Blackbird, to concentrate its efforts on a new version of the tool for the Internet's World Wide Web section. Blackbird was designed to help independent companies create proprietary information content for the Microsoft Network, MSN, and originally was seen as a key weapon against competing on-line services.

Lately, however, Microsoft has sharply shifted direction toward the Internet's Web and away from proprietary content. It now is encouraging content providers to set up Web sites that can be viewed by any personal computer user with access to the Internet, not only by MSN members. As part of several announcements on Dec. 7, Microsoft said it would create a new version of Blackbird to be compatible with the standard Web format, and renamed the product Internet Studio.

Now Microsoft is dropping the MSN-only version of the product altogether, shifting programmers to the Internet version to finish it more quickly. The move isn't surprising, some analysts said, in view of a quickening race with rivals, such as Netscape Communications Corp., to set technical standards for the Internet. Yet it still disrupts the plans of some content partners who had been working on MSN services based on Blackbird.

''It has got to be a letdown for people who have invested months and hundreds of thousands of dollars on Blackbird,'' said Jesse Berst, editorial director of Windows Watcher, a newsletter in Redmond, Wash.

On the Nasdaq Stock Market, Microsoft fell $1.125 to $93 in trading Friday.

Microsoft recruited more than 100 companies of various sizes to create content for MSN, ranging from large media concerns such as NBC to small entrepreneurial concerns with a handful of employees. Some already have posted complaints on the service about technical glitches, a shortage of information from Microsoft management and other problems. The latest move may further tarnish MSN's image among those companies.

''It's catastrophic,'' said one MSN content developer, who asked not to be identified. ''It's one thing to migrate the technology and it's another to abandon it.''

On the other hand, many content providers had already hedged their bets, using other tools for MSN content or simultaneously working on Web sites. Some of their work with Blackbird also may be usable on the Internet version, noted Eric Peterson, president of Centric Development Inc., a content development firm in Kirkland, Wash.

Microsoft senior vice president Roger Heinen, in a message to content developers on MSN, called the Blackbird move a ''difficult decision.'' While acknowledging some impact on the developers, he argued that shifting resources to the Internet product will allow Microsoft to add advanced features more quickly. ''This is a very positive development for Internet Studio,'' he said.

The company hasn't disclosed when the new product will be ready. ''We really don't have a reliable schedule yet,'' said Tom Button, a director of marketing in Microsoft's developer division.