Jon Udell attended last week's MS Office developer's conference.  He grabbed an interesting snippet out of the Q&A with Bill Gates: [emphasis mine]:

Attendee: Those of us who saw the webstore in Sharepoint 2001 thought, wow, that's sort of what Cairo was going to be. And now looking at WinFS, it has vague echoes of what webstore was going to be. Is SQL really the underlying storage that's going to be in Sharepoint in the future?

Gates: Yeah, what's happened is that there's this dream of unified storage, which is theb world of files, mail, records, all these things coming together in a very rich store. That's a dream we've been investing in for a long long time.
Interesting -- The dream is still alive!  Let's cover the déjà vu moment in a minute.

Udell also picks up a question about product line overlap:
Michael Herman of Parallelspace: ...but when it comes to electronic forms, Word and Excel have their own point solutions, Outlook has its own point solution, InfoPath has its own point solution, Access has its own point solution. In the developer platform you have ASP.NET and WebForms. We're constantly in the situation where we're trying to guess which ones are strategic. Can you give us some insight?
I actually like the answer given, which basically says that each functional product needs some of its own capability.  It reminds me of the question asked at "Ask the Developers" at Lotusphere 2005, pointing out that there are now three or four development tools for IBM Workplace overall, and drew a laugh because the question was asked in the context of the "one lane" metaphor that Ambuj Goyal used during the keynote.  That is to say -- there isn't always a singular approach to solving a problem, even in the context of a single product family.  Nobody asks DaimlerChrysler why they make a PT Cruiser in nine different versions, or Motorola offers dozens of different cell phones. A product line necessarily addresses different types of user needs, whether the "user" is an end-user or a developer.

Anyway, the back-to-the-future moment has to do with the vision around WinFS/SQL.  In December, 2000, Steve Ballmer sent an e-mail to all Microsoft employees, which was subsequently leaked to the Internet.  It was the first time I had seen a mention of "Yukon", the next generation of SQL Server.  In that December '00 Ballmer memo, he referred to Yukon as being
"key to our next-generation storage, database, file system, email, and user interface work,"
It was actually that quote, along with the cancellation of Office Designer and Local Web Storage System a week earlier, that made me realize that Exchange 2000 was dead-on-arrival.  Not the mail piece, necessarily, but the whole story MS had tried to tell in 2000 about the Web Storage System as a collaborative platform, with IM, workflow, conferencing, etc. built atop it.  I floated the idea to a couple of industry analysts at the time -- I wonder if I would have done that in the age of blogging -- and at Lotusphere 2001, in the competitive session at business development day, I declared the Exchange WebStore concept dead.  I should have played the lottery that day, too.

The eerie thing is how close the quote from Ballmer in December '00 and from Gates in February '05 are.  What does Gates's quote mean for E12, "Yukon", etc., and the intended lifespan of those still-to-ship releases?

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