December 18, 2008

Some useful conservatism on the cloud threat to M$.

I think the cited report both overplays the real problems of switching from M$ Office, and is slightly disingenuous - I mean even if you think the cloud is going to be huge, you still think there's going to be a mix of cloud and locally hosted services for the foreseeable future. But that dodges the question of the combined effects of SaaS AND free-software AND Apple AND Adobe AND local caching for web-apps. Yes, hosted office apps are not going to replace the requirement for local apps. But if Google Apps. play well with Open Office and can be run locally on Gears on occasions when your connection drops, you can have an excellent company-wide standard which provides everything you need.

Nevertheless, the report might be right about the real human reluctance to shift.
Quick notes on 2008 :

1) Apple proved they were brilliant ... in an old fashioned way. But nevertheless brilliant ... and dominant in the mobile device-swarm and PCs for the aspirational elite of pretty much all smart professions. Their 2009 story is (sadly) about Steve Jobs' health.

2) Google revealed that they now run the world. That their 20%-time distributed R&D gives them an accelerated entry into everything new that's going on. But it also revealed that they are mortal and capable of mediocre me-too-ism. The story of 2009 will be some of Google's services losing to better rivals and failing. Does Google know how to handle that?

3) Amazon showed they were visionary (in clouds and Kindles) and focused enough to execute. Their 2009 story is about making the cloud work. And whether the Kindle ecosystem can take off.

4) Nintendo were vindicated, demonstrating again that genuine creativity and innovation sees off the mere imitators in gaming.

5) Microsoft showed that they are walking dead. Void of ideas or courage to drive innovation forward. Their 2009 story is going to be whether they face up to the threat which is, to them, existential : the end of "software as a stand-alone product"

6) Sun were revealed as clueless.

7) Sony clunked. They have technical ability but lack inspiration.

8) Asus turned out to be more innovative than any other PC maker ... and now Netbooks are going to conquer the world.

9) Facebook revealed they were evil after all. But they're still a force to be reckoned with.

10) Unlike Yahoo, who aren't. I'd still be intrigued if Apple bought Yahoo and tried to remake it in their image. But I can't see it.

11) Adobe have a great thing with Flex and AIR. But everyone can see that. Microsoft will throw a *lot* of resources behind Silverlight to try to take Adobe's place. And Titanium looks a very interesting free-software alternative to AIR.

I was proved wrong in thinking that the browser was no longer interesting when Google came out with Chrome. The full impact of this is yet to be seen.

12) In fact, Platform Wars was generally busted ... the two big trends I've been watching for : the YASNS-as-platform and the device swarm didn't really materialize as clearly and distinctly as I expected. Apple's App. Store was perhaps the nearest we saw to both these trends coming to fruition with Apple providing a popular device and distribution infrastructure to specialist developers. Google have got all the pieces (GAE, Android, FriendConnect, Gadgets, Orkut etc.) but haven't put them together in quite the right way. Maybe next year, fumbling around in competition with Apple and Facebook the pieces will start coming together.

Of actual devices, only the iPhone really excited attention. LiveScribe came and didn't change the world. Nor did Chumby or Nabaztag. Possibly they're too expensive for something so specialized ...

13) Trends to watch in 2009 ...

a) Cloud providers trying to make their clouds profitable while signing up real clients.

b) Microsoft wrestling with its soul.

c) The rise of the online spreadsheet.

d) Energy efficiency.

e) Google having to handle (localized) failures.

f) Who gets the good bits of Yahoo?

g) Applications built for the browser (or AIR/Titanium/XULRunner etc. desktop virtual machines built with the same Javascript / HTML / CSS / jQuery technology) will continue to expand. Development of ordinary desktop software will crash.

Few people or companies will find it worth developing desktop applications.
What's in store for the future of netbooks?

December 16, 2008

December 06, 2008

Read this.

Estimates vary, but the global software industry probably generates annual revenues of about $500 billion. Industry analysts are saying that up to 25% of new software sales will be delivered as SaaS within the next few years. That implies a shortfall of some $100 billion of license revenue that won’t be collected upfront any more, along with whatever it takes to buy and set up the infrastructure to operate it — maybe another $100 billion?

These are scary numbers, and others can do a better job than I of validating them, but let’s say they’re even half accurate. Will the industry have enough nerve collectively to fund that revenue gap, not just for a year, but over a period of several years as the big switch to cloud and SaaS accelerates? Especially if such a huge financial shortfall coincides with the tail end of what is starting to look like it will be a deep, traumatizing recession?

December 05, 2008

Dave Winer : Soon it will be time for the next cycle

Update : Actually the "data-portability" initiatives from Google and Facebook (mentioned in the Dave piece) are the natural unfolding of "user-is-the-platform" thinking.
And now, with the soaraway online advertising market threatening to stall, comes news that Google's software engineers are going to get less time to spend on pet projects and are being told instead to hunker down and work on money-making tweaks to the core business.

Depending on how serious this is I can't see this is a good idea. 20% time is Google's brilliant distributed research and innovation project. Killing it off a) makes Google stupider, and b) pisses off all the people who are currently emotionally invested in their projects.

Far better for Google to cut other perks (free food, toys) or even salaries than cutting 20% time.

November 27, 2008

Over on SmartDisorganized I've been tracking and playing with spreadsheets, particularly the online variety. I'm becoming increasingly impressed by the potential of online spreadsheets as containers for mashups and widgets. In particular EditGrid which comes with embeddable queries to Amazon and Ebay "out of the box" seems to be pointing in a very interesting direction.

Whereas the online equivalents of Word or PowerPoint are more or less dead-ends, as I've said before spreadsheets (in particular Excel) are grossly underexploited powertools, not to mention the repositories of most of the world's semi-structured data.

I've also said that Excel is so good that this is all Microsoft's market to lose if they screw up the transition to a new kind of spreadsheet : the spreadsheet as front-end / dashboard to all the enterprise's information streams. A flexible mashup builder which can be configured by a reasonably smart / well trained user or the IT department or an integrator.

We are a hairsbreadth away from the socialized spreadsheet fulfilling this destiny. But I'm waiting to see who's going to give it to us. Will Microsoft succeed in reinventing Excel? Will Google pump up the capabilities of their spreadsheet to compete? Will an outsider with a technically superior web-native sheet (like EditGrid) manage to sneak in-front of both?

November 25, 2008

Winer is thinking hard at the moment. Couple of goodies :

Twitter business model

What's news? What's its business model?

November 21, 2008

What will kill Microsoft.

Craig Mundie:
If you want to focus narrowly on saying, as perhaps we should, "We're just a software company and we intend to make a business out of software" -- then I think his statements are true. It's obviously a little bit more complicated than that. But, at a conceptual level, the idea that software is not an intellectual property asset is something that we do not agree with. We spend billions of dollars a year to make [software]. Most of the established countries in the world accord it intellectual property status and we work hard to develop patents and uniqueness.

Apart from that, he makes some good points.

November 17, 2008

Dare Obasanjo on walled gardens and the social network os

It's the usual stuff ... (same as I was discussing with Umair some time ago)

Of course, Facebook and its ecosystem failed to find the value that I presumed that private networks could provide. And now looks to be in trouble. Does this mean I was wrong?

I don't know ... no one is doing what I thought they'd do ... but I still can't shake off the feeling that it's possible.

We'll see ...

October 31, 2008

Dare Obasanjo on whether the Yasn-as-platform is dead. (channeling Alex Iskold)

Eeek!!! Has one of the major planks of my understanding and prediction of the software industry just turned turtle and sunk?

Well, I still believe in the widgets and YASN-as-Platform model. But some things clearly went wrong in Facebook's case. Is this in relation to their being evil?

Or is it an issue when giving away access to your platform : applications must pay somehow. What does this bode for GAE or Amazon or Faceforce or Microsoft's Azure? Presumably paying apps. earn their keep.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Java never made money for Sun. Which shouldn't surprise anyone. But does raise the question, what was their strategic objective? It's one thing to have had a sound strategy and just been beaten (eg. by Microsoft's C# or the free-software movements swarm of "scripting" languages) but it's very hard to see what on earth they were expecting from Java.

October 28, 2008

My first thoughts on Microsoft's Azure ended up at Folknology.

Basically, it seems to me that M$ aren't clear what they're aiming for. An Amazon-like generic hosting option. Or a GAE-like integrated experience. I'd be more impressed if they'd produced a great hosting story for ASP. At least then you'd feel that they had the something that they believe in. Dropping hints about PHP or Rails on the one hand, while pushing tighter integration with Visual Studio on the other, just sounds dissembling at best, and downright deliberately misleading at worst.

October 24, 2008

Cringely reads the tea-leaves of a recent Samsung announcement : that they are getting out of high-end SmartPhones from which he infers "nah, all phones are gonna be smart, but Samsung want to get out of smartphones with expensive (read Microsoft Windows Mobile) software".

And on the future of mobile platforms :
If I had to bet right this moment on the mobile 85-10-5 of 2011 I'd say iPhone, Android, then RIM, Symbian, or something completely new from behind Door Number Three.

To recap ... Microsoft are in real, real trouble. M$ are a company built around a particular vision that Bill Gates had in the 1970s : that with the right intellectual property protection, a company could be a pure software company, independent of any hardware vendor or service provider. And that vision was spectacularly successful for two decades.

But that business model is evaporating. As Cringley points out : on mobiles, two of the big platforms (Android and Symbian) are now free. The third, and (to-be) biggest (iPhone) is an appendage of a hardware manufacturer.

On the exploding netbook category the contenders are Linux and Windows XP, the product Microsoft is desperate to kill. (Here's a hint to Microsoft. Fix a couple of problems in XP, rebrand it as "XP3" and keep it alive for netbooks.) If M$ are stupid enough to kill XP, and Apple get into the game too, there's no guarantee Microsoft will have much presence here either.

And that's where all the growth is going to be in personal computing over the next few years.

Update : Bonus link to developer view.

October 22, 2008

Well known troll Andrew Keen argues the case for money in the great "money vs. something else" platform war.

My response :

Surely if something gets scarcer, it's value goes up, but, by definition, consumption goes down.

If there are fewer pancakes, we may obsess over pancakes, we may dedicate our lives to the great pancake chase. But most of the time, we'll eat bread.

In a recession, the thing that's got scarce is money. And whether we like it or not, we'll have to make do with less money, and more of something else. (Whether that's scrip, LETS, doing each other favours, growing our own food or donating our time to free software.)

Your argument is effectively based on the idea that demand for money is "inelastic" ... that however expensive it gets, people just gotta have it and so anything else will be sacrificed for it. I don't agree.

If there's less money, companies aren't going to start splashing out on *more* software licenses. People aren't going to start buying more CDs or DVDs. *Consumers* will either adapt to go without, or to pirate, or to consume free versions.

And whichever of those three they choose, the effect is the same : less money will change hands while people manage their software and content requirements. And there'll be less money going to programmers and "content creators".

This is true for any other product too. We don't imagine that a recession means more paid work for people in the steel industry. Why imagine that it will mean more paid work for journalists?

The only difference is that we know that when there's no money to pay for steel production, the quantity produced and consumed goes down. Because information isn't scarce in the same way, we don't know whether total production and consumption in the information industry will go down or whether amateurs doing it for free will pick up the slack.
How to add third party widgets to SocialText
This is an interesting place : Apple's AppStore now gets rivals from Android Market and RIM's Blackberry Storefront

Presumably the manufacturers will want exclusive control over selling to "their" phone platform. But for their device-swarm-market they'd like to be able to sell apps. for other phones. Who'll break this open?

Update : Who's gonna do this for ordinary PC ie. netbook software?
I continue to be a fan of M$ advertising.

This time the jokes on Wired for not getting it. (Even though some of their commentators do.) Ricky Gervaise is God!

October 03, 2008

Tim OReilly on Dell's move away from customization and flexible supply-chain.

There are two possibilities: first, that Dell is wrong, and their new supply chain approach will not save them, just make them more like everyone else. It could be that their "live suppy chain" approach just got too crufty, too complex - the article linked above suggests more than 5000 possible configurations. Maybe what they needed to do was to make the system smarter again by streamlining and simplifying.

But it's possible too that the competitive advantage to be wrung from a live enterprise only takes you so far, and that in certain circumstances other advantages are more important. It may well be that the PC market has reduced itself to such commodity status that standardization trumps customization. It may well be that the costs of physical goods mean that the laws of virtual networks are only partly true in that realm.

Worth thinking about, especially as I thought Dell should go in the opposite direction.

Update : Interesting that Dell's suggestion box Ideastorm is full of people demanding better Linux support and pricing. Guess this is a self-selecting audience, of course, but what does Dell do? Create a way of listening to customers and then not follow it for fear of M$, or follow it, and risk the wrath of M$?

PC manufacturers creating sites like this are bad news for M$ either way.

Update 2 : Why are Dell abandoning make-to-order? At one point I wondered if they're actually worrying about long distance just-in-time supply chains as the world energy prices keep going up. But it doesn't look as if that's what's going on. Or is it just a bet on cheap and standard over expensive and flexible (particularly as we go into a recession.)?

October 01, 2008

Windows Server on Amazon EC2

Good move for both of them.
Marc Andreesen joins EBay.

Hmmm. Is it just coincidence that Donahoe is talking about powerful communities when Andreessen’s current baby–Ning–is a social networking platform. Can you say exit strategy?

Admittedly, that eBay buying Ning idea is a leap, but crazier things–like eBay’s acquisition of Skype–have happened.

I must admit that I've warmed to the new Ning. It turns out to be pretty useful for putting a quick YASNS together. Buying it (and Andreesen) would definitely be a good move for EBay (if they can avoid wasting the opportunities the way they have Skype and Paypal)

September 29, 2008

Here's an interesting interview with Jeff Hawkins about the netbook category. Implies that early rejection was due to Grognard Capture.

September 18, 2008

Interesting question : could the StackOverflow method / software (clean, reduced advertising, voting driven) be applied to medical diagnostic sites and patient discussion forums?

September 16, 2008

Mary Jo Foley on Midori, a family of stripped down, "managed code" infrastructure projects within Microsoft. Possibly the aim is to move towards the whole M$ operating system product running inside a light, portable virtual machine.
StackOverflow is genius. Two respected and popular software development bloggers putting their audiences to work to make a better mutual-aid site for programmers.

Incredibly this seems something that no-one else has done. Most places for programmers to help each other are based on pretty lousy generic discussion forum software and plastered with adverts.

Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood have rethought the whole thing and made a far far better service.

It reminds me of a post I wrote about Behance, Design Outpost, Tribe and other more specialized YASNS and markets. There's a huge largely untapped opportunity ... to take YASNS away from generic people-collecting sites and make them useful vehicles for communities to work together. In my fantasy I talked about putting diverse but complementary communities together. But StackOverflow reminds us that there's also plenty of room just to take a rather tired and ineffective genre of community site and make it a hell of a lot better.

September 15, 2008

Meanwhile, back in the cloud :

The long and the short of it is that we have entered into a new era, in which data centers will no longer simply be collections of servers, but will actually be computing units in and of themselves--often made up of similar computing units (e.g. containers) in a sort of fractal arrangement. Virtualization is key to make this happen (though server virtualization itself is not technically absolutely necessary). So are powerful management tools, policy and workflow automation, data and compute load portability, and utility-type monitoring and metering systems.
Run and read Dare (and indirectly Nick Carr)

Nick :
Google’s protean appearance is not a reflection of its core business. Rather, it stems from the vast number of complements to its core business

Dare :
So why is [Chrome] significant? It isn't because "Google Chrome is going to replace Windows" or some other such silliness. As it stands now, Google Chrome is a Windows based application whose most interesting features exist in other browsers. A Web browser cannot replace an operating system any more than an automobile can replace an Interstate highway. The significant end user innovation in Google Chrome is that it is bundled with Google Gears. This means that Google Chrome has a mechanism for delivering richer experiences to end users out of the box. Google can now use this as a carrot and a stick approach to convincing browser vendors to do what it wants. Google can make its sites work better together with Chrome + Gears (e.g. YouTube Uploader using Gears) which could lead to lost browser market share for competing browser vendors if this becomes a widespread practice among Google's offerings. Even if Google never does this, the implied threat is now out there.

Chrome will likely force Google's competitors to up their game with regards to adopting newer Web standards and features just to stay competitive. This is similar to what Google did with online mapping and Web mail, and what the Opera browser has been doing by pioneering features like "pr0n mode" and tabbed browsing. So even if Google loses because Chrome doesn't get massively popular, Google still wins because the user experience for browsing the Web has been improved. And at the end of the day, if more people are using the Web because the user experience is better across the board that's just fine for Google. The same way the fact that all online mapping experiences and Web mail experiences have improved across the board is also good for Google.

I wouldn't be as sanguine about the "replace Windows" bit as Dare is. Particularly not if I was Microsoft. Looking at Asus netbooks over the weekend I'm seeing lots of positive reviews and happiness with the Linux + browser + very cheap hardware package.

It looks to me as though we could easily be approaching, not exactly a "tipping point" (with all the notions of positive feedback that this implies), but at least a period of rapid transition, beyond which the standard or most common computing tool in our lives isn't a Windows PC running MS Office but a $200 - $300 netbook running free software. See all the PC makers playing catch up.

The standard price for this tool is way too low to charge an extra $50 - $100 for OS and Office Suite. And the browser-based email and office apps. will be fine for most users. The entire market for the traditional Microsoft software product, the generic "PC", is evaporating as we watch.
ZDNet is calling this Browser Wars 2.0 ...

I've been saying that browsers are not (and shouldn't be thought of) as a site for strategic competition. But it looks as though I may be wrong on this one.

The reason I thought that there was no room for competition there, is that I saw (and still see) standards (HTML, Javascript, CSS) rather than differentiation as dominating. There's no mileage in a slightly different HTML or scripting language.

All web-applications want to be runable on all browsers ... anything else is just suicide. And all browsers want to be able to run all applications ... and so ...

But I underestimated the part about a better experience for the users which isn't related to the browser content. Browser features such as speed, privacy, off-line caching, new UIs such as Enso-like "ubiquity". All the browser makers have demonstrated that they can create some excitement in these areas.

Also, what's becoming clearer is that "privacy modes" can disrupt the kind of cookie tracking which allows, say Google, to serve relevant adverts, which makes browser innovation in this area a direct attack on Google's revenue. (And so also makes us realize how much of an interest Google have here.)

So, I think I was still right about standards in web content (at least for the moment). But as the browser really starts to replace the desktop operating system it takes over a whole lot of other responsibilities as well. And there's clearly some room for differentiation there.
David Berlind points out the should-be-obvious (but-not-very-remarked) : Google's Chrome + Gears also wraps mobile (device swarm) operating systems.

Point 1 : the browser is the only reliable application container which runs reliably across different operating systems on phones

Point 2 : the downside of the browser is that it depends on network connection which is unreliable on mobile phones

Point 3 : Gears (which is sneaked into Chrome) solves that.

September 13, 2008

It works ... Doesn't the Apple "cool vs. nerd" already start to look rather tired and cliched after you watch the M$ ads?

September 12, 2008

Wow! New Gates and Seinfeld episode.

This is all about scrambling any perception or stereotype you might have had about M$.

Update : It is, also, of course a kind of satire on / deconstruction of the Apple ads. With Seinfeld in the place of the "cool" (Mac) guy, and Gates as the boring, nerdy (PC) guy. Except in this case, the distinction is being shown as breaking down, both are equally weird, uncool, "bad" (flawed, selfish, stupid in the way all Seinfeld characters are).

The Apple / PC dichotomy that the Mac ads push? There is no such structure in the world. There's just the nihilistic despair of the human condition. A primal chaos from which a new M$ brand can emerge.

September 09, 2008

Obasanjo's three reasons developers adopt new platforms : 1) to help them differentiate themselves, 2) to make things significantly simpler, or 3) to reach new markets. Plus he seems to add a fourth : better distribution.

For example, the platforms I've been excited about in the last couple of years : the Facebook / YASN-as-platform and Google Application Engine. The first is basically 3 (or maybe 4) while the attraction of GAE is mainly 2.

September 08, 2008

I'm still pondering whether Google's 20% time constitutes a new kind of effective R&D for them. Here's a story that Microsoft are also thinking about how to revamp (and accelerate / diversify / distribute?) their R&D.
Well, I have to come out here and say I like the Microsoft / Seinfeld ad. I think it's funny ... and non-obvious. I'm not sure where they're going, but at least in this sphere they don't seem to be trying to catch up with Apple.

Weird though that now they try to make Bill Gates a brand-mascot, now he's left.

Update : Second thought ... the total lack of any kind of real "message" (apart from "Gates wants to be seen as a fun guy and hang out with Seinfeld", obviously) may be making a virtue of necessity in that M$ don't actually have a message at the moment.

That's perhaps not a bad position to be in ... maybe the first task has to be to destroy our previous perception of M$. And that means reinventing Gates as no longer the mega-rich, evil, world-dominating manipulator behind the scenes but a lovable, fun, nerd who still buys discount shoes and jokes around in an archly subtle way. (From his performance here, Gates could actually be made into a pretty funny comic actor. Couldn't you see him cameoing in a Woody Allen movie?)

M$, if anything, are the practical, pragmatic choice of conservative IT departments. What if you could pull off the antithesis, upping the nihilism in the Microsoft ads, to make Apple (in its race to the enterprise) look the stodgy "sensible" choice, while M$ discover an entirely clean space to reinvent themselves as whatever they want to be seen as next?

September 07, 2008

John Hagel :
The next generation of the WWW may be driven by environments and tools that enhance serendipity. Companies that find ways to amplify serendipity may reap the greatest economic rewards as we all struggle to improve our return on attention.

September 06, 2008

Cringley thinks Chrome is all about the danger of Microsoft making Ad-blocking in IE sufficiently good to hurt Google.

Haque meanwhile is wearing his rose-coloured Google glasses.

September 01, 2008

So Google want to own the browser too.

It's interesting to speculate why. Of course, one possibility is that someone in the hydra-headed Googleplex just started this as their 20% project and it got released.

Or maybe it's just a defensive move to protect web-standards (a Google "complement") against the possible encroachment by proprietory RIA front-ends like Flash and Silverlight? But why not just invest in Firefox or Webkit? Is this just Google's way of doing that? Are they trying to disuade too much fragmentation between these other open-source contenders?

I still believe Internet Explorer is a total waste of time, money, energy and focus for Microsoft. Why wouldn't an "own brand" browser be similarly one for Google?

Not sure ... let's see if they do anything clever with it.

Update : Dare Obasanjo nails an important point :

Will ship with Google Gears built-in

This pushes the Gears offline caching standard (against Mozilla's own rival) and is therefore an indirect attack on the desktop as offline application platform.

Dare's bonus question :
Am I the only one that thinks that Google is beginning to fight too many wars on too many fronts.

I half agree. To me, the most interesting question about Google today is whether, through their 20% time, and their ready engagement of open internet culture, and having pots of money to spare, they've created a genuinely new, decentralized type of company structure, one which is capable of innovating more products and fighting on more fronts at the same time, than a traditional, more top-down, organization.

I'm not wholly convinced they have. But then I'm not wholly convinced they haven't, either. I'm keeping an open mind. But if we see a few more of these bets become successful and profitable, that may signal a Google which is almost unbeatable by more conventional software companies.

Remember this discussion here?

August 22, 2008

Missed this interesting nugget about the shift in Facebook-land.
Umair :
Today, I think there's perhaps a simpler and more powerful way to think strategically about platforms.

Let me advance a simplifying proposition: platforms are markets. The most useful way to think about platforms today is simply as markets.

Of course, I don't entirely agree with him, but a good position to start from.

August 18, 2008

August 11, 2008

Competing for an open (generative) web :

Think about it another way. The main metric that I would use to describe the health of a truly open web is this: That as the ecosystem expands, the raw number of people, companies or groups who hold power inside the ecosystem, and can affect its direction, grows as the ecosystem grows. Put another way, the power center is decentralized over time. Change inside of that ecosystem require more voices to agree that change is good. That’s healthy. And that’s an open web.

July 24, 2008

Microsoft shake-up : Windows + WindowsLive vs. Online Services

July 22, 2008

Bill de hÓra on Apple's AppStore.

The appstore is easily the most interesting part of the iPhone, much more than 3G. The appstore imvho means three things. First the carrier deck constraint is shifted away from the operator or default homepages to getting placed on the appstore's core views (like hot, top 25 and new). Second, and this what is drives the first, "embed date stress" is relaxed somewhat. In the mobile handset biz, phone embed dates are king - missing the date is bad because nobody, statistically speaking, downloads applications - whereas the appstore is easy to use. The appstore allows you to have a hit well after the handset launch. Third, "OTA" (over the air) updates will become the normal way of doing things instead of a feature - bad bug? - requirements 180? - protocol upgrade? Push out a new revision the way we do today with desktop applications and browser plugins. As much as Tim Bray doesn't like sharecropping and objective-c, this is a good for SMEs and innovators. I can imagine handset and opcos cloning the appstore model, right down as far as supporting technology, eg Android supporting an OSGi-a-like, and enhanced developer programs to drive applications. (None of this is good for IMS btw).

July 21, 2008

I think my respect for Michael Arrington just increased somewhat. He's decided to declare war on Microsoft.

It's the zeitgeist, of course.
Gaping Void is talking to Dell about revamping their brand.

My comments :

Seems to me that it's the usual branding vs. commoditization problem. As long as Dell make commodities (PCs) they have no social object to hang a story around. We know what a PC is and what we want from it. Either Dell can give it to us as cheaply as possible or they can't.

If Dell want a social object / brand makeover they have to make products that are differentiated in a way worth talking about. With English Cut and Stormhoek you had a novel story : "a tailor / wine that blogs". With Dell, "a computer company that blogs" isn't going to fly.

Who's making a differentiated PC today? (Apart from Apple who are at a whole other level.) Basically Asus. They have great stories : a whole new form-factor, a whole new price, new technologies (solid state disks), Linux really making things cheaper, etc.

Dell used to have two good stories : "cheaper because we sell direct without dealers" and "you can customize on our web-site and our super-lean process will build to your design in a day". The first story is probably no-longer available. Doesn't *everybody* sell direct? The second seems to have gone AWOL.

"Customizability" could be an idea that Dell still owns. The right web-site, a cute user-interface, could turn computer shopping into an intensely personal Build-a-Bear kind of emotional experience. Dell could offer wider variety of peripherals, accessories etc. They could invest in and promote their supply-chain, gain green credentials through offering you the chance to build "low carbon footprint" PCs from local or lower-polluting sources. They could create an Etsy-like market for casemodders etc.

But they need to have *something* to tell a story about.

Update : what inspiration should Dell take from Nabaztag or Chumby or LiveScribe? The PC is becoming the Device Swarm. How does a traditional, "staid", clone-manufacturer engage with that? Buy the innovative start-ups? Try to make me-too copies? Partner with the originators to sell them with the site? Help foster an eco-system that includes them?

July 15, 2008

Now Facebook really does open-source it's "Cassandra" Big-Table equivalent.

July 10, 2008

Yahoo's Open strategy

About time! (If not too late.)

Now, let's see what it gets them. (I have no predictions at this stage.)

Update : Sweet. The mashup-framework is in python (since GAE, becoming the new duct-tape of the web.)

Update 2 : Of course it's not "open-source". I wonder why people thought it was?

July 07, 2008

Interesting comment on Microsft's Equipt.

Bundling Office suite + tethered security-as-a-service == new business model? And if so, is it one which allows Free Software substitutes to take advantage of? (With proprietary anti-virus vendors as the reseller channel.)

July 05, 2008

Russell Beattie on Nokia'a Simbian acquisition.

In my mind, there are different types of OS platforms, created for one of several reasons, broadly separated into monetization, control or shared workload. Monetization - as shown by Microsoft - is that if you control a platform that becomes popular, you can charge money for it indefinitely as it's the basis for many other people's work. Control is what Apple and Blackberry do, where they don't license the platform, but use it to ensure they control everything about what happens on their platform and devices. Shared workload is what the Linux folk are about, where even though they lose control and get no fees, they still derive benefits from not having to do everything themselves, and the platform improves and is used more broadly as well with less investment on their part.

Symbian it seems has attempted to do all of this ...

July 03, 2008

Dave was clearly somewhat wrong about a couple of things here. :-)

July 02, 2008

I wonder what IBM / Rational's Jazz "collaborative development platform" is, really.

June 30, 2008

Smart-phones squeezed (well, yeah, there's a major world "downturn" ... if not credit-crunch, recession, macro-apocalypse)

But suggests that becoming a "platform" is the way for phone-companies to go. Interesting.
Horses for Courses, I guess.

Seems that what potential employees value from Google and Microsoft are different.

Update : read this.

Here's my take :

We're back to John Hagel's unbundling of corporations into infrastructure providers, customer relations and product innovation. Google still doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Its success is based on big infrastructure, but its culture is one of product innovation.

An open internal market encourages that ... but there are some people who want to work in infrastructure or customer services, they might be happier going back to Microsoft. OTOH, as they go to M$ they'll help make it less innovative.

Google could find itself wrenched between two imperatives ... if it goes infrastructure, it will see the innovators slowly evaporate. If it holds on to the innovators it will see service reliability decrease ... allowing attack from elsewhere.

One solution might be to partition itself into different kinds of companies with different cultures. Another is to split entirely. Google outsourcing infrastructure to Microsoft would be ... well, a turnaround. (Not that I'm predicting it.)

M$, also need to decide, of course.

June 26, 2008

Is the post-Gates ascendency of Microsoft's "Technical Fellows", described here, a move towards federation I wondered here?

Or is it just the kind of committe that brings paralysis?
Microsoft still dead.

June 25, 2008

Open-source Simbian is good for Adobe Flash (amongst others)
Dave Winer reiterates that the Twitter platform needs to be open. Good summary.

June 19, 2008

And here's Google's view of YASN trends.
Good piece from a couple of weeks ago about YASN business models.

June 17, 2008

June 10, 2008

Microsoft Go Home

Paul Graham called it : Microsoft is Dead - last year.

Maybe that was an exaggeration, but there's a grain of truth. 2008 is the year M$ is obviously in one long, wrenching car-crash.

They are innovating nothing, *leading* in nothing ... Apple owns the major device-swarm platforms (iPod, iPhone). Sure M$ have their own ... but these are simply "me too" efforts ... always following the trends that Apple sets. They might as well be Toshiba or HTC for all the memetic advance they're making.

Apple own the local user experience; and now Apple are hoovering up developers, and with the launch of Adobe's Flex, the Mac may become the standard environment for the cross-platform desktop application developer. (Don't forget you get Ruby on Rails bundled too.) And all the Unix goodness. The Mac is increasingly a luxury brand for important people and those who think they need to keep up with them.

Google have made massive incursions into everything this year, from Application Engine to OpenSocial to their FriendConnect to Android to GData to iGoogle to the revamped Orkut ... they have all bases covered.

Microsoft have been trying to play catch-up here too ... but trying to buy Yahoo revealed colossal FAIL. (A strategy about nothing more than aggregating eyeballs.) Their shift to advertising, aping Google without understanding it, in disarray. Now this : they've been beaten in the only advertising market that really matters.

Suddenly (and really, it's come up quite fast and unexpectedly), it really is too late.

They're no longer a playa who seem to be slipping up a bit. They're *gone*. A has-been. We expect nothing from them. No innovation. Smart people don't want to go work there to help them. Gaping Void's sly, edgy icon is empty. M$ can't change the world any more ... it's already changing too quickly under the seismic influence of Google and Apple and Nintendo. All they can do is try to tag along or watch helplessly from the side-lines ... until it is time to go home.

June 09, 2008

Apple get the "developers developers developers" religion of platform warring.

June 05, 2008

This is total panic, isn't it?

Or maybe the last desperate attempt at a stand by the Windows / Desktop faction inside M$ ... "we will get it right, next time, honest"?

But they won't. And it doesn't matter. The world has moved on and desktop operating systems are nothing but a strategic red-herring.

The only question, how can M$ elegantly get out of the desktop game? They can't simply abandon it. Open sourcing it is the right thing, long term, but probably too great a cognitive dissonance for now.

So how to keep conveying commitment to windows. How to "do the right thing" support-wise for users. And yet, start to withdraw, gracefully?

Can M$ do it?

June 02, 2008

Microsoft Office in Silverlight?
Why Open Source Java will Win SaaS Platform Wars

Slightly odd report of a McKinsey article. It says J2EE and .NET are unsuited to providing Platform-as-a-service which are a growth area. And suggests that open-source is likely to win out.

Where the java comes from, I'm not entirely sure.

May 30, 2008

Article on the new Adobe CEO and Adobe's future plans

May 29, 2008

Over on Composing, a PlatformWarsey type post about Google's pursuit of hipness.

May 27, 2008

Talk about taking over the world!

Google's plan to host all the Ajax libraries you'll ever need is breathtaking.

So, we developers will all routinely hook in to Google's servers whenever we want to use a particular JS library, and, surprisingly, Google will have a couple more ways to add value : statistics and Analytics will be a tick-box away, sharing Google's id system will be an easy upsell to us. It will pull people towards GAE because if you already trust Google to host your js libraries, why not the rest of your application?

Google can embrace and extend the libraries, offering their own extensions, whether the original devlopers want them or not.

And finally, it will become too much trouble to use this stuff any other way.

Wow! Like I say, breathtaking.

(Hat tip Folknology)

May 26, 2008

Alexander van Elsas seems an intriguingly good blogger.

Read these three stories :

On Skype, iPhone, FriendFeed and suitability of technology to application

A new generation wants to return to privacy, and applications that require privacy? (Another example I'd identify with the coming netocracy).
Marc Canter doesn't compromise.

May 25, 2008

I wonder how much it would cost to buy ?

If I was a magic money fairy - as opposed to an impoverished programmer - I'd try to find a way to merge Tribe with Behance and DesignOutpost

Behance has a great look and a nice angle of being not only a LinkedIn style directory, but also a kind Getting Things Done consultant, for the "Creative Class".

But it gives little sense of a community or real artistic "scene".

OTOH, Tribe has that in spades. Tribe used to be a fantastic place to have good discussions ... as it has lost attention to the other YASNS, the debates have died out a bit, sadly. But there's no doubt that members feel they're part of something ... a bohemian, creative, tolerant, underground, burner, new age, spiritual, sexually experimental movement.

DesignOutpost is a market for hiring creative people (graphic and sound-designers, web developers etc.) to work in a radically open way. Yet, its profiles are far behind those of Behance or Tribe.

In the talk of consolidation of the YASNS (particularly the dance of M$ and Yahoo, Facebook and MySpace) the motive is simply the lumpen aggregation of eyeballs for advertisers.

But the real as-yet-unlocked value of YASNS is to enable groups to *do* things together. Markets from DesignOutpost to Etsy to Rentacoder are providing one way for people to work together. The interesting thing about my fantasy merger is not the aggregation of eyeballs but the real (am I really, gonna use this word? OMFG! guess I am, take cover) synergy of the activities or communities.

A real social network and creative community which was also a good portfolio manager AND market could create value in a way unimagined by the advertising model of YASNS.

Update 2011 : Some more thoughts on YASN monetization.

May 19, 2008

Umair :

According to an interesting rumour making the rounds: Microsoft is to acquire Yahoo's search business as well as Facebook, and lock both down, to better take on Google. Microsoft is trying to shift from open to closed.

May 17, 2008

Good Steve Yegge post about the Emacs wars of the past and to come.

May 14, 2008

The whole tone of this smells very bad.

More about Sun selling JavaFX to broadcasters than to end-users.

Still a couple of things sound good.

JavaFX script? WTF?

Unlike many other Java scripting languages, JavaFX Script is statically typed and will have most of the same code structuring, reuse, and encapsulation features that make it possible to create and maintain very large programs in Java

A scripting language designed for client-side RIAs which has the static typing that you need for "large programs". If ever there was self-serving, self-deluding talk it's Third, enterprises want to reuse their existing Java skills and assets in moving to RIA.. Are enterprises going to write RIA client widgets?

Widgets will get written by small, clever independents. Or more likely, graphic designers who started with Photoshop and Dreamweaver and painfully taught themselves Flex the way they taught themselves PHP. They won't get written by the mass-armies of mediocre java-school programmers who live inside the enterprise.

Meanwhile Project Caroline is allegedly their answer to Google Application Engine.

May 13, 2008

Interesting Microsoft Visual Basic / Facebook development kit

May 11, 2008

Scepticism about MySpace data-portability.
Interesting discussion about the nature of Twitter and why it's not distributable, at least not as a bunch of RSS-type feeds.

May 10, 2008

Now everyone is at the Yasn-as-platform game.



Google (Friend Connect comming soon)

Microsoft have to buy / partner with MySpace or Facebook now or lose their place in the Yasn-as-platform game.

A smart, medium sized company who'd also like to get into this would be looking at Ning.

May 08, 2008

Hat-tip Exmosis : another example of the error of assuming that YASN members and their attention == old-media eyeballs.

Update - Dave Winer : is MySpace opening up?
Facebook's evil DNA is turning self-destructivef?

May 04, 2008

Yahoo should be broken up. End of story.

There are great products inside Yahoo, eg. Flickr. Some big services which are world-beaters.

The problem is, anyone big enough to buy Yahoo outright (like Google or M$) already has their own version of a lot of these ... and would have to start killing off either their own or Yahoo's.

If Yahoo isn't big or coherent enough to survive on its own, then the next best thing is to blow itself up into a number of higher value independent units. Let each go out and thrive, die or get bought on its own merits.


Unless ... of course ...

what was Cringely saying again, about Apple wanting to be in the media distribution game?

May 02, 2008

Cringely thinks Apple are ready to buy Adobe. Mainly to get Flash

May 01, 2008

Adobe OpenScreen
FriendFeed, the hot new aggregator is more than 50% Twitter.

The Twitter eco-system seems unstoppable.

Update : more on Twitter as social router.

April 27, 2008

Thinking, even though I'm not so enamoured of them, I need to read more blogs like this.

April 23, 2008

Damn! I have to link TechCrunch, but this memo is worth it.

Ozzie clearly "gets it"; M$ re-orienting themselves around the Yasn-as-platform and the device swarm :

1. The Web is the Hub of our social mesh and our device mesh.

The web is first and foremost a mesh of people. . . . All applications will grow to recognize and utilize the inherent group-forming aspects of their connection to the web, in ways that will become fundamental to our experiences. In scenarios ranging from productivity to media and entertainment, social mesh notions of linking, sharing, ranking and tagging will become as familiar as File, Edit and View. . . . To individuals, the concept of “My Computer” will give way to the concept of a personal mesh of devices – a means by which all of your devices are brought together, managed through the web, as a seamless whole.

April 21, 2008

The end of SkyPal? (Hat-tip Exmosis)

WTF? Craziness, no?

What EBay should be doing :

a) make development of Skype plugins more accessible. (Note that the Skype home-page doesn't have a "for developers" link, how much excited discussion is there among developers about the potential of this?)

b) EBay have got a ready made social networking service in Skype's contact lists. The clever thing to do would be to find ways to build on that social network.

c) unify Skype, PayPal and EBay accounts (much as Yahoo and Google have been doing with the properties they bought)

April 18, 2008

Google launches Orkut Apps. in India.

This, I guess, is OpenSocial.

Update : previews.

April 14, 2008

Wow! AppDrop clones the GAE API on top of Amazon AWS!! Already!

Update : Cohesive offers another hosting option
Phil Wainewright : Is Facebook a PaaS contender?

My take ... they had every possibility of being in this area, but don't really seem to have picked up on the possibility. (Prefering instead to chase good-old-fashioned-advertising-driven-mass-media-strategies). I don't *expect* to see FB show much vision or leadership of their platform developers in this direction.
Google + Salesforce

Currently tighter integration of Google's online office-style apps. with Salesforce's platform.

Notes how viral Google apps are spreading :
Much of this will happen under-the-radar. David Armstrong, product and marketing manager for Google Enterprise in EMEA, told me yesterday that Google Apps already has half a million organizations — not individuals, organizations — signed up worldwide, with 2000 more signing up every day. But that astounding adoption rate is visible only to Google. There are no shrinkwrap packages passing through distributors’ warehouses or flying off retailers’ shelves. There’s not even any money changing hands for sign-ups to the free version. It’s just an invisible stream of bits in the ether. Adoption will be mostly unseen, until one day it will suddenly have become too big to ignore.

Meanwhile ZDnet bloggers are tracking the fast evolving cloud / platform-as-service war.

April 13, 2008

Interesting. Dion Hinchcliffe notes that Sun's had a cloud for a while ... and we don't care.

Must be something to do with Java. :-)

Or Google Reality Distortion field?
Some had to try auctioning a Twitter account.

Fun experiment and the results will be informative.

Update : StoweBoyd doesn't actually think that much of the idea. Seems to think that all the value of a twitter account is in the individual, not the collection of followers.

But I wonder if there might be an intermediete position. What if some online personalities could be more like fictional characters : the architypes here might be James Bond or Dr. Who.

Different actors play the roles but we have models and standards to compare them to. We wonder quite obsessively what the new Bond will be like. Will he be as good as the old? Will he be as "Bond" as the old.

I once read that Robert X. Cringely was not the original but a substitute who took over the original column. Whether this is a myth or not, it seems that new writers could take over an existing role, if they perform it well enough.

Might we be asking ourselves "who'll be the next Scoble?" Unlikely. But Shel Israel already seems to be moving in the direction of a fictional character.

April 12, 2008

Dion Hinchcliffe is on the case of comparing GAE and Amazon Web Services.

Simon Wardley defends GAE against detractors.

April 10, 2008

Yahoo to merge with AOL?

It's all stupid, anyway if these companies are just worried about consolidating audience. Why don't they just break-up Yahoo into a bunch of separate entities (Flickr etc.) and see what each can do on it's own?
Mary Jo Foley asks if Windows 7 will be available in pieces.

It's a sensible thought. I believe that the desktop operating system is (at least currently) a dead-end. It is no longer a place where any kind of interesting platform warring can occur. All desktop operating systems must offer similar resources (access to the capabilities of the underlying hardware, file-system, graphic user-interface including components, media handling etc. etc.)

Until the hardware changes or human requirements change fundamentally, these are more or less static; commoditized.

Windows, Mac and Linux all do a sufficiently OK job of providing for these requirements that the choice of one or the other offers little advantage to the application writer. One chooses to write for Windows because that's where the biggest market is, or Mac because that's where the most exclusive market is, or Linux because of ideological commitment.

Differentiating desktop operating systems boils down to tweaking the inessentials.

This is why Microsoft's huge investment of time, money and goodwill in Vista was a strategic mistake. One which cost the company far more than a desktop OS could ever recover.

Instead, the competitive action has moved to new loci. As I've mentioned on my other blog, there is a dramatic upheaval going on in the software world :

Applications are getting pulverized, fragmented down into smaller, more focussed, single "feature" mini-applications that I tend to call "widgets". This is happening because there are new networks for organizing and plugging the widgets together. Widgets are tethered through web protocols, RSS etc to server based applications in the "cloud" but are only distantly connected to each other.

Increasingly they are running on virtual machines which have successfully wrapped and hidden the operating system. (The browser, the Java Virtual Machine, the Flash virtual machine etc.) One thing that has helped with this is that the web-based applications store user's data in the cloud not on the local machine, and so avoid having to get too familiar with the local file-system.

This software is often self-installing or comes directly from the web. It usually needs no purchasing and relies on no infrastructure of distribution (such as shops selling boxes with DVDs in) It is promoted by word-of-mouse. The extreme example, which I believe is a pointer to the future, is the Facebook app. where knowledge of applications percolates virally through computer-aided-social-networks (YASNS) who's infrastructure helps accelerate their flow. (Google using GMail to push people into it's online wordprocessor and spreadsheet is another example.)

Widgets, then, are small, narrow focussed programs which live natively in both social networks, and data-flow networks, tethered to the cloud.

In general they eschew dependency on the desktop operating system and prefer to run in the browser, JVM, Flash (and maybe Silverlight) virtual machines. By their very existence they contributed to the decline in relevance of the desktop operating system but reignite a platform war among widget containers. There is a lot of room for differentiation in the container : who provides the best video decompression or GUI toolkit, for example.

The other coming platform war is going to be in the cloud. We are seeing the shift from companies providing basic hosting mechanics (servers, database servers) to Amazon providing a suite of cheap, scalable resources for a web-based applications, to Google coming with the beginnings of a complete, integrated development/deployment/hosting platform with Application Engine.

As Folknology puts it in a tweet today :

GAE marks the end of frameworks & the beginning of Platform 2.0. Expect this to be a hum-dimmer of a war between the big players.

Over the next five years there's going to be far more happening on both the integrated cloud development and hosting front, and on the widget-container front than on the desktop. At which point it must start to dawn on Microsoft that they can't afford to waste as much on Windows 7 as they did on Vista. It's not clear that there's any need at all for a new Windows apart from for appearances sake. And to stay in the game.

It's certainly no longer viable to keep the next Windows as the centre of attention or try to fight for world-domination there.

Windows 7 can't be the monolithic, all conquering beast that its ancestors were. Instead, far better to be a swarm of components. Cheap to produce, loosely coupled, a buffet from which users can pick and choose.
Compare Joel Spolsky reiterating his Fire and Motion riff, with John Robb on Boyd's OodaLoop

April 08, 2008

Simon Wardley comments on Google Application Engine ...

good points : warns of lock-in, notes connection with Gears and Android ... means that the Google Platform includes tethered devices.
Google App Engine to challenge Amazon, Ning etc.

Write your applications in Python ... w00t!

Update : OK, this is big, at least this is going "mainstream". Poor Ning, they had all the great ideas, Amazon too ... but it sounds like Google are taking the whole package : integrated development environment, database, python, logging, version control, multiple developers working on same code-base etc. etc. and bringing it to the masses.

But only a limited number of free accounts ...

Update 2: early chatter is complaining about Python-only, actually I'm not sure it's gonna be Python that people struggle to get their heads around ... I think it's gonna be BigTable.

April 01, 2008

March 26, 2008

Hat-tip Dennis Howlett Newsgator seem to be taking Yasn-as-platform into the enterprise.

He's also blogging about Wetpaint wiki + social publishing.

March 21, 2008

Read Joel on IE8, standards and the mother of all flame-wars.

He thinks it will "break the web".

Update : he's wrong (sort of) about Postel. The point is that Postel wasn't trying to make a reference implementation. There's be nothing to stop the W3 making a reference implementation of the spec. and just telling M$ etc. to conform or be non-standard. That's not Postel's job though. His law is designed to get a flawed communication system off the ground, not to ensure standards. (As Spolsky kind of admits)

March 15, 2008

Umair :

The real point is: Friendfeed is a next-gen, open version of Facebook's social feed.

This is a great test of the difference between my position and Umair's. I admire Umair's thinking a lot. And I've been forced to agree that Facebook's "DNA" is evil in many of the ways that he says.

Nevertheless, I still believe that a private or reliably discreet feed is a valuable service. And one which, by definition, only a closed YASN can supply. I can't imagine BabyRota-like services appearing via FriendFeed. Of course, I haven't seen BabyRota-like services on Facebook yet. But I still believe that they're more likely there than on public feeds.

Umair is right when he thinks about markets (where openness and transparency is a virtue) but, I believe, misses that not all "networks" are markets. I can see FriendFeed being interesting. (My feed) . But is no substitute for what a (potential) Facebook feed could be. ;

March 13, 2008

He he!

I am so not with the zeitgeist ... :-)

Yahoo goes SemWeb.

OK ... show me.

Maybe in 6 months I'll have to eat my words, come back and tell me then if this has reinvented the web or anything ...
Will IE break the web?
RWW a bit breathless over YouTube platform. What do you think?
Umair continues to inspire.

March 12, 2008

Twine apparently "disappoints".

Frankly, I'll be impressed if it does anything useful at all. (That couldn't be done just as well by the SynWeb). The SemWeb is such a dumb idea in the first place, it's kind of sad to see so many smart people pour so much into it. And kind of hilarious that allegedly clever journalist act all surprised : "hey! but it was so hyped! what a shock to find it's useless"

March 10, 2008

Microsoft buying Logitech sounds pretty unlikely on the face of it.

M$ are not a hardware company (if they can help it). And it's not clear what Logitech might offer (although speculating wildly, something tabletty?) Nevertheless these kinds of peripheral companies are going to be worth watching. They're going to get more interesting as the PC blows up into the device swarm. Some of them probably have some innovative devices which will become platforms in their own right.

Semi-related, I notice Gosling is pushing the Blu-ray connection with JavaFX.

"I think that a lot of the software development community--which I find really, really frustrating--is fixated on Web apps. They write their stuff on the server, it generates HTML, and there is this really big piece of the community that thinks that that is the universe," Gosling said.

"There's a lot more to it," he said. "Blu-ray is a pretty interesting corner of it."
Thinking more about Microsoft's recent announcements and the fact they seem to be back playing "own-the-infrastructure" again, perhaps we should pay more attention to Cringley's theory of the Yahoo bid.

Could they be this Machiavellian? Is it all about simply disrupting Yahoo as a rival while syphoning off talent and ideas? All the while, the real game is against Adobe to own the Rich Interface Application protocols? Eventually, of course, leading to the evolution of Office into the main client for cloud-based applications? (Routing round the browser and Google etc.)

Of course it can't work. I mean, Microsoft have been failing to get their act together to do this for the last 12 years or so. But M$ are now under new, allegedly smarter, management. They may finally be figuring this out. A Microsoft who get sociality, YASN-as-platforms, clouds, services etc. and who are quick and agile enough to bring their massive developer and user bases to it, are going to be formidable.

Platform-wars-wise things are getting very crazily interesting.

March 09, 2008

Simon Wardley recently linked this document about standards and a possible attempt by Microsoft to create a new internet-wide document standard. Think Office as the client to a proprietory M$ web.

Interesting that they might still be trying to play this game. Does it become easier if everyone assumes they've given up?

March 08, 2008

Steve Gillmor on Ray Ozzie :

The most important lesson Ray has learned is that we no longer are bound to applications in the monolithic evolution that produced Office. In this new Internet operating system, applications become modules or services that can be loosely coupled together under user control on demand, as needed.

In other words a "pull-platform" for widgets. See this evolving in the direction of "Yasn-as-platform" (where the platform is fundamentally social), and "device-swarm" where the computer explodes into a swarm of networked devices.

March 05, 2008

Nice try, Microsoft. Seems like Ozzie pushing things forward.

We'll find out if they can really do it.

IE8 support for standards is good news. Compare IE4 ... M$ always support standards when they know they're the underdog. But still not clear what having a browser buys them. And developer support in finding bugs is very nice. (Will help a lot in day-job)

Clearly they "get it" WRT what I was saying here. Flash vs. Silverlight vs. JavaFX (and Android somewhere) is the battleground that counts, both for rich widgets-in-YASNS and for the device-swarm. M$ are pushing Silverlight. Not sure I like the emphasis on advertising, but I see where it comes from. As always, Microsoft's secret weapon is their development tools and community. Visual Studio is ready for Silverlight.

Actually, we shouldn't be surprised by this. "Rich Internet Applications" or this kind of media player / virtual machine is a "sustaining innovation" ... it follows the logic that traditional proprietory software companies like Adobe and Microsoft and Apple are used to : building sophisticated code-bases, having total control over the user's experience, working with your own protocols, supporting it with good tools etc. This is not a game of insinuating yourself into and taking advantage of a massive community defined by open standards. Google would be hopeless here. But M$ will be good.

Of course, it's Apple and the iPod ecology which has persuaded everyone that this is still the game. But interestingly they aren't playing here ... unless QuickTime is due for a revamp. Not sure what's under the bonnet of iPhone etc. but perhaps Apple no longer want to be associated with "platforms" ... perhaps the idea is too geeky for their end-user focus. So Apple could use Silverlight (but rejecting Flash? Interesting, do they see Adobe as more of a rival in "cool-space" than Microsoft?)

In short ... Microsoft are a softare tech. company. This is all about software tech. So they do it well. But that may not guarantee success if Apple's consumer focus trumps. JavaFX is gonna be dead if someone somewhere doesn't come out with some tools to help work with it - which seems less than likely. Even Adobe can't afford to rest on their laurels. They're now head-to-head against M$ in the game that M$ is best at.
Two views on standards :

Institutional view

An "organic" view. What we think we know about network externalities etc.

March 03, 2008

Twitter plug-in for Firefox. The coral reef keeps growing.

February 22, 2008

TwitterCal ... Greenspun 4 (oh, alright, mashup) micro-applications getting more serious.

February 18, 2008

iPhone (and probably Android) are pushing mobile networks to become higher-bandwidth data networks.

February 14, 2008

February 12, 2008

February 05, 2008

Joel on the new CueCat.

Hmmmm ... ok, except that at some point taking photos with a phone is going to be easier than typing in a URL ... if not today, then sometime t in the future. And at that moment, this kind of thing starts to make sense. And actually I´m pretty sure I read about these things already being used in Japan.

Also, bar-codes (2D or otherwise) are still ways of giving ids to things, whose importance is only increasing, even if we eventually move on to RFIDs.
Microsoft + Yahoo = much less than sum of parts.

Umair explains pretty well.

I am a little more positive about Yahoo than Umair ... in the sense I see them doing some interesting and sometimes smart things. Search Yahoo here. Whether these little experiments are enough to upset the Yahoo DNA, I don´t know. I would suspect Umair is basically right. Getting merged with MS will side-track Yahoo from noticing when the smart things they do are working. And Microsoft will continue to fail to get anything about the web until they stop thinking of themselves as a software product company.

The funny thing is, that some people do imagine this is a good idea. Not sure what those people imagine, something like markets are fungible maybe? What they seem to ignore is that software companies, web-tech companies are idea companies. And ideas are not fungible!

January 23, 2008

Windows 7 to be integrated with Microsoft Live!.

What does it mean though?

MS has two problems :

- the desktop OS is almost a commodity. There are few applications that need Windows's specific services (as opposed to equivalents on Mac, Sun, Linux, or Android) It's hard to imagine Windows 7 doing something that other OSs aren't thinking about or couldn't quickly copy. (LINQ for serious applications? Drivers for multitouch Surfaces? Everyone will have something like that. )

- the PC is about to explode into the device swarm.

How does closer integration between Windows and Live! help in that context. It's not a winning move for MS to make their Live! services dependent on Windows 7. Will they exclude XP and Vista users from Live! in 2010? Unlikely.

After that, they can only compete on "seemless experience". But every time Microsoft compete against Apple on anything resembling an "experience", they hardly have the upper hand.

Now, the natural tethered client of an online service is a light-weight virtual machine like Flash, Silverlight or JavaFx. Not a whole operating system - users will want their virtual machines to play well together in a common sandbox, supporting
copying, pasting, dragging and dropping etc.)

There is scope for some individuation and platform warring among standards for these virtual machines. MS may be able to make Silverlight-only services, but they'll certainly have to make Silverlight run on Mac (and at least condone clones running on Linux)

This kind of virtual machine is also a natural for the device swarm : eg. Flash on Chumby, Java VM on mobiles ... Silverlight on XBox?

So while the desktop OS becomes a commodity, this space is going to get hot as the VMs compete for developers' attention. Particularly smaller devices are only likely to come with one of these virtual machines pre-installed. They'll compete on video-handling capability, graphics library, back-end data synchronization, bredth of applicability etc.

In a sense, the Java vision is finally coming into its own ... although whether Java turns out to be the victor is another matter.
Phil Wainewright on DevPay

January 22, 2008

Dave's interesting take on commodification ... it's gonna put prima-donna developers out of business?

I'm not sure I totally buy the idea that people will put more of their data up for themselves. In a recent chat with Folknology we were discussing who would be the natural company to bring customers directly into the cloud. Ie. who would resell Amazon et al's commodity infrastructure and storage as non-exploitative way of managing your online identity (as opposed to evil Facebook, Microsoft or Google who want to own your online identity and relationships in order to resell you.)

Perhaps blog-software providers like Six Apart or Wordpress? Perhaps EBay who already controls some important information about your trustworthiness? Although Amazon provide this infrastructure, it seems like there's a conflict of interest with them wanting to sell to you.

Ironically, it may be that this conflict of interest makes it especially hard for a web 2.0 internet playa ... anyone too closely associated with an advertising funded model seems suspect. Anyone too closely associated with data-mining, collaborative filtering or Amazon-style "users who bought this also bought ..." are suspect.

Outside speculation ... could it be Apple who have the genius to create a slick iMe device they can sell to you, containing your electronic identity and social network, tethered to an always on phone system? (Perhaps in the form of a little voodoo doll, that has your face. :-) ...

Or some other name more closely associated with personal communication than online networks? Actually, could Microsoft would be in with a chance if they promoted it as the next development of Outlook rather than try to make it part of some grand everything-under-one-Live-umbrella scheme.

Remember ... the user is the platform.

January 11, 2008

January 09, 2008

Tim O'Reilly compares iPhone vs. Blackberry to Excel vs. Lotus 123
Very interesting article on the fact that there are no "neutral" markets or auctions (in the sense of not producing a prejudiced outcome)

Leads to and ties with a Tim O'Reilly on automated vs. human decision making

(hat-tip : SJ)

I'm not, myself, particularly entranced by all the "human improvements on automated search" (Mahalo, Knol, Squidoo) etc. I don't find myself thinking "I must find out about X but I don't trust Google to give me the right answer, I'll go and see if there are any experts over at ..." What I tend to do is start with Google, and find it's almost always sufficient for my requirements ... or at least starts me browsing in the right direction.

What Google *is* pretty lousy at is product recommendations (which is what so many of the rivals point out) but frankly going to a search engine and saying "what should I buy?" is pretty stupid. And ignores the fact that blogs do a pretty good job of that.

So I'm just not seeing all this "pain" that people claim to be having from Google being gamed by the SEOs.

Very obviously a PageRank type algorithm, even if it was working perfectly, wouldn't be the place to discover idiosyncratic, offbeat resources. The only way you're likely to find those is through a skilled editor / curator or interesting social network. But, again, blogs are already great for editor-curators. And maybe some other social networking services handle the social routing. In particular, one thing I'm noticing is that I'm getting a *lot* of good links flowing to me through Twitter.

Update : Wikia's problem is that no-one is going to understand it (I mean the process) in time for it to get useful or interesting.
Cringley on Multicast
EBook predictions ...

January 08, 2008

Meanwhile, sounds like Yahoo is following a sensible strategy of pushing their YASN-as-platform via their web-mail account and integrating other web-apps.

Flickr too?
Bill Gates says Microsoft is all about software (more or less the way I said it to Gaping Void (scroll down))

Don't think Gates sounds like he knows much about what's going on today though ...