Microsoft mapped out - literally - its global territorial ambitions last week with a demonstration of its Terra-Server database, which holds millions of satellite pictures of the urban world.
For years it's been said that Bill Gates wants to dominate the world, and at his company's Scalability Day he confirmed those suspicions with a system that can effectively zoom in on any location and identify any object measuring two metres square or bigger. For the purposes of the demo, William Gates III chose to visit the Vatican, home to God's other representative on earth, His Holiness Pope John Paul II.
But joking (?) aside, what are we to make of Scalability Day? Is it one of those 'special' days - like No Smoking Day, Plain English Day, and Politeness Day - that hardly anyone observes and which makes no discernible difference, other than to make some mildly guilty and others determined to smoke more, talk less coherently and be even ruder?
The danger of nominating a 'day' for something - and scalability isn't exactly a subject to set the world alight - is that cynics, detractors and just about everyone else suspect your motives for doing so. Surely you only hold a scalability day if people suspect you're unscalable the other 364 days of the year. And what of those other 364 days? Are we to expect 'Fix a bug Day' in February and 'Don't Upgrade If You Don't Want to Day' in December.
Of course, it's going to take more than a day of fancy demos to convince users that Microsoft has got to grips with the scalability issue and dealt with the detractors. It's typical of the company - indeed, of the industry - that, in order to counter criticism that it isn't up to scratch in a particular area, it 'proves' that it is by demonstrating a system that is way beyond anyone's needs or requirements.
Gates showed off a Digital Alpha 4100 web server with 48 clustered NT servers taking up to 1 billion hits a day (a scalability day, presumably), only to hear senior colleague Paul Maritz muse that "no-one needs a billion transactions a day right now".
It begs the question "why bother demonstrating it, then?" - but it'd only fall on deaf ears. A phrase including the words sledgehammer and nut springs to mind.
But as we've witnessed before, the fact that Microsoft belatedly decides to do something that it could or should have done earlier doesn't mean it won't make a sizeable impression on the market in question. Expect a rash of other 'days' in the near future.
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