Microsoft, NNTP, and the mismanagement of knowledge management

Robert Scoble has a theory about why Outlook doesn't include a newsreader:

For more than four years now I've been asking "why doesn't Outlook have a newsreader?"

Microsoft almost never answers this question on the record.

But, when you get their product managers off in a personal conversation over beers, they admit "it's cause our corporate clients don't want their employees to be off in newsgroups while they are at work." [ Scobleizer Radio Weblog ]

I find this amusing because Microsoft's news server -- the NNTP service that was available for free in the NT 4.0 resource kit, and is included in IIS 5.0 (and maybe in 6?) -- was five years ago, and still may be today, the most effective groupware/KM tool I've ever used. Coupled with a modern NNTP newsreader like Mozilla's, or even the one in Outlook Express, the MS NNTP service is a killer app for knowledge management. I wrote a book exploring the groupware/KM possibilities of this combo. I'll sound like a broken record if I go into the details but trust me, there was more juice there than most people realize to this day.

If Scoble's theory is correct, there is extreme irony here. Microsoft says that collaboration is job one for the decade, and I believe they think so. Witness the Groove investment, for example. Yet they soft-pedal an existing solution -- the wonderfully capable NNTP service and its companion client -- to the very corporate clientele who are supposedly driving the KM agenda.

My theory is different from Scoble's, by the way, though it leads to no less extreme an irony. My take is that the NNTP service was too good. If it had been put forward as the KM solution it could have been, Exchange -- the annointed MS groupware backend -- would have suffered (badly) by comparison. Preventing Outlook from accessing the MS NNTP service leveled the playing field. The only mystery to me is why the NNTP service is allowed to continue to exist. My guess: to satisfy the ISPs that MS keeps hoping to lure away from Unix/Linux.


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