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Well, nearly, judging from the latest re-org news coming out of Microsoft.
The retiree in this case is Jim Allchin (right), who has been the Windows guru there for years. What struck me was his age, 53.
I'm going to be 51 in January. And I'm launching a start-up.
Seriously, Microsoft is going through the middle-aged crazies, and the solution is in many ways typical. That is, push decision-making down the stack, toward younger managers. Let a hundred flowers bloom and all that.
The other big headline in here is that Ray Ozzie, the former Lotus executive who joined Microsoft last year as a chief technical officer, is being given line responsibilities for what's called the "software-based services" strategy.
Unfortunately, Microsoft's middle-aged trouble goes a little deeper than that.
Apple has released iTunes 5.0.1, which it says fixes problems found on iTunes 5.0.
I was frankly surprised at the number and vehemence of responses to my earlier item about iTunes 5.0 The reason? Reports on the problems have gotten very little traction in the mainstream press.
George W. Bush must envy Steve Jobs in some ways. Kanye West, who famously dissed the President during a Katrina fund-raiser, actually sang at the Apple iTunes 5.0 announcement, and didn't go off-message either. This story is being carried mainly in the blogosphere, where there are currently 176 posts under iTunes 5.0 problem (although not all are on-point).
Instead, Jobs and Apple continue to be hailed as heroes in the mainstream press:
Let me take a stab at explaining Google's grand strategy.
Well, sort of. You may, instead of buying Microsoft Office, suscribe to Google's GMail and have a rudimentary office system with a gigabyte or two of storage.
But to say Google is going after Microsoft, the way we said Microsoft was going after IBM, is really to damn with faint praise.
Google isn't aiming at Microsoft, or at IBM. It's aiming at the entire computing-telecommunications complex, building out what I'll call the Google TeleComputing Environment.
The idea is to take advantage of not only the Internet's ability to disintermediate clients, but its ability to disintermediate the phone network at the same time, and to do this in an entirely open source way.
What do I mean? Here are the ingredients:
Google is flattening the world. More on what this means after the flip.
Americans are finally following the rest of the world toward the controlled interface of the cellular phone.
This has profound implications. Mobile carriers are not Internet Service Providers. They control where you go and what you do on their networks. They act as gatekeepers, and take a proprietary attitude toward every bit transmitted.
The difference between the Internet and a mobile network is like the difference between a downtown city center and a shopping mall. There is nothing inherently wrong with a shopping mall, but it is controlled by the mall owner, and everything which happens there must be aimed at making the mall owner (and his tenants) money, all assumptions of liberty to the contrary.
In other words, cellular turns the Internet into a shopping mall, neutering it, and making it solely a means toward a commercial end.
Thus, is has been difficult for mobile (Americans call it cellular) to gain the kind of reach and use that we find even in Africa. But that is changing:
The winds of change are blowing hurricane-force in Washington. Every politician in town knows it. So the natural inclination is to push the envelope as far as possible, knowing that it will be pulled back fairly quickly.
This is as true regarding the Internet as anywhere else. The Bell-cable duopoly hangs by a thread. Wireless ISPs have Moore's Law on their side. The incumbents need something very strong to counter.
This is precisely what they're going for with a bill in the House that would raise entry barriers to the sky and prevent independent ISPs from ever gaining a market toehold. (That's the chairman of the committee proposing the legislation, Joe Barton, up above.)
Naturally they call it "pro-competitive," but in the Orwellian Washington of today those with a Clue should never listen to what they say but look at what they do.
The bill is also filled with goodies for broadcasters and TV networks, such as:
Amidst all the wailing over the Times' experiment in forcing people to pay subscriptions for Internet newspaper content, an important fact is being lost.
I have seen no announcement that the IHT is changing its policies, or changing what content it offers. (The Tribune is owned by the Times Co., which bought out The Washington Post Co.'s interest a few years ago.) Here's today's opinion front page.
Here is the situation:
Below is a typical Feedburner RSS ad, which appears in Newsreaders but not on Web pages. We'll discuss it after the flip:
UPDATE: After this was posted, Feedburner vice president-business development Rick Klau wrote the following. It is directly on point (as the lawyers say):
While I can only speak for FeedBurner, we only splice ads into feeds for publishers, on behalf of the publisher. We never splice ads in a feed that the publisher didn't ask for, make money from, or know about, ever. It's the same type of model as web advertising solutions that you use on your site, and you make most of the money.
FeedBurner is a publisher service. We only perform those services on a feed that a publisher wants us to perform, and that goes for everything, whether it's splicing ads, applying a stylesheet, or tracking statistics.
No blog site manager running our service can be unaware that their feeds have ads in them because it is impossible to get ads in your feed at FeedBurner without either directly contacting us or selecting the AdSense for Feeds program and providing us with all the details needed to splice in those ads.
Skype, like most VOIP companies, is a tax arbitrage play.
The idea is that you avoid the tax costs of telephony by running your voice calls over an Internet connection. As everyone gets broadband, telephone service dies a natural death.
But neither the Bells, nor the governments they feed, are willing to go away quietly. I've written often about how it's done here. But it's done everywhere.
The same day eBay announced it would buy Skype, China started cracking down harder on Skype, and its Internet-Phone version SkypeOut. Unlike the situation with, say, Falun Gong, this is an effort where telephone firms are, not reluctant, but eager co-conspirators.
"I'll take Bubble for $100, Alex." (That's 2004 Jeopardy mega-winner Ken Jennings, whose 15 minutes of fame are now up.)
And the answer is, "The final proof of the second Internet bubble, in 2005."
"Correct. eBay paid $2.6 million in cash and stock for a company that had few revenues, no profits, and hardly any business model, and whose operations were completely incompatible with eBay's own."
"I could understand the stock, and even understand the press claims the deal was worth $4.1 billion. It's the cash that gets me."
After $2 billion, Rupert Murdoch's Internet strategy has become clear.
Murdoch finished off his buying spree by putting $680 million into IGN, which runs Web sites devoted to video games. This followed his earlier purchases of Scout Media, which runs sports sites for various sports teams, and the company that owned Myspace.com, the music fan site.
Murdoch has called a special "summit" of his top corporate chiefs for this weekend at his California ranch. Prince Alwaleed bin Talals Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia has apparently endorsed his strategy. (Didn't know the Saudis had their hooks into Murdoch quite that deeply, did you?)
So, is this going to be a gusher or a dry hole?
The folks at Google write that they've appointed Vinton Cerf as their Chief Internet Evangelist, and brag on his nickname "Father of the Internet."
But what is he going to do? And what can he accomplish?
While Cerf was a fine engineer in his day, his record as an executive leaves a lot to be desired. Those with memories recall that he was with MCI all through the Worldcom disaster. He gave speeches, he took awards, and he had nothing to do with the fraud. He was out of the loop.
He was lipstick on that pig.
Will he be any closer to the loop at Google? Or does this mean Google is about to turn itself into another MCI?
The sad fact is that Google is rapidly becoming a bureaucratized mess. Current CEO Eric Schmidt ignored Blogger, he gave his corporate credibility a padding, he has loaded up on his personal fortune and generally made a hash of those things it was in his power to make a hash of.
In an era where money is magnetic ink, even the rich of New Orleans may not be safe.
A friend forwarded an American Banker feature (all content is behind their firewall, only the headlines are in front) that explains all this.
The story, by Steve Bills, details the problems banks had in the impacted area, and as many as five banks were still out of action as of Tuesday.
Those banks hurt worst were small community banks that did not outsource their financial processing.
Customers of those banks who managed to escape may be unable to get to their money, although they may not all know that because financial networks do have a limited ability to "stand-in" for their absent customers.
This could happen again-and-again, because only 40% of small banks out-source. Would out-sourcing solve the problem? Not necessarily. One of the bigger outsourcers, Fiserv, has operations in New Orleans (fortunately they're based in Wisconsin) and eight employees are still missing.
Given all this there are some basic things that need to be required:
The fight has barely begun for control of the new Internet interface, the RSS reader.
NOTE: We were honored to get two important responses to what follows.
Markos Moulitas says he never had an "exclusive" on Cindy Sheehan (I usually reserve the term for the first to get a story, but Sheehan's words have since been on many other blogs) and that there are RSS feeds to Dailykos diaries. (My point is the feeds are separate from the main subscription.)
Nick Bradbury, creator of FeedDemon, wrote to say that FeedDemon inserts no ads in feeds, that those ads are placed by sites. (This may mean the New York Times has a major ad campaign underway, using blogs as delivered by feeds. If you use another reader, let me know if you see Times ads.)
CORRECTION: Upon further investigation, I have learned that the Times ads come from Feedburner.Com, which is in the feed creation-and-management business. So Nick's right.
Please note that the data in parantheses does not question the honesty or truthfulness or veracity of either correspondent's words, but simply describes the responses I gave them, and the thoughts I had in writing this post.
We're always honored here at Mooreslore when newsmakers respond to our posts about them, when they correct what I write or report. Thanks again. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled post.
But already it's getting interesting.
I have written before how publishers have been placing ads in raw RSS feeds. this means my e-mail list of RSS stories is cluttered with "brought to you by" notices. This is on top of the outright advertisements sent as RSS, which if they hit a keyword you like means they're coming right at you.
What's more interesting, perhaps, is what's happening in stand-along RSS readers.
There are many in the market, but the examples here are going to be concerning FeedDemon (logo at left), now owned by Newsgator, which I have been using a few months:
If you have a mobile phone, and it claims you have Internet service on it, you may not.
Mobile service providers have become increasingly aggressive in stopping access to services and sites they don't like, writes DeWayne Hendrick.
This is especially true for Vodafone, which owns half of Verizon Wireless of the U.S. (Verizon, in turn, has been the most aggressive in pursuing the "Walled Garden" approach here.)
According to DeWayne, Vodafone has summarily blocked access to all Voice over IP services, and even the main page of Skype, a VOIP procider. In the UK Vodafone is blocking access to all content that isn't "Vodafone-approved." (Translation: anything that might lose money for Vodafone.)
While using the Web to track Hurricane Katrina (get out of New Orleans and Biloxi while you still can) I found the high-ranking site for another Katrina, Katrina Leskanich.
Don't remember her? How about her band Katrina and the Waves? Still nothing? OK, how about this:
Now I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
I'm Walking On Sunshine (whoa oh)
And Don't it Feel Good (Hey) (All right now) And Don't it Feel Good (Hey)
If you're of a certain age (anywhere from 35 to about 45) that should send you running screaming from the room. The band made a living off that for years, but by the mid-1990s even the Germans were tired of them.
So Katrina, who was an American Army Brat but has been in England since 1976, went back to the drawing board. She actually had some success, even winning the Eurovision Song Contest for England in 1997, but she wanted back in the pop game.
So how do you make a comeback in 2005?
Thanks to Moore's Second Law (complexity causes costs to scale exponentially) competition in the semiconductor business is held in an ever-thickening mud, which represents the cost of building new capacity.
The number of company-owned fabrication plants, or fabs, must decline over time, as their cost rises above even corporate affordability. The decision to build one must be taken with increasing care, with an eye toward a far-off future. It's the opposite of what happens in the product cycle, at the other end of the factory floor, where things are constantly accelerating.
While Intel has played its hand in Asia, AMD has chosen Europe, specifically the former East Germany. More specifically Dresden, firebombed during World War II, left for dead during the Cold War.
In 2003 AMD broke ground for its second Dresden Fab, AMD 36. The plant goes into volume production next year, at a point where AMD's designs seem to be excelling those of Intel.
Market share, in other words, could make a big swing next year.
At the very same time, AMD is advancing in court, forcing Intel to defend an already-fading monopoly. A few years ago Intel had knocked AMD practically out of the ballpark. With the Dresden Fab 36 that won't be true, but AMD figures Intel must still have a case to answer for, because its hyper-competitive marketing department never changed tactics.
Evidence will likely show that Intel did have a near-monopoly under Craig Barrett, and that it did abuse its position in its dealing with big customers. But a court finding for AMD would still be a mistake.
One sad headline from this year is how Google has become so opaque and observers so suspicious that its moves are now studied the way Microsoft once was.
CEO Eric Schmidt did neither himself nor his company any favors when he cut-off News.Com reporters, after one of them questioned the privacy implications of the service by Googling him.
I contributed with a positive comment on Google Talk, helped by a Pakistani friend. Other observers noted how Google Mail is now open to cellphones.
But not all the commentary was positive, either to myself or to Google. In fact, ZDNet colleague (and longtime friend) Russell Shaw gave me a right padding:
There's a chain of bookstores in South Georgia that hold a secret.
I discovered it on the way back from a convention in Orlando one day, desperate for some present to give my book-loving wife.
Stacked floor-to-ceiling in these stores are "best-sellers," nearly every "big" title from a right-wing hack delivered over the last decade or more. There's Laura Bush's autobiography, alongside the Swift Boat attack on John Kerry and titles from the whole Fox News pantheon. There are right-wing preachers, firebreathers, and a ton of get-rich-quick books by folks who, if they really knew that much, would have gotten rich some other way.
Do you know anyone reading this dreck? You might not.
NOTE: Many of the claims made in the item below have been questioned by Russell Shaw. See the full story here.
It's ironic, but my first invitation to use Google Talk came from Pakistan. From Karachi, actually.
Specifically it was from a long-time online friend named Tariq Mustafa (known as Tee Emm), who works in the high-tech sector there.
I am really excited on this Google IM thing (and so would be tens of millions of users very soon). I think I was ahead of you just because of the time-zone difference. Anyway, here is the summary I wanted to share with you of the excitement.
Why the excitement? IM has been around for ages.
The excitement is because this isn't really IM. Or it's not just IM. It's VOIP, integrated from the start with IM.
What this does is absolutely kill international long distance in a way Skype only dreamt of. I'm actually a naive user, but I was able to download, and load, a VOIP client (with IM) in less than a minute.
So can anyone else, anywhere else.
More from Tariq after the break.
Where Bill Gates bests Steve Jobs, and always has, is in his willingness to build ecosystems.
Windows is an ecosystem. Microsoft is the biggest fish in that ecosystem. Since 1995, Windows has been eating the other fish in that ecosystem, but fish do that. It's still an ecosystem.
Apple has never been comfortable with living in an ecosystem. Apple builds products, not ecosystems. There were never any second-source Macintosh hardware producers with Jobs in charge, and they were all killed off when he returned.
You will never see Steve Jobs, or any of his lieutenants, jumping around a stage yelling "developers, developers, developers, developers." It's not going to happen.
But if it did, if Jobs ever learned to share, imagine the threat he'd be then?
Here's an example of how he can.
The idea is to give cellular carriers their own "triple play" -- combining paid WiFi (through controlled real estate), VOIP (long distance) and cellular service on one bill.
I understand why Verisign is on to this. What I don't understand is why the carriers are getting in bed with them.
Krystal restaurants (think White Castle with mustard, Kumar) have finished a full year with their free WiFi hotspot program, and have decided to extend it to all 243 company-owned restaurants (as well as recommend it to their 180 franchises.)
The evidence of increased sales are anecdotal, but CIO David Reid told CMO Magazine he has already tracked a bottom-line advantage.
When people are throwing money at you, then you're really foolish not to take some of it.
At nearly $280/share, Google is Bubble-Priced. So it makes sense for Google to take some of this money. Over 14 million shares means more than $4 billion in cash, a Microsoft-like horde (especially as earnings continue to accelerate).
How can they do better with this cash than Microsoft has?
Analysts are already speculating on what Google will do with the money. It's burning a hole in the M&A pocket. Will they buy China's Baidu? Will they take out American start-ups, like Technorati? Who will they hire next? How plush can the offices be made? (If spokesman David Krane were given enough money to buy me a beer and a nice dinner, I wouldn't object.)
Verizon has begun selling one of the dumbest machines I've ever seen, a "DSL modem," (their term), wireless router and cordless phone combination dubbed Verizon One.
Essentially this ties together the obsolete telephone network with the Internet Verizon is actually selling and tells customers it's the same thing. It pushes fancy PBX capabilities on residential customers who don't need them. (Just to make things a little better, it locks them into its cellular service, too.)
The FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) can be easily seen in the phrase "DSL modem." DSL is a digital service. It doesn't need modulation or demodulation to trick an analog line into taking a digital connection, which is what a modem does. It is an oxymoron.
What's ironic is I happen to know Verizon was talking to Netopia two years ago about a massive contract for DSL gateways that would have been far superior to this piece of nonsense. (Here's a 2001 press release, delivered in the early days of the relationship.) I have one of these gateways in my house now, a review unit. What would have made them powerful was a promised co-branded service providing full security to home users, saving them as much as $200/year on "security suites" from various software vendors. (There are currently no Netopia press releases, going back to 2002, referencing Verizon.)
More on what a truly clued-in person feels after the break.
There's an interesting case study up right now about what blogging does to journalism.
In simple terms, it reduces the distance. You're no longer a star. They're no longer the audience.
The example today is that of MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, who has been writing a blog (actually, a series of columns) for about a year now. When Peter Jennings died, Keith didn't think (like most careerists) "wow, now there's a job opening for me!" He was genuinely moved.
Then he looked for the hidden lesson -- smoking. Olbermann was once a smoker, and it gave him a tumor. Fortunately the tumor was benign. So he blogged about it. And given that the non-distancing becomes a habit to one who enters the blogosphere, he talked about it on his show as well.
SMS.Ac is hoping for a PR boost from a press release offering a cellular customer bill of rights. (The release went out over the signature of CEO Michael Pousti, right. from sms-report.com.)
Here's Oliver's charge:
This is a company about which DOZENS of websites have multitudes of individuals complaining of things such as spamming everyone in their personal address books, which they exposed to SMS.ac during what can only be described as a deliberately deceptive sign-up process where unsuspecting people, many of them young or speaking English as a second or third language unwittingly provide the username and password to their primary email accounts, thus making it possible for SMS.ac to scour their friends and family member's addresses and solicit them with messages that look as if they come not from SMS.ac directly but from the known individual that subscribed to the service.
Like many protective laws, the HIPAA law covering the protection of your medical records comes with a small business exemption.
The exemption works both ways. Small businesses who fund their own plans don't have to comply. Neither do medical providers who don't computerize. As an NFIB alert on the law states, "Health-care providers -- such as doctors, nurses, on-site clinics, etc. -- are exempt from these regulations if they do not transmit electronically, but this exemption applies only to providers, not to group health plans." (Boldface is mine.)
The result of this is that small practices now have a major incentive not to computerize, and not to transmit anything electronically. Thus, they don't.
I was giving more thought to yesterday's rumors of Cisco buying Nokia (or part of it).
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there is a very smart M&A move Cisco could make on today's technology board, something that would give it an infusion of both technology and backbone, plus get it into the mobile markets it seems so hot for.
But what's in it for Cisco? Plenty.
When old business patterns die, those who lived by them become confused. They often start throwing money in a variety of different directions, many of which they probably know are Clueless, in hope of picking up the scent of profit. (This picture, from Pravda, came up in Google Images when I entered the keyword mystery.)
It's unusual for many industry leaders find themselves in this position without a full-on economic panic ensuing. In fact, the economy is in pretty good shape right now.
But the tech portion of the U.S. economy is in full-on crisis mode, as you can easily see by looking at a few headlines:
Intel holds the telecommunications balance of power in its hand.
Here's how The Register puts it, with its usual hyperbole:
Intel is throwing its financial, technical and lobbying weight behind the rising tide of municipally run broadband wireless networks, seeing these as a way to stimulate uptake of Wi-Fi and WiMAX and so sell more of its chips and increase its influence over the communications world.
And Intel is not going to back down. As ZDNet notes today, there's money to be made.
Back in the 1980s, Wall Street played a game on Microsoft's duo of Gates and Ballmer, demanding "grown-up supervision" for the then 20-something computer software duo.
Fortunately, Bill and Steve did not take the hint (get lost). They kept their stock, kept control, isolated a succession of adults, and finally came out the other side, billionaires and still in control to this day.
Well, I think Google has now outgrown its grownup.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin not only founded Google, but set many of its most important standards. They understand Google's corporate direction in their bones. But, like Gates and Ballmer back in the day, they were forced by Wall Street to get "adult supervision" in the form of Dr. Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt is, at heart, a computer scientist, and a good one. He is known as the "Father of Java," for his work on that language while at Sun. Then he went to Novell, and nearly rode the thing into the ground. (This should have been a hint, boys.)
The mystery is, how are these people still in the game?
Overstock is a money-losing Amazon clone which seems to spend its entire marketing budget on cable television.
Maybe it's the salt water. Overstock is based in Utah, former home of Novell, current home of SCO, the place where me-too tech ideas get a family-friendly makeover, then die.
The TV ads are mostly image pieces, a spokesmodel in her 30s oohing about the various departments -- clothes, office supplies, video, jewelry. (Her name is Sabine Ehrenfeld, and she's actually 42. She's done some other work, but she's best known for these ads.)
Two really stupid predications crossed my desk this morning. (The image is by Katie Guenther. From the University of Vermont.)
While a straight look at technology and the desires of consumers could lead you to these conclusions, they're dumber than dirt.
Let's start with the first one.
Even if people start leaving their laptops at home, laptop sales are not threatened by mobile phones, because laptops are replacing desktops. It's basic ergonomics. Where does your lap go when you stand up? If you're standing, or walking, you can't use a laptop, you have to use some sort of handheld device. As PDA functionality moves into phones, as the two markets merge, then, yes, phones become the handheld of choice. But that doesn't mean they replace laptops. It means they replace PDAs.
Now for the second prediction.
News that Armstrong Williams is making a comeback, that he is back on the air (that he hardly ever left), leaves a nagging question in my mind.
What do you got to do to get fired around here?
The question is serious. Unless we have a way of getting rid of those who violate some ethical standard, why should anyone believe any of us? Why have any standards if we can't get rid of violators?
For those who don't know, Williams got caught in January taking bribes from the Bush Administration for touting its education policies. Yet the next month, WWRL in New York put him back on the air, in afternoon drive. Now he's got a book coming out, one which calls liberals like myself racists.
If being a racist means hating crooks who happen to be black, I'm a racist. (It doesn't mean that, so Armstrong, take your black skin outta my face.) Armstrong Williams is a crook, corrupt. He should be on an unemployment line alongside Jayson Blair and hundreds of others -- of every color -- who can't be trusted. Yet he's heard loud and clear while honest men (and women) aren't. Including honest black, male conservatives, many with great speaking voices and stories to tell. Just look around the blogosphere for five minutes if you don't believe me.
Williams tells The Hill that he's "changed," that he doesn't harrangue Democrats anymore.
But that wasn't the point of the scandal. It's like a bank robber telling me he doesn't beat his wife anymore. It's irrelevant.
Armstrong Williams put himself out as a journalist, as an independent voice, when in fact he was in the pay of the government. That was the scandal. That remains a scandal.
But there is no way to fire people who violate even such basic ethical precepts anymore. If nothing else, he could go out and blog -- make big bucks like Andrew Sullivan. Who'd know? Who'd care?
Sam Walton was devoted, first and foremost, to his employees. (That's the cover of his autobiography at right.)
He was famous for driving around the country, arriving unannounced at stores, leading employees in cheers. It was almost Japanese.
People forget today, but Wal-Mart salaries in its early days represented big raises for rural people who otherwise faced lives of poverty, absent the small luxuries city folk took for granted. Thanks to Sam Walton, Wal-Mart employees could afford to shop at Wal-Mart. He transformed America from a land of rich city-poor country to one of middle class uniformity, and if you once lived on the poorer side of that divide it made him a great man.
Henry Ford was the same way. His River Rouge plant didn't just turn out a low-cost car (the Model T) . It turned out well-paid workers who could buy those cars. Ford, too, revolutionized America, making this a nation on-the-move.
My point today is that, in both cases, there were side-effects, which demanded renewal and change. And the refusal to change just delayed these crises -- it didn't prevent them.
Hewlett-Packard is apparently ending its relationship with Apple.
When I last wrote about the company I called this relationship a key to new CEO Mark Hurd's future. Apparently this was just a re-sale agreement, and H-P's channels were pushing out only 5% of the iPods being sold. (My mistake.)
So they're dropping it. And they're blaming Carly Fiorina. (Of course.)
But I believe Apple remains the key to any possible H-P comeback. (Here's why.)
The big trend of this decade, in technology, is a move toward openness.
It started with open frequencies like 802.11. It then moved into software, with open source operating systems and applications. Now we have open source business models. The ball keeps rolling along.
Open source has proven superior in all these areas due to simple math. The more people working a problem, the better. No single organization can out-do the multitudes.
But this simple, and rather elegant, fact, is at odds with all political trends.
Rebecca McKimmon (left, from her blog) took a shot at Cisco's China policy recently, confirming through a spokesman that the company does indeed cooperate with the government.
This is not news. So does nearly every other U.S. tech company.
The U.S. policy is, and has been, full engagement with China. This has already hurt Cisco. Back in the 1990s one of the prices for getting into the market was to share technology. Cisco did so, and a few years later Huawei, a Chinese company, had routers and bridges very similar to Cisco's old stuff, along with most of the Asian market (thanks to lower prices).
McKimmon's point now is that
China Cisco is cooperating with the worst excesses of the China government, which is seeking to have both the world's best Internet technology and full control over what people do with it.
That is a good point, but I don't think you
don't go after Cisco to make it.
They're both brilliant. They're both A-list bloggers. They're both rich. I've known both for about two decades.
But I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.
Here's why I think that.
Joi has put a lot of money into SixApart, which runs Movable Type, which powers this blog. It's good stuff. But it's being left behind because it is, at heart, proprietary. It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team.
In other words, it doesn't take advantage of the open source business process, and thus there are whole new worlds it hasn't been able to scale into. It's not a Community Network Service (like Drupal), and it's not a social networking system (like MySpace).
Marc, on the other hand, has just released GoingOn. It's a new engine for digital communities, like MySpace. He launched with Tony Perkins, who will use the system as the new heart of his AlwaysOn network (no relation to my wireless network application idea of the same title).
But Marc also understands that his stuff can't be the be-all and end-all. Let him explain it:
The Bells promised to serve us broadband if we let them run over Wireless ISPs. Done. No broadband.
So they promised us broadband if we would give them absolute control over their lines, ending any requirement for wholesaling. Done. No broadband.
Then they promised us broadband if we'd stop cities from buildig out wireless networks that might compete with them. Nearly done. Still no broadband.
Now, Qwest is pushing a plan in Congress to tax your broadband access and hand it the money, promising broadband in rural areas.
It's amazing anyone would believe such hollow promises, given the history. Color Democrat Byron Dorgan and Republican Gordon Smith (both represent areas covered by Qwest) as believers. The National Journal reports the two Senators are working together on just a Qwest-subsidy bill.
Here's a quote from the National Journal article:
Aides to Smith said the bill would make money in the Universal Service Fund available so telecommunications providers could build out broadband facilities. "It would be built into the same structure, and might end up as a stand-alone fund, within the current system next to the high-cost fund," an aide said.
Here's why this is not only theft, but stupid.
That headline could have been written about me. (But let's see if I can't make it up to you right now.)
It's the oldest dodge in the blogging world. You call another reporter lazy in order to cover up the fact you haven't looked at a story.
Just how lazy is that? Click below and find out.
Amid the hullaballoo over CardSystems International, here's a little story that you missed.
Not just any bank. A special kind of bank. An industrial bank, in Utah.
No offices, no direct deposit. Mainly, they exist to handle credit cards and other consumer loans. I'm sure the terms are very favorable, because big corporations are hotter for these than Donald Trump is for endorsement dea.s GE, Merrill Lynch, American Express and Target all have them. Berkshire Hathaway is setting one up to make loans for its R.C. Willey Home Furnishings stores. (Betcha didn't even know Buffett sold furniture.)
That's what Rupert Murdoch has paid for him, buying his Intermix Media and its prime asset, MySpace.
Fox has never had an Internet strategy. This was partly because Murdoch wouldn't pay top dollar for Internet assets. But it was also because he has kept his Internet operations on a short leash.
By spending big to get MySpace, which has taken over the business of social networking around music in the last year, Murdoch is changing his tune.
But it doesn't matter unless DeWolfe, who launched MySpace just two years ago with Tom Anderson, has a second strategic act in him.
Since Mark Hurd left NCR to run the mess Carly Fiorina made of Hewlett-Packard in March, he has been fighting to turn the old boat around. The company turned in solid numbers in May, he hired away Dell's CIO, Randy Mott, and now he has the credibility with his board needed to prune the deadwood.
H-P has a lot of deadwood.
In buying Compaq, her signature move, Fiorina took on a lot of old, tired, even worthless brands, like DEC and Tandem. Compaq's latter-day strategy had been to buy these outfits for their book of business, and Fiorinia's deal was the apotheosis of this old-line industrial strategy. She insisted at the time there would only be a few survivors of the PC wars, and buying Compaq was the only way to make sure H-P would be one of them.
She was wrong. What works in steel does not work in tech. A book of business is worthless, because computers are short-term capital goods. It's not what you did for me, or even what you did for me lately, but what you're going to do for me tomorrow that counts.
But enough about the past.
I'm not trying to start a rumor here. I have no insight into whether Dave Sifry (left, from Marc Cantor's blog) has considered any offers for his Technorati site, nor how he would react if one came in.
But since Barry Diller bought Bloglines (via AskJeeves) Technorati's performance has been falling behind that of its rival.
Robert Scoble (who works for a possible acquirer, Microsoft) offers the numbers, three times as many links to Sifry's own blog from Bloglines as from his own engine.
There is a vital lesson here about the technology space:
For people who like gaming, their games (or online environments) are their main interface to the Web. This has been true for some time, and unremarked upon.
There are other new interfaces that many people depend upon. The iTunes player can be an interface, when linked to Apple's Music Store. Any music player, or multimedia player, is a separate Web interface, which may or may not connect to a Web page at any time. People who swap files use those programs as interfaces.
The point is in many niches the Web browser has already been replaced as the main interface to the Internet. Microsoft's five-year campaign to dislodge Netscape was worthless, which may be why they're letting Firefox run off with so much market share.
And now, even readers are getting their own, separate interface, the RSS reader.
I use FeedDemon. Steve Stroh uses NetNewsWire on his Mac and calls it fabulous. This field has yet to shake out.
I have noticed some big differences occur in my work when I'm using FeedDemon instead of the browser as my interface to the Web:
Steve Stroh has more after the break:
CBS has decided to do a Web log.
It sounds stupid, but isnt necessarily. The Public Eye will be written by Vaughan Ververs, formerly editor of The Hotline, which has been drawing crowds of paying customers for The National Journal since 1992.
In its earliest incarnation the Hotline made Mike McCurry a star. McCurry was then the spokesman for candidate Bruce Babbitt, and his missives there gave Babbitt a boomlet. Later he was a Clinton press secretary. The point is there's a history of online financial success here.
The point is that Ververs, rightly or wrongly, is being given credit for some long-term success, and told to duplicate it on a larger stage, just as local anchors are often given the network gig and expected to produce big numbers.
A reporter can make a good living just covering Microsoft.
This is not a good thing.
One fact that attracted me to technology journalism in the first place was its social mobility. I often write about companies I call "Clueless" and find they have disappeared practically before I can get the piece into digital print. Those that are "Clued-in" can also fall quickly, corporate management in this space being much like tightrope walking.
Intense competition makes for rapid evolution. Call this Dana's First Law of Competition. Markets in India and China are intensely competitive. You can't let your guard down for an instant. This is a very good thing.
It's not what human nature wants, of course. As people we want to relax, to enjoy our lives, to set the competition aside sometimes so we can, say, raise our families, get more education, or retire with dignity.
Both Microsoft and the government had opportunities to prevent this, to re-ignite competition. They chose not to take these opportunities.
Bill Gates had one vision for Microsoft, but the company has gone beyond it. He was wise to pass the baton to his majordomo, Steve Ballmer. Ballmer is all sales, all the time, a whirling picture of aggression. (He's also, admittedly, what we call on this blog a Truly Handsome Man (grass don't grow on a busy street) but looks ain't everything.)
Ballmer's vision isn't really about technology. It's about exploiting advantages and making money.
So at Microsoft's recent Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis (Minneapolis?) we got headlines like these:
This is just one corner of the news Microsoft made last week.
The papers are full today with stories about "citizen journalists." (That's Will Ferrell as Anchorman Ron Burgundy to the left.)
All these stories convey a common misconception. They assume this is a trend, and they assume that mainstream media will be able to dominate this new field.
Both assumptions are wrong.
In many ways this is a fad. It's a fad because, as camera phones proliferate, the volume of such pictures available is just going to become overwhelming. Making sense of what's out there, and getting rights to the good stuff, are going to be keys to success.
Also there is nothing really new here. Cable shows have been taking calls from individuals at news sites for decades. Talk radio is all about the callers. What's new here are the means the the medium, not the phenomenon.
But there's a more important point being missed in all the self-congratulation:
The search for online business models is a continuing fascination of mine at A-Clue.Com.
You may have great merchandise, you may have great service, you may have a nifty shopping cart. But if you can't bring the values of your shop floor to your Web site, you won't succeed online. Over time you may not succeed offline either.
An editorial mission replicates the value of your store online. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? For Amazon it's a database, a huge variety of merchandise. Works for Amazon, works for Wal-Mart, but it won't work for you.
In fact, Wal-Mart's failures online can be attributed to this editorial mission failure. They were unable to replicate the values of a real Wal-Mart in their online efforts. While the store looks a jumble, regular shoppers know you can actually get what you want there fairly quickly. What they should have enabled was a form of "shopping lists" that people could print-and-use at home, adapting to their own needs, then input regularly on the site, along with a delivery service.
The difference between editorial values and commercial values is that the one defines what you are, and the other puts your name in mind. If branding is to be worthwhile you must deliver the values the brand promises. That is exactly how editors think, too. What you call your reputation they call credibility.
The blogosphere's quick reaction to the London strikes was driven in large part by the mass market in camera phones and video phones.
Within minutes of the bombs going off pictures and short videos began appearing online. In many the smoke from the blasts was clearly visible. Cameras worked even where phone functionality was absent, and images could be sent as soon as connections returned.
A second notable fact was the willingness, especially at the BBC, to get this footage up quickly. One amateur picture, of a double-decker bus with its top end ripped off, was the site's feature picture for most of the day. (That's the picture, above, from the BBC Web site.)
Given the direction of antitrust law recently I was surprised to see the recent suits by AMD and (more recently) Broadcom. They left me scratching my head.
But there is an answer to my quandary.
Antitrust has become a process. It's not a goal, but a weapon in the business war.
The idea that Qualcomm has a monopoly in the mobile phone industry is laughable. It may abuse what position it has, charging chip makers like Broadcom the equivalent of an "intellectual property tax" in areas which use CDMA (and its variants). But GSM is the major world standard. It would be like calling the Apple Macintosh a monopoly.
The Broadcom antitrust suit comes right after it filed a patent suit against Qualcomm, accusing it of violating Broadcom patents regarding delivery of content to mobile phones.
The first shot didn't open up the Qualcomm ship, maybe the second will. All lawyers on deck!
T-Mobile has become the first cellular operator to offer full Internet service on its mobile phones.
The service will be sold under the name Web'n'walk, with Google.Com as the designated home page. (Yeah, I know, in the real Internet world you could change the default to, say, http://www.corante.com/mooreslore. But one step at a time.) New devices, with larger screens, will also be sold as part of the campaign.
The decision is critical, because up until now all cellular providers have offered only their own "walled gardens," sometimes using a small i (for Internet, customers think) on their phones, but in fact offering only a tiny fraction of the Internet connectivity customers are used to.
But as phones move to offering true broadband speeds, and some users use cellular broadband on their PCs because of its better coverage, this is finally breaking down.
It will be interesting to see how, and when, T-Mobile starts advertising this feature, and what Verizon and Cingular will say (or do) in response. T-Mobile, while owned by Germany's formerly state-owned phone company, is the smallest of four major operators in the U.S.
Cellular operators love to go on about how much better their walled data gardens are than that nasty Internet, because consumers are safer.
But there was a sting in the tail. People (mostly kids, but at least one BBC reporter as well) found they didn't just buy a 3 pound ringtone, but a "premium SMS" service that charged them as much as 3 pounds more for each add Jamster then sent them.
The two companies are being investigated but according to the BBC the maximum penalty could be a mere 100,000 pounds to mBlox, plus loss of its British business license. It's estimated the scam has earned over 10 million pounds so far.
But do you want to know the rest of the story, the bit the Brits don't know (yet)?
It's nice when "real" (paid) market analysts agree with one of your premises. Especially when it's a key premise to you, as Always On is to me. (This is advertised as an Always On Server, from Virtual Access.)
So I was pleased to read Chris Jablonski's recent piece at ZDNet, Forget P2P, M2M is where the next party is.
M2M stands for Machine to Machine (ironically this sits right below an item about how poor most tech nicknames are) but we're talking about the same thing, intelligent sensors linked to wireless networks. Programming the sensors to deliver some result, then automating delivery of the result in some way (sending an alarm, telling the user, etc.) is what I mean by an Always-On application.
As I have said here many times the tools are already at hand, and cheap. We're talking here about RFID chips, WiFi and cellular networks, along with standards like Zigbee that let these things run for years on a single battery charge.
There are problems with every application space, however:
AMD is the most infuriating company imaginable.
If Intel is the big dog of the chip world, AMD is the little dog jumping around it, nipping at its heels, acting like it (not Chipzilla) owns the street.
Its latest legal assault may be its dumbest move yet.
Strictly from a timing standpoint, it sucks.
This Administration does not look kindly at anti-trust claims. They settled with Microsoft, they gave the cables and Bells a duopoly (leaving America a third-world broadband country), and they seem content to let China monopolize world trade while India gains control of services. All this is in pursuit of an ideology that becomes less-and-less distinguishable from Putinism and Kleptocracy by the day.
Short form. If they had a case they should have filed it in Europe.
The Supreme Court has decided that cable networks, created under government franchises, under monopoly conditions, are entirely the property of their corporate owners who don't have to wholesale. (That's the BrandX rocket ship -- they lost the case. What follows is directed to them as much as anyone else.)
Some ISPs bemoaned this bitterly. In the near term it means most of us have two choices for broadband service, the local Bell and the local Cable Head-End, both known for poor service, high prices, and loaded with equipment it will take decades to write off.
Smart folks, however, should be celebrating.
The topic this week might be called the new media's old media problem, with a proposal for solving it. (I have no idea whether the book here is good or not. If someone can send me a link to sales, we'll see.)
In software terms blogging and commerce are incompatible. They're two trains running on different tracks.
Bloggers aren't really thinking of making money. They may put up begging bowls, and they make take BlogAds, or put in Google AdSense, but their Achilles Heel is that, when they think of money at all, it's in Old Media terms.
Let's sell ads.
Community Networking Systems like Scoop, Slash and Drupal also share this problem. They have an advantage over blogging systems in that they can scale. They can take a lot of traffic, and a lot of users. Those users are empowered to create their own diaries, or polls, or multi-threaded comments. But again commerce is secondary, in this case even tertiary. The most successful "commercial" community sites are those, like DailyKos and Slashdot, that direct people off-site to give money or time to important causes. There is no built-in business model.
For the last few months I have had a keyword search on Newsgator covering topics of interest here, things like cellular telephony and open source. (Last call to buy the book.)
I have watched as it has gradually become worse than useless.
I'm getting nearly 500 e-mails a day on this feed, but the signal-noise ratio keeps going up. Newsgator has begun designating some of these posts as spam, but they're missing most of them, including this one.
Even some of the "editorial" hits on this list are worse than useless. Here's one. No offense to the writer but it doesn't belong in a keyword feed for cellular, despite the fact that one of the entries in this list is "I have a mobile phone."
It gets worse, but maybe I have a solution.
A note came in today from a friend I've known even longer than my saintly wife. "How does this fit into Moore's Law?" he asked.
The link was to a story about a holographic storage system being marketed by Optware of Japan. It's called a Holographic Virtual Card (HVC) and claims to store 30 Gigabytes on $1 worth of media. (That's the Optware reader to the right, from a 2004 GearBits article promising commercialization in 2005.)
The kicker is that readers will cost $2.000 and read-write devices may cost five times more. Optware has promised standard kit by the end of next year.
All this related to what my book calls Moore's Law of Optical Storage. Instead of storing data on a fairly flat substrate, the Optware design uses all three dimensions. Think of the storage medium as a cube rather than a circle.
There's a long way to go before this threatens the CDs we're used to. Right now, however, the high price of the readers may be an advantage, making this perfect for applications like physical security.
Imagine the depth of personal knowledge that could be input on a 30 GByte substrate for an entry badge. Connect that to a variety of biometric readers so the bad guys can't hide their identities behind, say, phony fingerprints or contact lenses. Add a human guard to the mix and your entry portal could be pretty darned secure (for a time).
But the best news here may be this, the fact that there's competition in this space from Inphase Technologies, a spin-off of Bell Labs. They're looking at issues like the speed of data transfer, issues that could make holograms an alternative for the archiving of Web data.
Writing about Microsoft earlier today got me thinking more deeply about the company. (The image is from the Pioneer Theater Co., at the University of Utah.)
A decade ago Microsoft reached a tipping point. Maybe this came with its release of Windows 95. It was obvious in its obsession over destroying Netscape.
Before 1995 Microsoft was about creating capabilities for others. Since then its mission has been embracing and extending, bringing the great ideas of others into its own operating system, destroying rather than creating niches.
It all sounds like a Jon Stewart set-up. "Aw, Bill, it used to be about the world domination." But in truth, at some point, people do come to dominate their worlds.
And then it all starts to go wrong.
The people you want working for you are not necessarily the people who want to work for you.
This is one of those hard truths that everyone knows and no one talks about.
Because it's not just a truth at Microsoft.
Ledgard's post, which she later felt duty-bound to soften, told a real truth, and the fact she felt compelled to soften her tone speaks loudly to just how bad the problem is -- across corporate America.
The people doing the hiring, and the people seeking those positions, both think working at Microsoft (or wherever) is the greatest thing since pasteurized milk. In some ways it is. Look at the medicine cabinet you get to use at Microsoft (at the top of this item). Look at the salaries, the benefits, the family-friendly attitude. It's paradise.
Due to low salaries and high turnover, journalism continues to face the problem of reporters seeing failed trends repeated, not spotting them, and repeating the same failed cliches of earlier years, mainly due to orgnaizational inertia.
First, from the Financial Times, a piece on Internet sites being bought by media companies, "falling prey" to them being the operative cliche. On the whole these are market losers cashing out. The buyers aren't getting much, and the story doesn't examine the track records of the sellers. There's a story here, but not the one written.
Second, we have the BBC with the idea that consumer demands drive tech developments. If the iPod were possible 20 years ago does anyone deny we would buy it?
When evolution accelerates size becomes a disadvantage.
It's true in nature, and it's true in technology as well.
The Bells (and Comcast) are the big bottlenecks in our technology universe. With Moore's Law sweeping through the telecomm landscape they are competitive liabilities in our economic ecosystem.
There is no malice in saying this. The Bells can't help being pointy-headed bosses. They are bureaucrats. Their loyalty is to the inside of their system, not to the customer. In a stable environment the ability to retain such people is a boon. In an unstable one it's disaster.
More proof comes today from Techdirt. It's a so-called BellSouthWiMax trial. But it isn't WiMax. It isn't new technology. It's an excuse to keep charging $110/month for DSL ($60 for the phone line) when the phone component is (with VOIP) unnecessary.
Not only is Apple switching its chip supply contract from IBM to Intel, but it is moving to Intel processors in the bargain.
In making the announcement this morning, Steve Jobs said he didn't see how he could continue making great products beyond next year "based on the Power roadmap."
Right after his speech he had a cagey interview with CNBC's Ron Insana. "Its not as dramatic as youre characterizing it," he insisted.
"This is going to be a gradual transition. Hopefully a year from today well have Intel-based Macs in the market. Its going to be a two-year transition.
"As we look into the future, where we want to go is different (from IBM's product roadmap). A year or two in the future Intels processor roadmap aligns with where we want to go.
"I think this will get us where we want to be a year or two down the road." Jobs refused repeated requests by Insana to explain what he meant by that. (Jobs is also shaving even more closely than this picture shows. He's down to tiny stubble around a a still-brownish moustache. Hey, Steve, I'm 50 too.)
What I think he means, simply, is video.
Beyond this, most of what I wrote last week holds. This deal is not material to Intel, which continues to face loss of major market share to AMD among Windows and Linux users.
But there are also vital lessons here for followers of Moores Law, lessons I need to impart.
Assuming Apple does switch to Intel chips tomorrow, as News.Com reports, the value of Intel stock will likely rise.
That would be a mistake.
Intel is making a big investment here to gain a very small amount of market share. Meanwhile it's losing far more market share to AMD in what used to be called the Windows world.
WinTel has been broken. That should be the real headline here.
Microsoft is perfectly happy to have AMD supply chips for Windows machines. People are very happy to buy them. And right now AMD has a price-performance advantage there.
This move toward Apple will, if anything, accelerate that shift. Intel should be spending all its time addressing its loss of share in the Windows world, and in the Linux world, instead of wasting energy with a tetchy, demanding Apple, an outfit that even IBM couldn't please.
One more point.
The word for today is consolidation. (The illustration is from a report on market consolidation in the business intelligence software business, from The OLAP Report.)
It is a very bad word, scary in fact.
Let's use it in a sentence, shall we?
Why is consolidation such a bad word?
Because it means that innovation is over, that the business is now about squeezing out profits. Unemployment inevitably follows. So too does bad service.
When businesses consolidate consumers have fewer choices. It's harder for them to go somewhere else when they're pissed off. This creates an enormous financial incentive for companies to do just that. And they do.
What's the cure for consolidation? There's really only one.
Here's something you probably already knew.
Actually I added the word "national" to the sentence above. The New York Times failed to. Because local business newspapers are doing just fine thank you very much. The Times, as usual, has about half the story.
National magazines are out of favor because (ironically) they never created a real business proposition for the advertiser. Look at the ads. They're all corporate self-congratulation. Where's the business in that? It doesn't exist.
Beyond that Forbes, Fortune and Business Week mainly existed to tout stocks and stock touters. The collapse of the dot-bomb meant bad news for both, and in fact the Dow Jones has yet to match its pre-bust high. (The NASDAQ remains at about 40% of that high.) Fast Company, Red Herring and their ilk had an even weaker business case -- they pre-touted what vulture capitalists pushed.
But like I said, this is just half the story.
As the graph shows, the phenomenon is familiar to anyone who blogs, and the challenge is to find a way to profit from it.
Stuff on the left side of the curve has business models. Stuff in the middle is struggling for a business model. Stuff on the right has no business model.
As you can see by looking at the endorsements on the left side of Anderson's blog, the Digirati are reacting like Anderson just discovered fire. And the Long Tail is no less obvious.
What's non-trivial is finding a way to profit from these atomized markets.
Google does it. TiVo does it (sometimes). But must those who profit from the "market of one" all be scaled? What about the creators? And what are the consequences of that?
What we've seen in the market, since the rise of the Internet, is an increasingly-shorter tail. Middle market books don't sell. Independent movies are having more trouble getting produced, not less. Musicians who used to live decent lives on record company contracts find today they can't get a sniff.
I'm generally all in favor of anything to fight spam. And regular readers of this space will recall how much I like my own anti-spam tool, Mailwasher from FireTrust.
But this pissed me off.
UPDATE: After posting this I learned the spam database I'm about to describe is not necessary for Mailwasher to work. My complaint here is solely regarding issues of marketing and notice. Mailwasher remains my anti-spam solution of choice.
The latest version of the product, Version 5.0 to be precise, supports a company spam datebase, called FirstAlert! This is a commendable thing, on balance.
But in order to pay for maintaining this database, FireTrust has changed its business model. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Essentially they're going to a subscription model built around FirstAlert!
I was asked to download the "upgrade" to Mailwasher, by FireTrust, roughly a week ago. I did so. It's now a $37 product but, if you want to maintain your own POP3 mailbox and a public e-mail address, it's a necessity. Upgrading was transparent, easy-peasy.
Suddenly this morning I get a pop-up, inside Mailwasher, reading "your subscription to FirstAlert has expired," with a link to renew. The link goes to a page inside the FireTrust site, and they want $9.95 for the subscription. The page doesn't indicate how long this "subscription" lasts.
Because of the way in which this was done, it can look to a consumer like a classic bait-and-switch. I bought this thing just last week and now you want MORE money?
Fortunately it's very easy for FireTrust to fix this:
And why should these people listen? They have what they consider success. I'm a "low traffic blog." If I'm so clever I should be doing it, not talking about it, right? (Right.)
But the plain fact is, most of today's top blogs are using the wrong business model.
Their model is a media model. I tell you, you listen, and maybe I advertise to you on the side. This is what newspapers do, what magazines do, what radio does, what TV does.
But is the Internet a newspaper? Is it radio or a magazine or TV? No, it is not. The IN in the word Internet is short for Intimate. So why then should a business model imported from one of these other industries be appropriate? Only because, like TV entrepreneurs in the late 1940s, you can't think of a more appropriate one. You don't have the right vocabulary. You weren't born to this medium.
What would work better?
The community business model would work better. This is driven, not so much by what bloggers want to say as what their readers want to say. There are many high-traffic sites now using the community model -- Slashdot, Plastic, Groklaw, DailyKos. What they have in common is true community software -- Scoop, Slash, even Drupal.
The problem (and this is the nut of the issue) is that most of these community sites have deliberately shied away from having a business model. The only site I mentioned above that has a true business model is Slashdot, and Slashdot is so unusual people with an editorial background can't get their arms around what that business model is.
This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.
There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.
Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.
I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.
So it went.
I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.
Despite his ponytail and his sometimes counter-cultural language, despite being what I like to call a Truly Handsome Man (it's a brighter term for bald, people) Ted Waitt was always a follower, not a leader. (The picture is from a 2002 profile in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Argus-Leader.)
Waitt was Gimbel's to Michael Dell's Macy's. He wanted to be Pepsi to Dell's Coke.
But computing lacks the stability of the retailing or the soda business. So when Waitt announced his resignation today (at 42 it wouldn't sound right to call it a retirement) it wasn't big news.
Waitt and Gateway did well in the 1990s, following Dell into mass customization. He made his big mistake when he tried to out-think Dell, opening a chain of retail stores that caused $2.4 billion in losses, according to The New York Times.
But I personally think the mistake was more basic than that.
"One of our regular posters here (OK, it was Brad) suggested that our piece yesterday on changes at Google were just a way to track clickthroughs.
We both underestimated it. In the biggest change since the service launched Google will scrap its small clean interface and, just for you (because they like your smile) let you produce a personalized My Google page all your own.
I was planning on writing this afternoon about Broadcom's new patent suit against Qualcomm. Regardless of the merits, it looks like a good corporate strategy, creating uncertainty about a market opponent just as you're entering their space.
But in researching the story I learned something new about Google that may distress you. And that's a better blog item than the one I started with.
"Dad, the Internet's broken again."
update I finally surrendered in this case and renewed my daughter's antiviral, for $55. I would rather have her choose when to make the Linux switch. The anti-viral did, finally, get rid of all the malware, although we lost a second evening to it and she wound up writing her last paper on my own machine.
Actually it had been breaking for some time, I learned. My lovely daughter is a big fan of Fanfiction.Net, a site where kids are allowed to post their own stories based on popular characters. (Think Harry Potter meets the Three Stooges.)
It's a harmless avocation but it comes with a price. Fanfiction is filled, absolutely filled, with spyware and malware. Ad pop-ups were filling her screen, and no matter how many I clicked away (even if the browser was turned off) more appeared. She had been running an anti-spyware program, but it had not been updated. And her anti-viral had just expired.
The solution seemed simple enough. Her anti-spyware program was updated and deployed. But here's a dirty secret of our time. Most adware today is no different from a virus.
All the tricks of the virus creep were deployed to keep crap like eZula infesting my girl's PC. Copies were hidden in memory, in the restore directory, in directories under program files. (None had ever asked permission, nor told her what it would do.)
When I deployed Spybot in normal boot, the spyware was so thick (download this, click here) the program actually stopped -- the pop-ups and demands to download more garbage were a primeval forest. When deployed in "safe mode," there were several "problems" that couldn't be eliminated. Re-boot and start Spybot again? Well, dozens more spy-virii popped up during the re-boot.
But wait, there's more.
I didn't blog much yesterday because I was researching the state of play in Always On. (The illustration is from Georgia Tech.)
I had a book proposal before Wiley rejected out of hand. But when I then suggested to step back and do a book on RFID for the home, I got real interest. Just make it a hands-on book, I was told.
Thus, the research.
As regular readers here know well there are many Always On application spaces, that is, functions fit for wireless networking applications.
Absent this understanding that a unified platform already exists so that all these applications can be created together, what is the state of play specifically regarding Radio Frequency Identification? (Or, if you prefer, spychips, although since I'm talking about home applications you're spying on yourself.)
There's a reason why journalists should be paid, one that people like Fuad Kircaali ignore at their peril.
If you're a "volunteer" (unpaid) editor at a Sys-Con publication, and a vendor offers you money to spin a story their way, what's the risk in your taking it? Sure, if the boss finds out you might lose your job. But you're not being paid. And this assumes that you're being closely monitored -- the quid pro quo of being a volunteer editor is generally that you're not.
On the other hand, if you're a working journalist and your income (thus your family) is dependent on pleasing the publisher, we have a different calculus. Now a vendor approaches you with an offer and you see a risk in taking it. Not only will you surely lose this job, but you're likely to lose all hope of future employment. (If you're a volunteer editor your employment is not in journalism, remember.)
You can only hold professional journalists to journalistic ethics. Publishers who don't pay editors hand their good name to people beyond their control.
Where does blogging fit into this?
By and large publishers do not share journalism's ethical sense.
Instead they apply business ethics.
While a journalist's ethics, like that of any other claimed profession, may hold them well short of what's illegal, businessmen must go right up to the legal line, even risk crossing it, to stay ahead of the competition. Businessmen who don't think that way are easily crushed by those who do.
In journalism, business ethics often push journalists over lines they should not cross. Robert Novak practices business ethics. The National Enquirer practices business ethics. Those who choose to believe Novak or the Enquirer accept it.
This weekend this blog was told that Kircaali accepted the resignations of three senior LinuxWorld editors -- James Turner, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, and Steve Suehring, rather than personally release and renounce O'Gara.
UPDATE: "We were unpaid editors but we devoted a lot of time and energy to it," according to Suehring's blog. This makes sense given Kircaali's business model, as we will discuss later on.
Apparently, Kircaali even approved O'Gara's assault on Pamela Jones of Groklaw in advance. Here's what he told Free Software Magazine.
"The language of the story is in the typical style of Ms. OGara, generally entertaining and easy to read, and sometimes it could be regarded as offensive, depending on how you look at it. I decided to publish the article. It was published because it was an accurate news story."
More after the break.
B.L. Ochman (the picture is from her Whatsnextblog) has already broken this, but this week's a-clue.com newsletter features a piece on blogging business models, written following the Blognashville conference.
I spent the weekend at Blognashville, a gab-and-egofest for about 100 (mostly male, mostly middle-aged) bloggers at Belmont University in Nashville (a pricey pimple on the bottom of Vanderbilt) to fuss over Glenn Reynolds (much nicer in person than online) and to search for meaning.
The big question: how will we make money off this?
People are investing a ton of time and effort in blogging. Volunteers get burned out if they can't find money. All institutions are built on money. At Nashville we all felt we were in the gold fields and no one seemed to have made a strike.
There's a Clue there. Nearly all those 49'ers (and Alaska 98'ers) who went in with pick and shovel failed. It was those who went in with a business model, professional mining companies or merchants such as Levi Strauss, who succeeded.
Some 99% of blogs (including mine) go about the publishing question backwards. That is, we look at the process from the writer's point of view, not the reader's. This is forgivable in that bloggers are writers, but this is one of the key differences between writers and publishers. Publishers create for the market.
That is, publishers define the readers they want, the content those readers need, and the advertisers they will hit-up to pay the bills. They then order the production of the product, and keep an eye out to make sure it meets the readers' requirements.
In other words, the difference between blogging and journalism lies entirely on the business side of the shop. Publishers are just as likely to pay for lies as bloggers are to make stuff up. The difference is the publishers create lies that appeal to their audiences, while bloggers write lies that appeal to themselves.
This is easy to understand when you look at the professional blogs that are run by publishers - Weblogsinc, Gawker Media, and Paid Content. Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and Rafat Ali defined the readers they wanted, created a business model, then hired writers to fulfill the mission.
In contrast I found, at blognashville, that even the most-popular bloggers are mere dilletantes. This is a term Glenn Reynolds applied to himself. Dave Winer, with whom I spent pleasant hours, is also doing his blog on-the-side - his business is RSS. I was surprised to find myself the most knowledgeable businessperson in the room, and I'm a complete failure.
When you're led by amateurs you can't expect professional standards to be upheld. Yet, on the editorial side, blogs often do just that. It's on the business side where they all fall down.
Still, I saw several potential business models at the conference:
The U.S. is in the process of losing its last friends, the Brits.
I'm not just talking here of recent elections, where Labour lost much of its majority specifically due to its support of the Iraq war.
No, I'm talking about Malcolm Glazer.
Malcolm who, you ask? Glazer owns the Tampa Bay Bucs. You may remember his eldest son Avram from the dot-boom, as the head of some nonsense called Zap.com, which tried to roll-up a bunch of disparate Internet assets into some super-duper-something. They got less than nowhere. (The parent outfit, Zapata Corp., had as its co-founder one George H.W. Bush. We'll just let that one sink into the heads of Manchester's tinfoil hat crowd.) Zap.Com also gives us an excuse for discussing this sports story in this here tech blog.
Anyway, yesterday daddykins bought England's true crown jewel, the Manchester United football club. And he seems to have bought it the way LBO artists did it in the 80s, aiming to "unlock value" by dumping his debt onto the books. Needless to say you don't want to be wearing a Bucs' hat in Greater Manchester this afternoon.
Many think the secret of Fox' dominance of news is political. A generation brought up on the myth that an objective press is biased to the left, then given a right-wing Pravda, sees the latter as "fair and balanced."
That's a small part of the story. Identifying a niche and serving it is as old as the magazine business. Older. It's as old as Poor Richard's Almanack.
The real secret is much simpler. The "network" is actually a studio. Few bureaus, no big investigation team, no bench, little support. Who needs writers when most hosts can wing it. It's talking heads. It's radio economics.
No, it's blog economics, or Blogonomics.
With CNN's decision, now reflected on its air, to become a national version of local TV news, with "it bleeds, it leads" sensibilities and a complete emphasis on simple stories told in front of courthouses rather than anything researched, the word needs to go out.
They have surrendered to the blogosphere.
With local TV news no longer covering politics or policy, and with cable news now virtually ignoring it, what other conclusion can be drawn?
It's not as if politics has no audience. Political blogs have the highest audiences, and highest degree of audience participation, in the blogosphere. Many are profitable, some wildly so. Many also break real news stories, either through the efforts of the people running them or just from common posters who do their own investigations and report the results.
In the history of journalism this is big news.
But it's not being reported as such.
One thing I got my first crack at over the weekend was the actual practice of Wi-Fi-in'. (The picture comes from a Free WiFi hotspot list site.)
While I have had WiFi in my home for years now I only recently got a laptop that can truly take advantage of it on the road. I brought it to Nashville with me.
Wi-Fi'-in means opening up the box, booting up, and hoping for an unsecured 802.11 connection you can log into. It's best done in a city, preferably close to a University campus. But don't expect to do this on the campus itself -- most college systems these days are secured, at least by passwords.
It was amazing to me how lost and alone I felt when I couldn't find a free spot around me. My hotel advertised the service, but during the day the radio waves couldn't reach my room. (This is a fact of life with radio -- the bands are all more crowded during the day.) As I noted the campus where I was hanging on Friday had their access password-protected, and I'm not into breaking-and-surfing (yet).
But all was not lost. I was about to learn a powerful lesson.
Googlejuice is that precious elixir which makes the difference between a site or blog that has tons of regular traffic, and those that don't.
Google is constantly adjusting and re-adjusting its algorithms in this area to be fairer, and keep people from playing games with it. Just last week it sought a patent on new Google News technology it claims will enhance that site's credibility. This may backfire, because the major media certain to get more Google Newsjuice out of this are the same companies looking to charge for links.
But that's another show.
One of the great ironies of my recent mistake here was that it actually increased this blog's Googlejuice. Between those who linked to complain, my responses in apology, and those who followed up on my explanation saying they hadn't seen my apology, the incoming link traffic here actually rose 50%. If some of those people stick around (maybe wondering when I'll fall on my face next) it's actually a good thing.
Jonathan Peterson, who did the Amateur Hour blog here for a while, made this observation to me over the weekend.
I think there are a few good lessons - the most important of which you
already knew - the firestorm around an error is good for your link
popularity. Andrew Orlowski has been playing this game at the Register for years (and it's the reason I stopped
reading The Register, but his anti-blog idiocy brings in the googlejuice.
On the creative side, blogs are just as likely to care about journalism, public service, and lies as any other media.
On the business side, however, nearly all bloggers do things backwards.
That is, we look at the content from the writer's point of view. Journalism looks at all content from the reader's point of view.
This is no small point. You can see it clearly in examining the "blog journalism" companies which have found success -- Weblogsinc, Gawker Media, and Paid Content. Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and Rafat Ali all defined the readers they wanted, created a business model, then hired writers to fulfill the mission.
As previously noted I will be at blognashville this weekend.
I will be taking notes. Service here will be intermittant.
Meanwhile I urge you to enjoy one of my favorite people, venture capitalist-musician Roger McNamee. His latest, on the necessary separation between distribution and content, is especially fine.
Or if you prefer just put on his latest album and rock on.
The secret's out.
Intel is re-interpreting Moore's Law. Not repealing it. Not rejecting it.
They're reinterpreting it. That's the significance of the change incoming CEO Paul Otellini (right) is making.
Before Moore's Law was like Samuel Gomper's famous quote about what labor wanted. More. More circuits, more speed, more cycles, more bits. More.
As of today Intel's new direction is better. Better doesn't always mean more. In the case of microprocessors it can mean putting more computers on each chip (multi-core) or running with lower power. In terms of communications it can mean a host of attributes, from security to coverage to throughput.
The strength of an economy, like that of a society, depends on social mobility. That means the poor can rise to wealth. It also means the wealthy can end up poor. (This old cartoon, from what folks like to call THE Ohio State University, pre-dates Wal-Mart by generations.)
A recent online conversation with Vijay Gill brought this home to me. The topic was actually our recent piece on The Myth of Scarcity. I liked it, posted it to Dave Farber's list, and Vijay responded quite thoughtfully, his point being that telecommunications is hard, some parts are scarce, and real technical knowledge is even scarcer. Maintaining total connectivity in the last mile without protecting the monopoly is harder than I make it sound.
This set me thinking in two directions at once.
Why is it that politicians have done a better job on the Internet than publishers?
It has to do with a concept I call Pitch Credibility.
Journalists understand the concept of credibility. It's the trust readers place in us. If there is a journalism profession, it's based on this idea of credibility. I took a huge hit to my own credibility when I screwed-up an item on Ev Williams. I went through hell on that not to regain my credibility, but to minimize the losses, and in hope the damage would not spread to innocent Corante authors.
But just as editorial work must have credibility, so must advertising. That is the innovation the Internet makes necessary.
Moveon.org understood this right away. It knew that if it suggested you give to Candidate X, then Candidate X better fit the desires of the Moveon audience, or the endorsement would damage Moveon. Because it had pitch credibility with its audience, Moveon was able to gain honest information (a mailing list) from its members, and even financial support, based solely on its promise to deliver.
While Moveon failed in these last two cycles as a political force (ask Presidents Gore, Dean and Kerry) it has succeeded in creating a business model that everyone else on the Internet needs to pay attention to.
So if Roger Simon, for instance, is to succeed in his efforts to unite the right-wing blogosphere and extract money from its members, he must retain pitch credibility. He better not let anyone like me in because I'd damage it. And he better use that credibility only to solicit for products, services and people the audience will surely endorse.
Perhaps you can see now why this idea is easier for a politician to understand than a businessman. Politicians are attached to what they're selling in ways businessmen aren't.
Belief is at the heart of pitch credibility.
How can we take advantage of this in the business realm?
Click to find out.
The Associated Press was created by publishers to let papers share stories and reduce editorial costs, in an age where everyone knew their business model and barriers to entry were rising.
Today barriers to entry are at rock-bottom and valid business models are hard to come by.
So naturally, everyone's trying to create an AP.
This is going about things backward. Business models aren't for sharing. They must first be created by entrepreneurs, then expanded upon. Only once they're established can you expect the kind of consolidation an AP represents.
What we have, then, is a business opportunity. What is that opportunity?
A shared registration database would be a good place to start. One sign-in, and one cookie, might get a reader posting privileges at hundreds of sites. The database would provide advertisers with a working profile of the readers (demographics and psychographics) justifying a higher cost per thousand on ads. Blogs on the network could be bundled based on politics, subject matter, or geography, just as is done in the magazine business.
The result would be a brand offering the services of an ad network. It should also be able to aggregate other business opportunities for the members of the network, so it would have aspects of a talent agency as well.
How close are we to something like that? Not very close at all:
The bidding war between Verizon and Qwest for MCI is based on a myth of scarcity. That is, both think they can make the deal pay by squeezing customers for the scarce resources represented by the MCI network.
Moores Law of Fiber rendered that inoperative many years ago. There is no shortage of fiber backbone capacity. And there are ample replacements for Plain Old Telephone Service -- not just cable but wireless.
The myth on which this deal is based is, simply, untrue.
Yet the myth persists, and not just in the telecommunications business.
I have not written much about Voice Over IP in this space because I'm not an expert in it. (Yes, I hear you say, this never stopped you before.)
Actually I didn't think I had anything original to add to the conversation. I still don't. But I want to point you to someone who does.
That someone is Tom Evslin (left). Evslin recently completed a wonderful series on the economics, politics, past and future of VOIP, on his blog, which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in this area.
Evslin calls this year a "flipping point" driven bythe mass distribution of VOIP software. It's not really free although, once you have your set-up, each call carries no incremental cost. The market battle between Skype and Vonage are driven by Metcalfe's Law, control of end points. Evslin offers the best explanation I've yet seen of Skype and its business model, which is rapidly evolving into an alternative phone network.
I have one suggestion.
The political battle over WiFi shapes up as a classic match between private interests and the commons.
But it is in fact a battle over real estate. (Thus, the balloon, which is the logo of a very innovative real estate brokerage.)
Verizon pulled a bait-and-switch on New York phone booths. It installed 802.11 equipment based on the promise of free WiFi service on adjoining streets, then pulled them all back into its paid network.
Politically this makes no sense. In real estate terms it makes perfect sense.
The challenge to this looks technological, but it's really political. You can see this challenge by simply turning on your WiFi equipped laptop.
The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is learning how to handle NO.
I learned this lesson from an entrepreneurial friend of mine today, and it's so important I had to blog it.
Entrepreneurs bring ideas to businesses and people. They sell these ideas, as businesses. They take a lot of meetings. And most of the time, maybe over 99% of the time, the answer at the end of the day is No.
"You have to turn it into an opportunity," my friend said. You do that by finding someone else -- a money source, another business -- who will either run with your idea, finance your idea, or buy it outright.
And you keep moving.
The difference between entrepreneurs and other businesspeople is that most businesspeople are in the yes business. In a going concern you mostly hear yes. People do come in the door, people are satisfied, you do create systems that wind up giving value for money. If you're not doing this, you're out of business quickly.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are constantly being told no. It's only when they get the yes that they have the chance to build that business they were describing, and this is usually the end of a long, long process. Yet the businesses an entrepreneur launches are often much better than those run by businesspeople, because they've been tested, vetted, and designed to grow fast.
Personally I dont think this is necessarily the case. Newspaper companies will be able to use computers and on-demand pagination to mass produce paper products that are relevant to future audiences. Just as radio and TV only forced the industry to change, not disappear, so it will be in this case.
But lets assume Murdoch is right. How can incumbent newspaper companies achieve anything on the new medium? His speech read like someone anxious to learn. I'll take him at his word.
Following are some ideas.
The best way to understand the future is to look into how chips are changing.
Two transitions are transforming Moore's Law. The original article, in 1964, described only the density of circuits on silicon substrate.
The rule implied that chips could get better-and-better, faster-and-faster. Doubling bigger numbers means bigger incremental changes in the same time. Over the years chemists and electrical engineers learned to apply this exponential improvement concept to fiber cables, to magnetic storage, to optical storage, even to radios, so that 802.11n radios will transmit data at over 100 Mbps -- twice what earlier 802.11g models could deliver, but still 50 Mbps more.
The transitions have to do with what we mean by better.
In The Lost Point, I wrote that Google risked being outmanuevered because it didn't pay proper attention to Blogger.
Today Duncan Riley of The Blog Herald goes further. He says the game is already over, that Microsoft won, that the field is consolidating into the three big portal players so Movable Type needs to sell out to Yahoo, quick.
Riley is right as far as he goes.
But if you click below, we'll go a bit further.
The point lost by my stupid mistake is that Google, despite its enormous short-term success, is showing cracks in the armor.
The success of Google has been based on the fact that technology drives its train. Technical success is the most-sought value.
This is becoming a problem.
In many of the new businesses Google has launched, technical values (while important) are not going to be the sole drivers of success. In blogging, in RSS, in Google News, in Google Desktop, in Google Local, and in other areas, other skills are required.
Business skills. Marketing schools. Journalism skills. Political skills. Artistic skills.
Leonardo DaVinci (celebrated above) could not get a job at Google today. In a well-rounded company, his genius would find a place.
The need for these various skills will only increase with time. Google must find a way to recruit these skills, and to reward these skills, without giving the people with these skills control of the company.
This will not be easy.
The following will seem to contradict the item below it.
The secret to success in every field is found in the skills of the journalist.
Whatever you wish to be -- a scientist, an artist, an entrepreneur, a preacher, an economist, a politician -- you will go further if you have a journalist's basic tool set.
Research thoroughly. Ask good questions. Listen carefully. Write clearly. Explain simply.
These are the skills of journalism. You can pick them up in a few college courses. Some are even taught in journalism schools. Most are learned in the School of Hard Knocks.
The rest of what passes for journalism education is bunk. So learn rhetoric, learn public speaking, learn writing, read as widely as you can. That's what newspapers and TV stations are looking for. They know they can teach the rest of the skill set on-the-fly. Most journalists never went to j-school.
How do I know this is true?
There was a gratifying reaction to my calling out Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg the other day.
But here's a question no one asks, and getting in tune with Seidenberg's arrogance actually keeps us from asking this.
What's he buying in MCI? For $6.7 billion it's not much.
Then again, maybe it's everything.
I'm not just talking about RSS items that are in fact links to ad pages, but RSS items that, while containing links to stories, have additional ads inserted into them.
Now there's another, far more dangerous abuse of the RSS system, phony links.
Phony Links are RSS items from registration-only sites. Most U.S. newspapers are now requiring registration. RSS feeds from these sites now go to sign-in pages, not to the stories themselves. In other words the link is a bait-and-switch. It doesn't go to content, but to a sales pitch.
The AP is abetting that requirement by demanding royalties for online content.
The hole is the whole U.S.
Intel plans on mass producing WiMax chips and going into rapid deployment, offering end-user speeds far in excess of what U.S. phone outfits provide with DSL.
The problem is that's the speed limit for most backhauls. Go to most WiFi hotspots, or most home networks, and DSL is the backhaul platform. We're talking 1.5 Mbps, max.
But is this just another Marty Rimm study?
Rimm, you may or may not remember, wrote a paper at Georgetown Law in 1995 claiming 85% of Web traffic was dirty pictures. This was later disproved, but the damage was done and Congress passed the ill-fated Communications Decency Act.
Mike Godwin, the former EFF counsel who fought the Rimm study and is now senior counsel at Public Knowledge, remains skeptical, noting that the Cachelogic study hasn't gone through peer review. He also notes that, since Cachelogic sells systems to control P2P traffic, it has a natural bias.
The Cachelogic claims may have logic behind them, however. Many ISPs do report that over half their traffic is on ports commonly used by P2P applications. Brett Glass of Lariat.Net, near the University of Wyoming, says the claim seems accurate, noting that unless ISPs cut-back capacity to those ports (a process called P2P Mitigation), the applications quickly discover the fat pipe and divert everyone's traffic to it, filling it at the cost of thousands per month.
And that is at the heart of the problem.
There are two types of chips key to the Always On world.
These are sensor chips and RFID chips.
Both contain tiny radios. The two can also be combined.
A sensor chip, as its name implies, tests specific conditions, and is reporting back with data on those conditions. A motion sensor is an example. A heart monitor is an example.
An RFID chip merely identifies the item its on. The chips that will go onto passports will be RFID chips, and RFID identification is at the heart of efforts by retailers by Wal-Mart, as well as service providers like Grantex.
Ive also written, recently, about applications that combine RFID and sensor ships. Bulldog Technologies is rolling out a line of these chips that not only identify containers in transit, but monitor their condition and shippers know the contents are safe.
Always On applications will use all these types of chips as clients on WiFi or cellular networks, with applications located on gateways that run at low power, with battery back-up, and have constant connections to the Internet.
Last month Intel's mobility chief Sean Maloney was in the hunt to head H-P, a job that eventually went to Mark Hurd of NCR. (Watch out. Dana is about to criticize a fellow Truly Handsome Man.)
But how well is Maloney doing his current job?
Intel's role in the development of Always On is crucial, and its strategy today seems muddled. It's not just its support for two different WiMax standards, and its delay in delivering fixed backhaul silicon while it prepares truly mobile solutions.
I'm more concerned with Maloney's failure to articulate a near-and-medium-term wireless platform story, one that tells vendors what they should sell today that will be useful tomorrow.
Intel seems more interested in desktops and today's applications than it is in the wireless networking platform and tomorrow's applications.
Incoming CEO Paul Otellini says Intel is going to sell a platforms story, not a pure technology story. Platforms are things you build on.
Sun's plan to release Solaris under its CDDL open source license got a boost yesterday with an endorsement by...The SCO Group? (This cute Linux penguin keychain from Promotion Potion doubles as a stress ball.)
"We have seen what Sun plans to do with OpenSolaris and we have no problem with it," is the way eWeek's Steven Vaughan-Nichols quoted SCO's Darl McBride in a conference call yesterday.
The question is, with friends like these, does Sun need enemies?
One problem journalists have with blogging is it does away with gatekeepers.
Printers are gatekeepers. They cost money and make you think before you publish.
Editors are gatekeepers. That's their job. They assign stories and edit them carefully so you don't mispel words.
Publishers are also gatekeepers. Traditionally their role has been to shield the poor, innocent journalist from the nasty world of business.
Mark Glaser of OJR examined this today without reaching any conclusions (as good journalists are taught to do). (The recent picture of Nick Denton is from the OJR story.)
Glaser interviewed three people whose blogging companies seem to be bringing in bucks -- Denton (of Gawker, Wonkette, etc.), Jason Calacanis (of Weblogsinc) , and Rafat Ali (of Paid Content) -- about how they pay people who work for them.
By the month, said Calacanis. By the story, said Ali. By the reader, said Denton.
Shock! Shock and dismay, responded the folks at Slate and Salon, representing the traditional industry.
To which I respond, huh?
In a nice commentary about how Wired is now Tired, David P. Reed (left) got me thinking about what today's key economic good might be.
The answer is attention. The world is entering an attention economy.
In many ways this is not news. What's news is how we're bifurcating our attention -- splitting it into parts -- and how media must now compete for slices of it. (Would this item get more hits if I called it The ADD Economy?)
It's a worldwide phenomenom because cellular or mobile service is worldwide. Mobile service competes well in the Attention Economy. Watch people chat on their phones while driving. (It's like elephants tap-dancing -- what's amazing is they do it.)
More after the break.
Like Kremlinologists of the past, people are now analyzing Google's every move the way they once followed Microsoft.
Exhibit A today is a piece from Jim Hedger on Google's latest patent application. But the same things can be found any day of the week. Just enter the word Google at Google News and here's what you'll come up with today:
And that's just on regular news sites. We're not yet talking about the blogosphere:
I've seen the TV ads and maybe you have, too. "Get a free ringtone. Simply text (whatever) and get (name of hit song) as a ringtone!"
Well, it's a scam. It's not free. In fact, writes Stephen Lawson for The Industry Standard, it's a lot more costly than a regular ringtone. This is because you get multiple texts in reply, with directions for the download, and these texts cost money -- $1.99 plus call charges each. It's an easy case to make, it's simple consumer fraud, it's aimed at teenagers. A state attorney general who wants to make a name for himself (or herself) can have a field day with this.
Want to know the best part?
Neither effort is serious, in terms of 2005 serious. Both are attempts to place markers on the future and gain agreements with the content industries they think will mark the future.
And this is just what's wrong with them.
You don't open up a new market by focusing on the seller side of the transaction.
You open up a new market by focusing on the buyer side.
An IEEE study shows the excesses of venture capital in the late 1990s actually stifled innovation.
The image, taken from the IEEE Spectrum story, shows what a venture capitalist should be doing, looking for ideas. In fact, as the study indicated, most 1990s' VCs replaced that light bulb with a dollar sign.
It's something I strongly suspected at the time. It's one reason I called my newsletter a-clue.com, because I saw so many Clueless people drawing such fat checks and directing such big funds toward the cliff.
But it is nice to get some confirmation.
In the study by Bart Stuck & Michael Weingarten, over 1300 public offerings over 10 years were analyzed, and scored 1-5 for innovation, with 1 being very innovative and 5 being me-too.
The study's conclusion is poignant. "Based on our experience, we believe that VCs really aren't the risk takers they're often made out to be."
Here's what I think really happened.
I have made few comments about the so-called conspiracy against the Apple iPhone.
The story was that Motorola was ready to release a cellular phone that was also an iPod device, but it couldn't find any carriers for it.
What's more interesting to me is the tug of war now taking place among entrepreneurs between these two technologies.
And, surprisingly, cellular is losing.
The reason has to do with business models and open standards. (Thus the picture above of standard pawns, available from the good people at Rolcogames.)
The real Hardball isn't the game show on MSNBC, where politicians lie and yap at one another.
It's something far more serious, played every day, by huge corporations that masquerade as guardians of the public interest, but are in fact as corrupt as the rest of us. (That's LA Times founder Harrison Gray Otis on the right. More about Harry Otis here, near the bottom of the page. I direct David Shaw's attention to the quote from Theodore Roosevelt.)
The prerogatives of these corporations and their hirelings, who call themselves journalists (then deny this status to you and me) is under threat on this medium as never before. They're scared, and they're playing Hardball.
Their right, earned by corporate might, to define what is and what isn't news, what is and what isn't fair comment, is under threat, right here, right now.
And they don't like it one bit.
The game is being played mainly on three search engines. On MSN note how these corporations are given, not dominance, but exclusivity. The same is true on Yahoo. Note the list of "resources" at the top-right of the Yahoo page. Note too the prominence given one outfit's stories, the newspaper co-op called AP.
In both cases what you see on your screen is the result of business negotiation. News value is determined by people, meeting in rooms, and (perhaps) money changes hands (we're not told).
Is this fair? It may well be. It's certainly business as usual. And -- here is the key point -- the process is completely opaque.
On the other hand, we have Google News. What you see here looks similar but it is, in fact, quite different. While the stories of the giants do get prominent play, so do other organizations, and other types of news coverage.
At 11:15 AM for instance I checked Google's "coverage" of Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan, sorted by relevance. Position four was held by a right-wing group, the Conservative Voice. Position seven was held by a left-wing site, Counter Currents, posting a blog item from Counterpunch.
The results on all stories change moment-to-moment, and only a small part of what we call the blogosphere is represented, but the fact is that Google News is offering a far wider set of sources than its rivals. These include "official" outlets like Voice of America and Pravda. They include newspaper sites requiring registration. They also include many sites from outside the U.S.
In some cases, they even include blogs. Yes, even this one.
But that's not the full extent of Google's challenge to the news industry.
It's one of the great laws of politics. As soon as people decide you have power, and you can be moved, everyone and his auntie is going to try and move you.
I hinted that something might be happening more than a month ago, but it was probably the controversy over Google News that tipped it over.
With Google News, from the very beginning, Google did something it claimed it wasnt doing. That is, it exercised editorial judgement. As SearchEngine Journal noted, While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human. And some immediately started writing programs to see what those humans might be doing.
But just as I was objecting, wanting to get in, others were objecting wanting to stay out. Agence France-Presse has won an agreement from Google that News wont even spider stories sent to its affiliates, while Jeff Jarvis is crowing that Google News no longer spiders hate sites.
And now the atmosphere of controversy has spilled into the main site. French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.
Of all the things that Gator (and its ilk) did, the worst may have been how they corrupted the file download process.
Click download and you get...who knows what?
Now Yahoo, desperate to catch up with Google, has corrupted the downloading of basic Web tools, by sticking its toolbar in with Macromedia Flash.
The attempts by Macromedia officials like John Dowdell (right) to explain this away speaks to a growing lack of ethics within the Internet business community.
This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.
Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.
Correct and double correct.
I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)
The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.
But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.
The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.
Companies large and small are hiring bloggers, full or part time, are launching their own staff-written blogs, or are seeking to have bloggers publish on company-owned sites.
The weapons they wield are money (I'm up for that), the machinery of publicity, and credibility.
Much of that credibility, however, is being defined by search engines, especially Google, which refuses to spider blog entries on equal terms with media-fed blogs.
If you want to find this entry, for instance, you must look in the main search engine. Specialized blog search engines get a fraction of a regular search engine's traffic, and are based on RSS, meaning they're self-organized rather than spidered.
The result is that the independent blogger today has the same problems finding an audience as an independent Web site would have had in, say, 1998.
The Gibson Safety Dance, named for sci-fi author William Gibson, involves companies changing their software simply to keep other programs from accessing it.
It's increasingly common. We've seen it in Instant Messaging, we saw it recently with Microsoft Office, and now we're seeing it with Apple's iTunes.
Jan Johansen, the Norwegian programmer who wrote DeCSS so he could play DVDs under Linux, has entered the fray with a program that breaks the iTunes DRM so Linux users can buy them from the Apple store. Apple's response has been to change the software and keep this from happening.
Technology moves in waves. What's passe in one place may be very cool in another. This is how you can cross the digital divide.
Here's an example. At the same time NTT DoCoMo is closing down its Personal Handyphone System, moving customers to more advanced forms of mobile telephony, it's growing like topsy in China, and Atheros is rolling out a new PHS chip.
How does this work?
Throughout the dot-boom Barry Diller stood aloof. He promised he would never overpay for "Internet real estate," that he would grow his business by finding bargains. (The picture is from this Wired article where he displays far more wisdom about Internet valuations than displayed today.)
For several years he stayed true to that. You can justify the prices paid for Home Shopping Network, Expedia.Com, Hotels.Com, and Ticketmaster based on revenues and earnings. They sold stuff -- toasters, travel packages, concert tickets -- and earned real money.
Sorry, Barry, you finally drank the Kool-Aid.
Whatever idiot at Agence France-Presse is pushing to keep its stories from being linked widely might want to do a re-think after reading this.
AOL is far more powerful than Agence France-Presse. At one time its walled garden was the most powerful force online. Its shareholders took 45% of Time Warner's equity in 2000, and while that's now worth a fraction of what it was (thanks to the fact they weren't really worth the price), it's still a lovely parting gift (and thanks for playing our game).
Well, after spending billions of dollars and five years fighting the inevitable, AOL has succumbed.
When a currency becomes overvalued it gets tossed like confetti. This is what happened in the late 1990s, and it's happening again. (The allusion, of course, is to the hit song 1999 by the man at left, known again by his given name, Prince Rogers Nelson.)
It doesn't matter whether acquisitions are made with cash or stock. Cash acquisitions, after all, can easily be handled by the company selling stock. Yahoo has been especially active in this area.
Companies of all sorts want this currency, and thus we have both Yahoo and Google on an acquisition binge.
Back in the 1990s (not that there's anything wrong with that) a lot of companies drew a lot of venture capital promising to target ads based on who you were rather than what you were looking at.
The ploy failed. It turned out the cost of targeting exceeded the premium advertisers could charge for the space.
On the other hand context-based ads, targetting based on the content of a page or a search, continued to draw premium prices. It still works.
So Microsoft actually took a step backward this week when it launched adCenter, which targets based on users' use of Microsoft resources, plus Experian credit scores.
They also, once again, didn't do a complete trademark search. Finding this particular example, which I don't believe has any affiliation with Microsoft, took me all of 10 seconds. (On Google.)
The New York Times quotes a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we the utter cluelessness of the industry.
Newspapers have always given away their content. Always. The money you pay for your daily paper goes only toward its distribution costs. The ink, the paper, the printing, and the entire editorial budget (which is just 8% of the total, although publishers act like it's the whole thing) -- that comes from advertising.
Where does the money come from? Many sources:
Of all the American entrepreneurs you read about a decade ago, which do you think is doing the best today?
Which one, do you think, is kicking back, living the life, doing what he wants, and bringing in tons of money on something that's relevant to 2005?
The answer: Thomas Dolby Robertson. He blinded them all with mobility.
As Thomas Dolby (his oeuvre is at ArtistDirect, along with this picture), Robertson had a brief vogue on the pop charts in the early 1980s. He even had a pop hit, She Blinded Me With Science.
Then, a decade ago, he morphed into an entrepreneur, doing stuff at the intersection of virtual reality and gaming. The media left him behind and left him alone. (I met him at a few trade shows during the dot-boom. He should have been a pathetic figure. He wasn't.)
It seems Robertson has a talent rare among entrepreneurs, the ability to make lemonade out of lemons. He explained what happened to the Onion AV Club. It was a piece of blinding entrepreneurial insight.
Cynthia Webb (left) is sporting a collection of recent U.S. media reports claiming a "renaissance" in America's consumer electronic market share.
There are more American labels around. Apple. Motorola. Microsoft. The U.S. companies are good at seeing the opportunity and writing software that works.
Our balance of payments is not helped by it.
As Cynthia notes (deep in the article), these boxes are being made in China. (Actually most of them are being made in Taiwan.) Some of the software conceptualizing is being done here, as is the marketing (although I suspect some of that software work was off-loaded to India).
Those failing, flailing Japanese outfits she mentions, meanwhile, are still doing everything in Japan. Or they're doing "too much" in Japan. Except for Sony and Nintendo Japanese companies were never good at anticipating demand. Mitsubishi, Canon, C. Itoh, Ricoh, et al -- they were manufacturing houses. They were China before China was cool.
But the Japanese are getting wise. American Howard Stringer is Sony's new CEO. He knows the game. Expect most Sony stuff soon to come with a "Made in China" label.
What's the real story?
The logjam over the next optical storage standard may be about to break, as Apple has joined the Blu-ray Group.
The announcement at Germany's CeBit today means that HD-DVD, the rival technology, has lost yet-more momentum. Dell and H-P are already on the Blu-ray side.
This news is bigger than it sounds. Read on.
Bill Gates has finally hired himself a new CTO.
Groove does collaboration tools, and Microsoft (an early investor) is interested in those things. But I don't think Gates signed off on this deal to get Groove's technology, otherwise he never would have un-retired Nathan Myhrvold's title. (Microsoft currently has three people with the CTO title, meaning no one really has the power.)
The bottom line is that Gates needs Ray Ozzie, and he needs him bad.
Microsoft puts more dollars into new technology development than just about anyone else in the world, but it gets less bang for its buck than any outfit since Xerox PARC. Microsoft Research has a ton of high bandwidth people, they're doing all sorts of high bandwidth things, but when was the last time Microsoft introduced anything of real importance?
That's what Ray will be tasked with sorting out.
Wind River is continuing its slow march toward the computing mainstream. (The illustration, from the Wind River site, shows the engagement model the company follows with its customers in producing products. It's careful and complicated.)
It's easy for someone to criticize Wind River's strategy as an attempt to maintain proprietary control in a world of open source, but the fact is there are opportunities here for the Always On world that need to be explained, and then seized.
Fact is Wind River's VxWorks is the leading RTOS out there. RTOS stands for Real Time Operating System, folks. An RTOS is used to make a device, not a system. You find RTOS's in things like your stereo, and your TV remote. What the device can do is strictly defined, and strictly limited. Your interaction with the device is also defined and limited.
An RTOS is not a robust, scalable, modular operating system like, say, Linux. And over the last few years, Wind River has been creeping into your world. VxWorks is used in most of your common WiFi gateways. This limits what they can do. They become "point" solutions. You can't run applications directly off a gateway, only off one of the PCs it's attached to.
Now, slowly, this is changing.
I don't always agree with Nicolas Negroponte (right), but he made a point in Korea recently that really makes sense.
This is true for hardware, for software, and for services. Future hardware designs must make it easy to connect, hands-free. Software must have intuitive user interfaces, as simple as speech. Services need to be spur-of-the-moment.
A lot of the mobile services I see today violate these principles big-time. They're based on Web interfaces, and thus have a limited time horizon. The key is to get inside the phone, so you're bought as soon as the customer thinks of buying.
Yahoo is what it has been since 1997, a portal. Google is a search service. Now, with the rise of the Mobile Internet (we're still at 1994 with this, in fact) Yahoo is gigging Google and calling it "limited."
This is not just rhetoric. Yahoo has long been a leader in mobile services. And it's extending that lead with a new games service.
But this does not mean, as Business Week writes, that Google is a "one-trick pony," that its offerings are "limited." This is pure spin from Yahoo's PR people.
Forrester (via the Pondering Primate) offers some better suggestions. Provide other ways in which people can use Google to search for things outside the Web.
Failure to define a single standard for Ultrawideband is killing the technology. So say the experts.
This could be the week that tells the tale on that, as the FCC weighs in.
First, Rupert Goodwins of ZDNet reports that one-half of the UWB conflict, the WiMedia Alliance and the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA), agreed to merge. An Intel executive, Stephen Wood, heads WiMedia.
Sounds cool, but there's still a rival out there, Direct Sequance-Ultrawideband, pushed by the UWB Forum. The latter group has demonstrated things like home networks, while the former has pushed a Firewire replacement over a distance of 2 meters. (The illustration to the left is from Intel.)
So this is more than just a technical argument. The WiMedia folks see the technology as a Bluetooth replacement. The UWB Forum is aiming at the heart of local networking.
But let's put it more simply
Taiwan has the greatest OEMs in the world. They can take your design and turn it around faster than anyone.
But Taiwan is not known for its equipment designs. Taiwan doesn't dominate the brand market.
That may be about to change with the Universal.
High Tech Computer of Taiwan has sold versions of it to most major European cellular outfits. The Windows Mobile device features a QWERTY keyboard which can fold into the device, making it a touchscreen PDA. It also has two cameras (one still, one video), Bluetooth and WiFi standard.
Sony released its Walkman phone yesterday.
It is what it is, a phone with a half-gigabyte of storage in it, enough room for about 500 songs.
Those songs are subject to Sony's DRM, just as iPod songs are subject to Apple's. Both now face the wrath of France because their DRM schemes are incompatible. Unfortunately for France, another unit of the government had previously ruled the link between its proprietary format and its iTunes store is OK so this is going nowhere.
And the Walkman phone is going nowhere in the market.
It's time for the IM wars to return.
The main feature of this market battle over the years hasn't been features, but alliances. As a result the world has divided into two warring camps, that of AOL and that of Microsoft.
Both are making moves again. This time they're going in two different directions. AOL is aiming at a bigger user base, Microsoft is aiming straight at the wallet.
Haptics recreates touch and texture artificially. If your kid has a "force-feedback" joystick on their computer game console, they're getting a taste of haptics. Northwestern, USC and MIT are among the universities doing research in the field. (The image is from USC.)
It's vital that something like haptics comes to mobiles because, in a hands-free environment, you can't depend on just sight and sound. Bringing other senses, like touch (or smell) into the mix allows for communication to happen invisibly.
It's also vital for haptics to come to mobiles because this is a huge (in terms of installed base) platform. If the coding and messaging can be delivered in this space, we're talking about billions of users. And we're talking about a universal language.
Rivals and investment bankers say it's stupid. BellSouth must either eat or be eaten, they claim, and once SBC has finished eating AT&T it wll chow down on BellSouth.
Maybe yes, maybe no. It must be admitted that rivals who've merged, and bankers who are selling deals, both have reasons to diss the company refusing to dance.
But there's another way for things to go. Because while there will soon be fewer players in the telecomm space, there will also be fewer real assets.
(By the way, that PHP pinup girl comes from a Lithuanian PHP tool maker.)
Then I took a look at the recent output of this blog. All recent stories here carry the .php extension. They're no longer HTML. The output is still readable by any browser as an HTML file, they're just not written with a pure HTML tool.
The real news, however, is much bigger.
We're seeing nothing less than a mainframe revolution.
As it prepares for its developer forum this week, Intel faces an audience of bankers who have not lost faith in it, but who don't understand what it means by "platform."
Credit Suisse First Boston, for instance, looks at the word "platform" and sees only desktop or server. It figures Intel is waiting for Microsoft's Longhorn to demand more processing power of computers and bail it out.
If that's the strategy Intel describes, then it is Clueless. But that's not the strategy Intel is pursuing under new CEO Paul Otellini (right).
Podcasting is the trend of 2005.
It's driven by simple facts.
The result is millions of units and millions of hours waiting to be used by someone.
What else is the result?
Former Corante blogger (and FOD) Steve Stroh has the goods this month on Aloha Networks, which is aiming to provide wireless broadband service in the 700 MHz spectrum area. (That's the high 50s on your UHF dial.)
Apparently, they've gotten FCC approval to test their services in Tucson. The real test is whether this lives-and-plays with existing users, and Tucson currently has TV at Channel 58.
What exactly does this mean? (FOD means Friend Of Dana, of course.)
Let Steve explain:
Since the collapse of Lernout & Hauspie, voice has been diminished as a computer interface.
But it makes sense. It's hands-free. It requires training, meaning it brings some security with it by default. I continue to believe in it.
So does IBM.
Igor Jablatov is the man behind IBM's voice strategy. He's based in Charlotte, and has a blog, which mainly prints and links to stories and news release relating to VoiceXML. (Jablatov now heads the VoiceXML Forum.)
The Voice Extensible Markup Language brings voice into the Web standards area, and it's important for that reason. But what's more important is the extension of voice into specific vertical markets. IBM has started with things like cars and consumer electronics, and next plans a move into CRM.
These aren't the markets I would have chosen, but for now voice needs to choose markets based on their money making potential, nothing else. And I trust that IBM has done that kind of analysis here.
Where do we go from here?
With Bluetooth viruses causing all kinds of havoc, and forcing millions to close the open ports on their phones, it seems strange to be writing about a "Bluetooth Network" connection.
But that's Wideray.
Here's the deal. Wideray customers put kiosks in the stores, and when someone comes over with a Bluetooth device they can feed whatever they want -- games, demos, product details. (It also works with Infrared or WiFi.)
I have used the system at trade shows, and its effectiveness is limited by the client device. If the device has limited power and storage, the effect of the download is minimal.
From Medgadget comes word that Always On was a theme of the Demo conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, last week, even if they didn't use the name.
It's all quite wonderful, but there is one big problem.
Lusora's medical gadget uses Zigbee, and its hub, on the surface, looks proprietary, even though it's based on industry standards like WiFi and TCP/IP.
I could be wrong. I hope so. I've contacted their PR folks to see if they can be helpful. And I'm certain they can be.
Forbes, for once, has a great idea today.
Draft Wayne Gretzky (right) as NHL Commissioner.
Incumbent Gary Bettman must be thrown over for losing the season, regardless of the merits. His replacement must be, as Michael Ozanian notes, someone of integrity, who loves hockey, and who can find some common cause with the players.
Gretzky works on all those counts. But there's more.
Perhaps the most vital asset to any technology company today is its reputation.
It's not money. It's not assets. It's certainly not patents.
It's what people think of you, your reputation.
Paul Robichaux recently wrote that he thinks Google is pulling a fast one, with a Toolbar feature called AutoLink that turns unlinked items on a page into linked ones, automatically.
When Microsoft tried extending its Smart Tags feature, which sounded awfully similar, into Internet Explorer, Robichaux wrote in Exchange Security, "the furor was incredible. Walt Mossberg, Dave Winer, Dan Gillmor, and a host of other influencers immediately started screaming that Microsoft was taking control over web content and generally acting like an 800-lb gorilla. The EFF even opined that the MS smart tag implementation might be illegal."
He's right. But does it matter?
Microsoft has used its power for a decade to extend its monopoly across desktop applications and into the Internet itself. As a result it has a very poor reputation.
Google, on the other hand, has offered optional services, in software, on top of its search service. It has a stellar reputation.
The 3GSM Conference in Cannes featured a lot of flash, a lot of optimism, even some good writing.
But Cannes is a place of fantasy, a willing suspension of disbelief. It even has Las Vegas beat in this regard. Hey, the French thought the Maginot Line would hold. Some of them no doubt think smoking is good for you. When a diet of red wine and goose fat leaves you without heart disease you'll believe anything.
What drives the optimism is what is happening in the developing world. Beyond the desktops of the Internet, mobile phones represent everything positive about the future. They're telephony and computing in one hand-held package. They have driven technological change in Africa as nothing before has, and they're just getting warmed up.
Still, if mobility wants to succeed in the developed world -- and the 3G explosion is all about Western markets -- it does have to compete. And most carriers are not yet willing to.
Obstinacy, over-expansion, and hubris killed the National Hockey League, killed it deader than Maurice Richard. They can kill 3G too.
A few years ago I speculated publicly about Sony buying Apple. (That's Sony chairman Nobuyuki Idei at right, from his biography on the Sony.Com site.)
It was a popular thought back then.
Sony blazed new trails among Japanese manufacturers, preferring proprietary control of its technologies, emphasizing design and its brand name, acquiring American firms and integrating them. In the 1990s, on the other hand, Apple was a troubled PC maker with a small market share.
This was before two things happened. Apple's genius returned to his throne, and Sony's faded from the scene.
Sony Founder Akio Morita, who passed away in 1999, was a legendary entrepreneur, a visionary, a genius. In Tokyo, Elvis has indeed left the building.
Still, in the first year after Morita's death, Sony could have done the deal easily. And the spirit of a man equal to Morita in vision, Steve Jobs, would be working for Japan Inc.
Microsoft may have as little as a year to take command of the mobile phone platform, or the opportunity will be lost. (Image from Petrified Truth.)
At the 3GSM conference in Cannes, France, they gave it their best shot.
The mobile broadband business is at what Gandalf called "the pause before the plunge." Enough equipment has been deployed so broadband can be advertised. The time has come to define the experience and see if any money can be made from it.
In a New Yorker profile of chef Mario Batali (left) there's a wonderful scene of Mario rooting around a waste pail, looking for what the author-turned-prep chef has tossed away.
Our job is to sell food for more than we paid for it, Mario lectures him. You're throwing money away.
Apple Computer is the greatest exponent today of what I call Batali's Clue. Your job, as the maker of products, is to get more for your creation than the cost of the electronic "food" that goes into it.
It's a vital Clue because components in the Moore's Law age spoil like dead fish on a wharf.
Here's an example plucked from today's headlines. (Well, the ad pages.)
What's the Clue from SBC's purchase of AT&T and Verizon's coming purchase of MCI? (That's a 1949 Southern Bell logo, from the Knox County, Tennessee historical collection. Beautiful, isn't it?)
The Bells know they are irrelevant to the future. They hope to become too big to fail.
Regulators in most of the world understand that phone monopolies need to be broken up, not just for the sake of competition but for the sake of technology. The EU is spurring the development of VOIP and regularly slapping the hands of "incumbent carriers." The developing world, meanwhile, is able to create multiple wireless competitors, by fiat, and watch competition drive innovation to a degree we can only dream of.
Why are the U.S. Bells the only phone companies in the world that could truly become "too big to fail?"
I'm fascinated with how Western technology filters into the developing world and changes lives.
For instance. Back in the mid-1990s we had the idea of the "Internet Cafe." It would be flash, it would have broadband, it would have great food. We were crazy.
In the developing world, however, the Internet Cafe idea lives on (and on and on and on). There, though, it's a little shop with some PCs and basic connectivity. It's a lifeline to families, to markets. After the tsunami one was set-up quickly in the disaster area. It was a lifesaver.
Now we have cellular, or mobile service. (Whichever you prefer.) In the West, it means everyone has a phone, and they're on it all the time. Young girls drive like little old ladies. Guys look crazy seemingly talking to themselves, but then you see the little bud in their ear -- oh.
Then it filters down. Read how it filters down in Cameroon, from the Cameroon Tribune in Yaounde. (Then get the scene at the top of this item as desktop wallpaper, free, from Dane Jacob Crawfurd.)
Mobile carriers are trying to make an impossible transition.
They want to move from a data world where every bit is precious, and where every file is controlled, into a broadband world where phones have PC functions. And they want to do it without changing their business models.
It can't happen. The industry's dirty little secret prevents it.
That secret is that most cellular minutes today are wasted. Perhaps as many as 80% of the minutes customers are allocated in their contracts each month aren't used. And this has been the source of immense profits. (The illustration, in time for Valentine's Day weekend, is a Korean product for women that also enables the creation of twin secrets.)
Modern cellular marketing is all built around contracts, with a fixed monthly charge for a fixed number of minutes over a fixed term. To get contracts incentives are offered, including free phones.
But look at what happens. Marketing convinces people to pay high prices for plans with high limits. Cingular's "rollover" plan costs a mininum of $40/month, which comes out to about $45 with taxes and other fees. Advertising convinces people they need high limits to deal with "ugly over-age charges." But it's difficult to measure your usage in the middle of the month, and the vast majority of customers don't come close to their limits.
When the contract term expires, usually in a year, customers can theoretically leave that carrier for another one, taking their phone number with them, and even get a new set of incentives, like a new, more advanced phone. But most are as ignorant of their contract expirations as they are of the status of their minute bucket. (Quick: what's your contract expiration date?)
Carrier profitability thus depends on ignorance, customers with old phones who don't take out new contracts and don't use their gear. And in that environment, who needs broadband? Where is the market for PC functionality?
Exactly. It doesn't exist.
Middleware was a very big buzzword a few years ago. (Image from the Southern Regional Development Center.)
By middleware, vendors meant software that let people below take advantage of resources above. Queries that delivered reports to managers on how stores were doing, or that placed real corporate data into neat little graphs.
But every organization of any size is based on human middleware. School principals are human middleware. Store managers are human middleware. Party committeemen are human middleware.
These people sit between the decision-makers at the top and those who carry out orders on the bottom. When we like them we call them "sir" or "ma'am." When we want to disparage them we call them bureaucrats.
America has the greatest bureaucracies in the world. We have done more for our human middleware than people in other societies. (Try getting your driver's license renewed in Mumbai if you don't believe me.)
But we can do much, much better.
Software can be part of that solution, but it's only a part.
I love the Brits. (But I love everyone.)
As executives, Brits have developed this wonderful, pugnacious, straight-talking chip-on-the-shoulder attitude in our time. It's a kind of "oh yeah, sez you" that owes more to soccer yobs than fox hunting.
And for a journalist it's great fun.
Everyone sees events through the prism of their own knowledge and expertise.
The H-P brand is about teamwork, Frankel writes, but Carly transformed it into executive fiat. The brand became Carly, not the team spirit that built the company.
For me this is the money quote:
Carly Fiorina's reign at Hewlett-Packard was defined by her acquisition of Compaq.
The merger didn't work.
She was fired today. The press release doesn't say "fired," of course. (It never does.) Various stories say the board "dismissed" her, that she "suddenly quit," that she's "stepping down, effective immediately."
She's out because her strategy was doomed from the start. She tried to treat computing as a traditional industry, where the pattern is that once growth slows to a modest level you get consolidation, companies merging together until just a few are left and profits are regular.
This doesn't work because Moore's Law prevents it. Moore's Law means the nature of systems are always changing. Companies rise because they know something about the market, and fall when they lose touch. No amount of consolidation can change that. The merger that created Unisys didn't save Univac and Burroughs, merger didn't save Digital Equipment and Compaq, and it didn't save Hewlett-Packard.
Fiorina's key ad campaign, "Invent," implying the company was going tback to its roots in the garage, turned out to be just that -- an ad campaign. What has H-P invented under Fiorina, except financial manipulation. Anything?
So she's out, for the same reason that, say, Tony Samuel (left) is no longer coach at New Mexico State. (Go Aggies.) His color had nothing to do with his firing, and her gender had nothing to do with hers.
Yesterday, I wrote about how the PDA was rapidly being transformed into the smart phone, so the rumors of the PDA's demise are somewhat exaggerated.
I actually wrote that while looking at a post from Palm Addict about a possible new Palm design. Sammy McLaughlin was virtually hanging about the Patent Office (he's in Manchester, England but the Internet lets you do that) and found an application , from PalmOne, for a device that looks like a "candy bar" phone but flips open to become a PDA.
There is more here than just a new design.
Some big news went unnoticed last week .
This is fascinating because Sprint, alone among U.S. telcos, has a unique business model, at least in cellular.
Lots of companies, from Virgin to Earthlink to Disney, have gotten into the cellular game by re-selling Sprint's capacity. They all have their reasons. They all have their own branding, their own marketing, and their own niches.
The point is Sprint is profiting from wholesaling capacity to these companies. Profiting big time.
Why hasn't this been pointed out?
The digirati are in a fury today over claims by an outfit called i-mature which claims to have solved the problem of age verification with a $25 device that checks a finger's bone density to determine just how old you are.
The image, by the way, is from Vanderbilt University, which has no affiliation with either Corante, i-Mature, or this blog. It describes x-rays of a finger taken at different power settings. Go Commodores.
RSA announced "a joint research collaboration" with the company. But there is skepticism over exactly how precisely a bone scan can measure age, and the more people investigate, the more questions they raise.
We have read for the last year about the death of the PDA, and it's true the stand-alone version (one without a phone) is fast disappearing.
As Tom's Hardware notes, PDA sales have fallen to a five-year low. I have one, but it was free.
As David Linsalata, the IDC analyst who delivered the report noted, ""Consumers don't see the need to invest $600 in a handheld device if a smart phone can do the same basic tasks."
But isn't this "death of the PDA" business simply a matter of semantics? Isn't this merely the creation of analysts who put technology in boxes, when everyone knows the first thing people do when they get technology is take it out of the box?
Maybe. Here's the headline on a recent story published in Ireland on the subject. "Smartphone and PDA sales go skyward."
Erin go wha?
Music companies are now pitching online music as a choice between "buy" and "rent."
That's one way of looking at it.
Here's another, a choice between lies and blackmail. (As with the vinyl album at right, built to fail over time if you played it repeatedly.)
Now that Star Trek is officially dead (no new shows or movies, even in production) the time has come for a new idea.
It's an anthology series, built around various scientific "principles" that define the Star Trek franchise.
Think of it as Science made into Drama.
Yes, it's an excuse to make science exciting. (Just think of the educational spin-offs we can produce!) And the production costs are low enough to put this on the SciFi channel (where Enterprise should have been all along). Or might I suggest a pitch to Discovery Networks, which has got proven talent in making science fun with shows like Mythbusters?
For host, might I recommend Stephen Hawking? Playing the role Alistair Cooke made famous, he opens each show by describing the science (and the Star Trek technology) on which the show will be based. (I might recommend getting several scientists for this role, perhaps one for each specialty. But Hawking is a name. He'll do great for starters.) Or, with confidence this show will last for decades, Lance Armstrong, who's already under contract to Discovery, who knows how to read a cue card, and who owes his life to science?
More after the break.
To all those wishing to bury Moore's Law. There are more tricks left in it than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
We all know about "dual-core" chips. Intel has switched development here, AMD has them in droves. They're basically multiple chips drawn on the same piece of silicon, taking advantage of parallel processing on-the-chip. Great stuff. Makes chips faster, makes processing faster, and keeps Moore's Law going.
Now IBM (with Sony) is rolling out what it calls Cell technology . This extends the dual core philosophy, a single chip that passes instructions to as many as eight processors at once. (Think of it as an editor chip in the "slot" of a computerized editing desk.) IBM says it can handle up to 10 instructions at one time.
All the speculation surrounding the Cell involves where it might go, and what it might do. (They're putting it first into Sony's Playstation 3, but it's listed as a PowerPC advance.)
But that's now what you should be thinking about.
I have written a bit on RSS here, often wrongly. (The illustration is from the blog of Andrew Grumet, who brings the complexity of video feeds to the process.)
I have bemoaned the delivery of ads via RSS, both as content and within feeds, as "RSS spam."
My complaints were misdirected, as I learned. The problem was not in the feeds, but in the reader. After I patiently explained my problem to my newsreader maker, I was told "we'll work on it."
And what is my problem?
My problem is I want all the real news and commentary on the field I cover, and that's all I want. You don't get that with a simple keyword field.
As always in technology, problems are usually opportunities turned on their head. New start-ups are emerging that hope to use RSS as a true intelligence gathering service, instead of as a garbage in-garbage out collector.
What they say is what I've said, that separating wheat from chaff is very difficult. They are going about that in different ways. Rojo is doing it privately, just letting a few people in, while Bloglines is doing is publicly, creating a versoin of Google's PageRank algorithm.
Corante is interested in this as well.
Many companies re-sell cellular capacity. It's a simple branding exercise.
Earthlink is the first to enter this business with a vision. The vision comes from founder Sky Dayton, who kept the chairman title for years after leaving for Boingo, but has now relinquished it to run this new joint venture, SK-Earthlink. (Glenn Fleishman interviewed Dayton and has a great story on him.)
Dayton's vision, since the beginning, has been based on the idea that spectrum is plentiful, that WiFi can be connected, and that a telecom firm doesn't consist of wires and switches but software and marketing.
Earthlink itself is based on the idea of re-sale. Its dial-up service rides on top of the existing phone network. Its DSL offerings are based on the same networks. It's not a stretch.
So, what's the vision? Jump over there with me and I'll tell you.
Version 1.0 of Microsoft's new MSN Search is up. No thumbs up, more like a hand palm down, waggling a bit. (This is the closest I could come to that, from Gerhard Schaber's thesis on computer hand gesture recognition.)
MSN Search is not bad, for a Google clone. That's cruel and wrong. It's not a clone, because there is just a ton of stuff missing. Newsgroups are missing, shopping is missing, a directory is missing (although Google itself now hides that behind a "more" button.) Yes, Yahoo is better.
What you get are Web, images, and news. The main news page (previously seen at their MSNBC site) only lists one story, then adds the word "similar" which leads to a limited search of official and licensed media. They're using Moreover to get behind some registration firewalls.
But let's talk about the search itself.
If the last several months proves anything, it is that there are many ways to grow in the cellular business. (Birthdaycraftsandsupplies.com offers a fine selection of Pinatas. Ask them to bring back the dollar sign one to the right. Don't you agree it looks cool?)
Assuming SBC does swallow AT&T (no doubt for less than BellSouth was offering earlier) would provide important lessons. (The image is from FreeBSD developer Greg Lehey, and was originally produced in 2002.)
First and foremost, it would be the murder of a great company by the government. It was government that broke up AT&T in the 1980s, and it was government that made AT&T non-competitive in our time.
Second, of course, it means that business tributes to the U.S. government are even more important than previously imagined. If the government can murder the nation's largest company (albeit over time and in chunks) it means no company is safe from a rapacious government, regardless of party. (Is is coincidence that AT&T was forced to divest during the Reagan Administration, and killed under Bush II? Check the campaign contribution files for the answer to that one.)
But wait, there are more lessons.
Word that mobile phone makers (and some networks) want to embed WiFi and VOIP into phones brings up a crucial point about the VOIP market, and about how technology works in general.
There are two major threads of VOIP software out there. Most, like Vonage, work along a standard. Then there's one who doesn't.
But that one is Skype.
Guess which of these two "standards" leads?
Skype. By a bunch. This puts another twist into the whole discussion of VOIP, and VOIP-cellular in general. Because there are multiple models to choose from:
Gary Wolf has a piece at Wired which had me shaking my head for some time.
Several folks have pointed me to it. It's an imagined memo, dated three years into the future, after Linus Torvalds has supposedly gone to work for Mr. Bill Gates.
The idea behind the imagined memo, something I've written about extensively recently over at ZDNet's Open Source, is based upon building a Linux desktop suite. Wolf's point, apparently, is that Microsoft moving to Windows isn't that far-fetched, that Steve Ballmer doesn't get it, and that Gates has the imagination to listen to the market rather than the yes-men in Redmond.
Well, yeah. But so what? Ain't gonna happen.
The significance of WiFi-cellular roaming doesn't lie in cutting voice costs. (The picture, by the way, comes from Novinky, a Czech online magazine, a story about DSL.)
The significance of WiFi-cellular roaming lies in Always On applications.
Think about it. Cellular channels are relatively low in bandwidth, WiFi channels are high in bandwidth.
Now, you're wearing an application, like a heart monitor. When you're at home, or in your office, this thing can be generating, and immediately disgorging, tons and tons of data, detailed stuff that may be fun for your doctor to analyze later.
I have talked about this before, but now everyone else is talking, too. So we will, again. (The picture, by the way, is of a single-chip radio from two years ago, a "mote" from Cal Berkeley. The link is very worthwhile.)
What does it mean for TI to make, and Nokia to sell, a complete cellular phone on a single chip? For one thing, it means phones can be one-chip cheap.
Right, cheap as chips.
A "blogger" named "Oscar" has dozens of blogs on Blogger, which seem to have no purpose other than to to churn out spam. (Like the image? It's from Rhetorica, which was talking at the time about comment spam.)
Blogger does have some fine features for the spammer. You can set it to e-mail everyone on a list whenever the blog is updated. So if you're a "master spammer" all the little spammers get the updated script simultaneously.
New entries also act as "RSS spam," as in this example, "Oscar's" cell phone "blog."
Google, which owns Blogger, is either blind or willfully complicit to what's going on here. (I'm guessing blind. It's a big virtual world out there, and Google does try to get things right.)
The more significant point is that what's going on is the systematic destruction of RSS as a medium for conveying thought. Already it's becoming impossible to maintain a "keyword" RSS feed. By that I mean that if I tell Newsgator, "send me everything on cellular," I'm going to get a lot of junk, not just from Oscar, but from direct sales sites, resume sites, and "wrap" sites, which place their ads around other sites' content and broadcast it via RSS. (What I need, Newsgator, is a way to create keyword-searches while at the same time blacklisting specific URLs -- then I wouldn't be able to write items like this one.)
But that is not all, oh no, that is not all. Because wherever crooks go unmolested, honest businesses are going to follow.
Last year, while working as an (eventually unpaid) analyst, I told some Intel executives they needed to embrace a "platform" strategy for their product.
My call was ignored. The junior executives I was writing for could afford to do that. I was just an analyst.
What does it mean?
I have been singing the good news about Moore's Law for many years now. It spurs productivity, it spreads knowledge, it increases the rate of change across the board, etc. etc.
But there is a dark side to all this that most who write on technology don't talk about. (The image is from Youngstown State University in Ohio.)
That's what I call Moore's Inverse Law of Labor.
Simply put, Moore's Law makes large productivity gains absolutely necessary. To compete in a Moore's Law world, you have to continually replace people with technology, and move folks' time into more productive tasks, or they fall behind.
This is true for individuals, for business, for government, for nations. It has very profound implications for all of us.
Let's think about some of them:
Does your cell phone help you pick up attractive women? (Or men?)
Well, it might if you subscribed to Dodgeball, a social service for mobiles whose founders, Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, talked to our own Russell Shaw (right) recently.
The idea is that you and your friends subscribe to Dodgeball, then text your location to one another at night, so you can get together. (And if they have friends with them, and those friends are attractive, voila!)
Absolut Vodka sponsored a "nightlife channel" on the service last year, like a traditional media buy, so Dodgeball members could associate the brand as a "friend." (Beats having an AA sponsor, I guess.) Now they're looking to make more money from things like Premium SMS and applications.
Verizon, the second-largest phone network in the U.S., and the second-largest wireless operator, has decided it will no longer offer Internet service.
The question is what the Internet and its users will do in response (if anything).
The company's decision was made public this week in the form of a unilateral halt to all deliveries of e-mail from Europe by default based on a claim this is an anti-spam measure.
The claim is laughable since far more spam traffic moves from the U.S. to Europe than the other way around, thanks to real European statutes requiring opt-in and the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act, which legalized many types of spam.
But there is a larger point.
An Internet Service Provider, by definition, provides service to the entire Internet. This is usually put in the fine print of Internet service contracts. Will Verizon now modify its contracts, or simply ignore them?
Take a picture of a painting and get an audio recording, through your phone, all about it. Take a picture of a restaurant and get a review.
I recently wrote in high praise of Motorola for the MS1000, calling them The Kings of Always On.
The following does not detract from that call. Motorola has come closer to building an Always On platform (as I envision one) than anyone else.
But there are still a few things they could easily add:
One of the dumbest things a company can do is pay big bucks for a domain name. (That's CSpan's flower, by the way.)
What does eBay mean? What does Amazon mean? For that matter, what does Google mean? They mean what they have become. There was no intrinsic value to the name when it was purchased.
So why should picturephone.com be worth $1 million? There's no good reason. The fact that the company which owned the name changed its name so as to sell-on the old name is proof of this.
Where's the best place to learn the art of network security?
My guess is it's an online gambling site.
Most such sites are based in either the UK, the Caribbean or Australia. Because of U.S. legal pressure they were already in the forefront of isolating traffic geographically, at the ISP level. Also because of U.S. pressure, they are frequently on their own when it comes to defending their business interests. (UK police, however, are apparently cooperative.)
All this means that, if you're into security, this is an opportunity.
This is Stratton Sclavos.
Sclavos has made a career of buying high and selling low. He bought Network Solutions at the peak of the bubble, and sold it for a fraction of its value. He personally tried to corrupt the DNS with his idiotic SiteFinder "service."
Why he is still occupying a seat of power instead of a cardboard box on the street is beyond me. On merit that's what he deserves. Few people have destroyed more equity in their careers, few have been poorer public stewards of resources. Yet there seems no movement in that direction.
Microsoft has finally stirred to life in the digital music arena.
Microsoft is usually a day late and a dollar short when it comes to innovation. But it brings so many OEMs and software developers to the party that it usually overwhelms its opponent. Microsoft was a half-decade or more behind Apple in GUI development during the 1980s, but today it has over 90% of the market, and Apple has about 3%.
We can argue the why of that later. Frankly, given the size of Microsoft Research I find it remarkable that the company finds itself in the same situation it did when Gates and Jobs (and I) were all so green together. The point is that Gates once again has Jobs in his sights, and the question is whether he will succeed in toppling the iPod.
The Six Apart-LiveJournal merger is not a roll-up.
Roll-ups happen when there is an established way to make money at something. No one has really found a way to make a reliable dollar from blogging.
Not that people aren't trying. There are tons of new blogging programs out there, tons of new file types to blog, tons of new blogs (of course) and tons of new paradigms.
It's an industry in the process of discovering itself.
Here's the short-form. Roll-ups are about money. Without money, mergers are about people.
From reading the statements of the principals, this merger is what I call a "team-building" exercise. The VCs behind Six Apart (the company that owns Movable Type) are trying to build a winning team. That's one of them over there to the left, Joi Ito.
Let me explain.
Motorola has launched a very Clued-in strategy to push Always-On applications.
The idea is that you sync the phone to your home using a verison of the old Palm cradle, then control home automation applications remotely using the phone.
This is clever in many different ways:
A few years ago Jackson, Mississippi was the center of the telecom universe.
That's because it was the home of Canadian-born Bernard Ebbers . He married a Mississippi girl, Linda Pigott. On such chances does history turn.
Ebbers launched a long distance outfit called LDDS in the early 1980s and turned it into a classic "roll-up," buying other companies (usually for stock) and managing to the numbers.
Eventually he named his monstrosity Worldcom.
The result was the MCI scandal.
Roll-ups usually end this way.
For the last year I've been harping here on the subject of Always On.
The idea is that you have a wireless network based on a scalable, robust operating system that can power real, extensible applications for home automation, security, medical monitoring, home inventory, and more.
As I wrote I often came back to Motorola and its CEO, Ed Zander. They would be the perfect outfit to do this, I wrote.
Little did I know (until now) but they did. A year ago.
It's called the MS1000.
The product was introduced at last year's CES, and re-introduced at various vertical market shows during the year. It's based on Linux, responds to OSGi standards, and creates an 802.11g network on which applications can then be built.
At this year's CES show, Motorola is pushing a home security solution based on the device, with 10 new peripherals like cameras and motion sensors that can be easily set-up with the network in place, along with a service offering called ShellGenie.
Previously the company bought Premise, which has been involved in IP-based home control since 1999, and pushed a version of the same thing called the Media Station for moving entertainment around the home.
What should Motorola do now? Well, the platform is pretty dependent on having a home PC. The MS1000 could use space for slots so needed programs could be added as program modules. They need to look at medical and home inventory markets, not just entertainment and security.
But they've made an excellent start. And from here on out everyone else is playing catch-up.
Oh, and one more thing...
The most dangerous word in telecommunications today is bundling. (This is the kind of bundling we're talking about by the way, the kind represented by this shrinkwrap machine, from the good people at Pierce Packaging Equipment.)
All the carriers are doing it, more and more. The cable company wants to bundle Internet service for you. The phone company wants to bundle mobile service, Internet, and maybe a dish (so you won't need the cable company).
The deals go by names like "triple play," and it's getting worse, as Time Warner aims to become a Sprint re-seller simply so it can offer a "quadruple play" of phone, Internet, cable and mobile. BellSouth already offers something like this, and SBC wants to add TiVo-like services to its bundle.
What can be wrong with this, especially when they're offering a bargain price on the bundle? (Some are, while others are just stressing the "convenience" of having one bill.)
At CES mobile phones (cellular to you and me) are no longer certain what they want to be.
Are they cameras? Are they PDAs? Are they going to be expandable? Will they be for games, for instant messaging, for fashion, what?
Normally, after a show like CES, the market would make those decisions. Some products would sell well, others would sell poorly, and next year we'd see copycats of the former, then scratch our heads trying to remember the latter.
Not in this case.
In a great little piece about Kodak's coming WiFi camera, the EasyShare One, Glenn Fleischman delivers a Clue about T-Mobile's coming strategy.
This reads like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it?
Blogging is instant publishing. Part of the idea is that you're getting a raw feed.
But in fact most blogs are edited. Because most blogs are produced with words.
You don't need Microsoft Word to edit a blog. I am editing this in the blogging window. But for most people, coherence requires a bit of editing. You need to step back, put things in a proper order for the reader, and link what you've gotten so it makes sense as a story told, rather than a story experienced.
You can see this clearly when you see the liveblog of an event. Last year's conventions are a bad example. Because the stage happenings were broadcast there was no need to type what was said and put it out. Bloggers reverted to their normal role there of looking for "inside" stories, and wound up as near-clones of their "big media" counterparts, only without as many sources. They edited on-the-fly to create coherence.
What does this say about other types of blogging, using bigger files like audio (audblogging), mobile phones (moblogging) or video (vidblogging).
A few months ago Forbes had a nice article on NTT DoCoMo's iMode service, and Kei-Ichi Enoki, the man behind it. (Forbes stories are all about heroic executives, since the rich strivers are the only people who matter to it.)
The point, for us, is the direction mobile data services may take after the obvious niches, like e-mail and games, have burned out.
Enoki's answer -- remote controls. Not in the sense of point it at your TV, but in the sense of remote control of life functions. Enoki is turning iModes into electronic wallets, personal shoppers, GameBoy and iPod replacement.
There's also an answer to the item that follow this (and was written a few minutes before):
The enormous popularity of the iPod, and its dominant share of the market (some say as high as 95%) has created a new family fun game for reporters this Winter, which I call "Get Steven."
The idea is to find someone, somewhere, who can threaten the iPod's market dominance, then spin a story around it.
Most reporters do the easy story, interviewing all known competitors and repeating their claims.
Others, like Hiawatha Bray (right, from Dan Bricklin), know what their editors really want -- a local guy who claims he can take down the giant.
And that's what Bray delivered, in today's Boston Globe. (This is why he gets a fat paycheck and I'm just a blogger.)
Bray found a little outfit in suburban Andover, Massachusetts called Chaoticom. Chaoticom is OEM'ing technology for putting music functionality into new mobile phones, the kind with hard drives in them.
Good story. And since in the Chaoticom universe the music delivery is under the control of the carrier, there's some momentum.
Here's why it won't work.
I'm dating myself here, but back in the 1970s, at Wiess College on the Rice campus, there was a four-square court. Four players, you bounce a dodge ball into one square or another, and the person who can't get it into another square on the bounce is replaced, with everyone rotating around.
Sometimes the ball would fly into the crowd of waiting players and passers-by. We'd shout "IBD," which stands for Innocent Bystander Drilled.
If the Sprint-Nextel deal goes down, Motorola is IBD. (You might want to get Motorola CEO Ed Zander one of these nifty t-shirts.)
I've been looking up-and-down this proposed $35 billion acquisition of Nextel by Sprint.
It's the worst deal I've seen since Time Warner bought AOL. And it's going to hurt the whole industry.
IBM's decision to sell its PC business to China's Lenovo for cash and stock is smart move.
It's a sign of the times that Chinese firms are now doing what Japanese and Koreans did 20 years ago, buying U.S. assets to get a foothold in the mainstream market. (The picture is copied from Xinhua's coverage of the IBM-Lenovo announcement in Beijing.)
For IBM this is like the Braves trading Kevin Millwood to Philly for a back-up catcher, a salary dump. Some 10,000 people whose severance might have caused trouble got blown out.
IBM will now concentrate on things that aren't commodities, like servers, services, big iron and Linux, areas where it can earn a high mark-up on its employees' time. The PCs that IBM sells its corporate clients will now have the best of both worlds, IBM quality control and management matched with the lowest possible cost. That's what its salesmen need to compete with Dell.
What's in this for Lenovo?
There are hazards to both the free and paid hotspot model.
There is a lot of wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth going on about ESPN entering the mobile phone business, through an agreement with Sprint.
It's not that big a deal. Sprint made these co-branding deals, called MVNO in the biz, a big part of its strategy. Virgin, Carphone Warehouse and 7-Eleven are signed-up, and Wal-Mart is reportedly taking a look.
What do you need to become a Big Time Mobile Phone Brand?
Back in the 1990s one of the bigger stories I covered concerned an outfit called TotalNews.
TotalNews tried to make a living for itself by putting its trade dress around others' news stories, even covering the original ads with its own. After a legal fight it backed off, but it did not disappear.
Fast-forward nearly a decade. Since getting access to an RSS feed I've seen a lot of links from something called BigNewsNetwork. Here's one. It looks like a story from Israel, a panel complaining about regulators.
Microsoft has launched an experiment in tightly-controlled liberty called MSN Spaces whose attitude is very oriental, nearly Chinese.
Spaces is a blogging tool (Microsoft loves to own the language, thus blogs become spaces as bookmarks became favorites) with a difference, namely central control and censorship.
However it's defended, and whatever it's called, control is the essence of the Microsoft experience. You will only use Microsoft tools, and Microsoft formats, under Microsoft rules, and write what Microsoft allows.
What could be more Chinese? (The link preceding is to the location of the art at the right.)
The two brief items below are examples of a new feature here at Corante, called Blink.
Blinks are quick hits, references to stories happening within our beats. Just a link, maybe a few words, based on something we found of interest but have yet to think about thoroughly.
I get no credit for any of this. Your encomiums should go to Hylton Jolliffe (right), our fearless leader, who has also been implementing other changes to make our blogs more "competitive" for reader interest (and advertiser dollars) as we go into 2005. It's true his forehead is too small and narrow for him to be a truly "handsome man" as I am, but we at Mooreslore are hopeful the course of time may change that.
I have been privileged to have written with Hylton for nearly two years now. He is honest, innovative, fair-minded, a good man in every way. I've chided him in the past that he should be rich as well.
Maybe (blink, blink) we can get to work on that now....
The bandwagon on behalf of "Mobile TV" is coming down your street, just in time for the holidays.
If you're a kid it's pretty exciting. But I've seen this parade before, many times. I can enjoy your pleasure, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to join "Santa" later at our favorite bar for a few pops and expect he'll make me pick up the tab.
The big truth is that it's now pretty trivial to put a TV tuner into a mobile phone. Yes, the days of Dick Tracy's wristwatch TV are really here. (Image from USA Today.)
Of course you remember what Tracy used the technology for? To see his boss while he was talking to him. I did the same thing at the 1964 World's Fair, where AT&T had a videophone demonstration. It was no big deal then, and it's no big deal now.
Entrepreneurs like Blake Krikorian of Sling Media, who is profiled in the Business Week story above, think you'll use the capability to watch their streams. Most people watch brief snippets of TV anyway, not whole shows, he says. No time. So offer them such streams for the moments where they're standing in line at the Airport, or waiting for a meeting to start, and they will pay through the nose for them.
Maybe. But maybe not.
One of my problems with most business journalism is we tend to write about companies the way we do sports teams, and it's not that simple.
But mid-way through John Markoff's latest torching of Intel I got a Clue that the company has finally figured things out and is going to turn around.
It was one word, from incoming CEO Paul Otellini.
Well it's my own fault, I figured. I'm looking for everything on a specific keyword, and if some store is keyed to that word I'm going to get their stuff. Yes, a good RSS editor should be able to filter-out that stuff, allowing me to unsubscribe to anything that I don't like, but still...
But now that trend has taken another step, so I feel compelled to come back to the subject of my humiliation.
If you don't want to hear about it, don't click below:
Stephen Wolfram is one of the most amazing people of our time.
He is known to the lay person, if at all, for a program called Mathematica, which has done as much for the acceleration of change as Moore's Law itself.
By boiling down what you can do with mathematics into a computer program, Mathematica freed science from waiting on mathematics to analyze data. The program helps you devise formulae that work, so the results you get are proven. When people would say "it's not rocket science" they were often referring to the combination of math and science required to launch a rocket. Now, thanks to Wolfram, even rocket science isn't rocket science anymore.
Not only that, but Mathematica made Wolfram's Wolfram Research a going concern, a real business. It freed him from the demands of academe. He truly became the elephant that could tap dance. (He's no Gates, but he's pretty good at it.)
Still, as they always say, what have you done for me lately?
Something quite amazing, actually.
For those not enjoying our online novel, The Chinese Century, here's a piece of non-fiction that may leave you even more upset. (That's a 1963 Time Magazine cover, by the way, of which prints are available for purchase.)
It's an interview with Ronald Chweng, chairman of Acer Technology Ventures. Acer is based in Taiwan which China calls a renegade province, and the U.S. once called the Republic of China. Chweng's charge is to find U.S. investments. He says there are plenty, but that the focus may be changing.
It may be moving East.
Has "the fat lady sung" for Opera, the Norwegian Web browser?
Opera's parent company reported a wide loss for its last quarter. Internet Explorer is losing share, but the share is being lost to Firefox, not Opera.
The question is no longer, do we need an alternative browser? The question is, do we need another browser company?
Warren Buffett (left, from Slate) was probably the first big-time executive to really "get" blogging. That's really what his annual letter to shareholders is Read them in turn, going backward in time, and see if I'm right. It's a pre-blog blog.
Jonathan Schwartz, COO of Sun, understands this. His blog entries are longer than most, often being fairly-detailed position statements on Sun's view of issues, but his is a true blog, which aims to participate in and prod ongoing discussion.
If you're to take Always-On applications into the world with you, they have to be fashionable. They have to look smart. It would be very nice if they were machine washable.
Now they are.
What would you use this stuff for?
A big highlight of the Accelerating Change conference at Stanford last weekend was a demonstration by Linden Labs of Second Life. (The image is from Second Life's Web site, meant to explain the game.) It is, as its home page notes, "a 3D digital world imagined, created and owned by its Residents."
Second Life lives in a server rack somewhere in San Francisco. Each server represents 16 acres of virtual space, where users' avatars can live, work and play. So far there are about 500, but 10 more are added each week. Think of it as Everquest without the plot.
In Second Life the users own what they create. It's a simple concept, but one that is extremely hard to implement. For instance, the demonstrator couldn't pass around any of the work done in Second Life because Second Life doesn't own it. Thus, he couldn't sign the conference's standard release form, which lets the organizers have rights to what's shown.
The folks over at BoingBoing remind me that, just as there are both top-down and bottom-up models of politics, there are top-down and bottom-up models of technology.
Apple represents a top-down model that masquerades as bottom-up. Its advertising has always been egalitarian, even liberal, but when push comes to shove it's the most controlling outfit out there. This is built into its DNA and corporate history. People forget that the years in which Apple allowed Macintosh clones were among its darkest.
So when Apple decides to, in Cory Doctorow's words, "remove features from your iPod and presenting it to you as an 'update'" I just nod my head and ask, "So what else is new?"
On the whole, the year's political advertising has been unusually permission-based.
If you're not interested in the race you can generally ignore it. Ads on general interest sites are generally discrete.
Spammers have used the candidates in phishing and malware plots, using polls or candidate's names. I've only gotten one political spam in the last few weeks that I can recall, and that from a group unaffiliated with either side but boosting GOP candidates (with false claims, I should add).
But does this go over the line? eWeek reports (through Political Wire) that a conservative lobbying group (and, eWeek notes but Taegan Goddard leaves out) the Democratic National Committee have both bought targeted streams on AOL's Instant Messenger, with ads playing inside the AIM windows of broadband users.
The question is, however, what have you been seeing?
Nokia's Preminet is a direct lift from Brew's business model. It solves a lot of problems, but leaves some intact.
The idea is to simplify how developers get their products certified, marketed, and paid for. All good. But there's one big problem that isn't addressed.
Here are some of the questions you might ask if you're a mobile phone user:
Intel is trying to buy a wireless Clue.
That's the story it's telling by investing in Craig McCaw's Clearwire.
The deal, announced at the CTIA's San Francisco conference, is that Clearwire will use Intel WiMax gear and, in exchange, Intel will invest in Clearwire. Essentially Clearwire gets the gear for stock.
Of course there's more to it than that.
Corante is taking it to the next level. We're going to be doing more marketing, we're going through a redesign, and we hope to bring in advertisers who will keep this candy store operating.
Turns out our timing is pretty good. Whats New Online says blog advertising is efficient, powerful, and good for you, too.
Who am I to argue? Following the fold is what we in the journalism business call the "nut graph:"
Russell Beattie (pictured) thinks he's figured out what mobility needs.
Syncing. That is, we need to be able to synchronize what's on our mobile devices with what's on our home PC, our PDA, and the network as a whole.
He calls this the "killer app" for mobility.
Russell's article is long and recommended, but let me tell you what I think.
Most major media companies today are trying to incorporate blogging into what they do.
They are finding it exceedingly difficult.
That's because good blogging comes from passion. It's spontaneous. The best media efforts I've seen so far have lived in one of three categories:
In a previous life I did some work for Intel's mobile and wireless folks. One thing I learned is they were inherited from Motorola and are based in Chandler, Arizona, rather than in San Jose.
They're pretty easy to scam.
Rather than insisting on the Intel way, which is to define a robust, modular scalable standard that can handle multiple generations of product, these guys follow their competitors' rules. They essentially beg manufacturers to take their products, then trumpet the announcement like it's a big deal when, in fact, it's not. Just beause the maker of a mobile product decides they'll try your stuff doesn't mean they're committing to it -- they commit to what sells.
What are the true facts?
Mike McCue of Tellme was treated like a loser in Ben Charmy's article about this, but what he said bears repeating: "The people building Net phones are tinkering as if they were old phone companies."
More precisely, I think, they're acting like cellular companies.
John Naisbitt and a herd of library assistants basically looked at news stories from all over the world in order to divine underlying trends -- they extrapolated the recent past to describe the future.
He made a bundle.
The title of the piece is "Google With Judgement," a title suggested by McLean. What he does is monitor 7,000 political sources (probably everything with an RSS feed) in an attempt to catch trends before they start.
McLean is cagey on his specific methodology. He's trying to sell the process for big bucks to corporations that need to know what the market's thinking quickly enough to act on it. But it sounds like he's databased a bunch of feeds and learned to distill their meaning pretty accurately.
Don't believe surveys. Any surveys.
I'm talking about more than the Presidential Polls. I'm talking about any survey, public or private, no matter the subject, that claims statistical validity based on calling people on the telephone.
The online photofinishing wars were supposed to be simple.
There would be Kodak (of course), their big photofinishing partners, and maybe some competitors.
That's not the way it worked out.
What we've got instead are a host of Web sites working to top one another in offering free tools. It's not a photo market, but an Internet market.
Computer Associates was a classic "roll-up." (Art from CNN.)
That is, it grew by acquisitions. It took second or third-place products in a wide variety of disciplines and cobbled them together into big "systems" it could bundle to big customers.
But MCI was also a "roll-up." So was Tyco. So, in some ways, was Enron.
See the pattern?
Well it goes beyond that. It now extends all the way to the courthouse, the criminal courthouse. Former CEO (and New York Islanders co-owner) Sanjay Kumar faces criminal charges, and the company faces an 18-month deadline to clean up its act or face more than the $225 million fine it's already agreed to.
Yet Banc of America Securities still rates the stock a "buy." Huh?
For those under, say, 50, Apple Corps was a name created by The Beatles in their latter days for various business ventures. (For those under 40, there once was a musical group called The Beatles. For those under 30, designer Stella McCartney's dad plays the guitar.)
Most didn't happen. Most that did happen went belly-up. But the company got the right to their name, what rights the group had to their songs, and other "intellectual property."
Now, for the third time, apparently, the surviving Beatles (McCartney and Starr) are about to cash in -- big time.
IBM has decided to make some of its key speech technology open source. (That's an old Kurzweil AI poster found at Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson company that could be important in what follows after the jump.)
This is great news, and they're doing it for all the right reasons. The following quote, from a New York Times story on the decision, could have been written by Linus Torvalds himself:
"We're trying to spur the industry around open standards to get more and more speech application development," said Steven A. Mills, the senior vice president in charge of I.B.M.'s software business. "Our code contribution is about getting that ecosystem going. If that happens, we think it will bring more business opportunities to I.B.M."
The 802.11 market is stalling.
I know because Broadcom has warned that its sales are flat.
Broadcom absolutely rocks in the Wi-Fi chip market. It is constantly ahead of the curve. It has great relationships with OEMs and product marketers. TI and Intel look good, but no one plays the inside game as well as Broadcom, trust me.
And if Broadcom is catching a cold, then everyone else has pneumonia.
Why is this?
History has already written that Bill Gates rules while Steve Jobs drools. (Image of Jobs from the BBC.)
Better amend that. Before they're done you might even reverse that.
Because while Microsoft has slowly been circling the drain, giving away its gains, fumbling around with Longhorn, and watching its lead over Linux shrink away, Apple has been on a roll with the iPod, iTunes and now its latest iMac, the G5.
I have written several times about how antiquated computing is in the area of health care.
Politicians are starting to take notice of the same thing. (Registration Required)
Fortunately this is a bipartisan recognition. The Post comment above is written by the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (right, from CNN), and a leader of the minority Democrats, Hillary Clinton.
But what are they really proposing?
These ladies aren't discussing the battle between Real Networks and Apple. But there's an important Clue to be derived here nonetheless.
The dispute between Real Networks and Apple Computer over getting Real songs onto the iPod is a business dispute, even a legal dispute. It's not supposed to be about politics or religion. (The illustration, from the Portland Tribune, is from a political rally.)
Customer loyalty, usually a wonderful thing, can be turned into passion that looks very political indeed. And when Real tried to make this political, through a petition, the backlash began.
The power of Windows lies in your ability to create and market profitable applications using it.
Yes, there's a limit. Once Microsoft decides it wants your market, your cost of defending the market will likely exceed any incremental sales from that effort.
But Linux lacks Windows' ability to make software profitable. And that is why Windows, not Linux, will lead the next evolution in cellular equipment.
The media, the digirati, even some government figures are laughing today at the East Buchanan Telephone Co-op of Winthrop, Iowa.
They laugh because the co-op has threatened to cut-off cellular calls from Qwest on Monday, claiming it's not being paid for their termination.
The town bought a device that can distinguish between cellular calls and landline calls coming in over Qwest's long distance service. Qwest has won an injunction halting the shut-off for two weeks.
Most reaction has been that the town is crazy, that it doesn't stand a chance.
But they don't know the rest of the story.
If H-P Chairman Carl Fiorina had to report a bad quarter, which he could blame on one group, and if he then sacked the heads of that group, we'd call Carl one tough hombre.
But the H-P Chair's name is Carly, not Carl. (Actually, it's Carleton.) So guess what you were thinking when you read the news? (Picture from PBS.)
Yes, indeed, sexism is alive and well, even after you break through the glass ceiling.
Microsoft's attempt to sell a "crippled" version of Windows XP in markets where Linux is a serious threat reminds me of a story. (The illustration is from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols's analysis in eWeek.)
My first Comdex, in 1983, featured many attempts to deal with what was then a big problem. Ashton-Tate dominated the market with its dBase II database, but dBase II was tough to use. It was powerful, but few used all its power.
So there were many attempts that year to create a simpler, easy to use, but less powerful alternative. One I remember most fondly was called Knoware.
Its slogan was: I'm Going Knoware Fast.
The New York Times has reviewed the new Danger cell phone, under the name of T-Mobile, the cellular operator that will offer it this fall. (The illustration comes from the Times' story.)
The new device carries the name Sidekick II, and the Times likes it.
I don't. Here's why.
Michael Eisner would you please go now?
Disney has announced it is entering the PC market. (The illustration is from the Times' story.)
There are so many things wrong with this, on so many levels. I hardly know where to begin.
What began as an attempt to de-fang the wolves of Wall Street has descended into a Silicon Valley farce.
The problem with Google's IPO delay does not lie in the technical glitches of the system. And it doesn't lie in the really silly price being quoted -- $110 per share.
It lies in the great scandal of the 1990s -- stock options.
You almost never hear from IBM anymore, except once a quarter when they announce record earnings.
It's time they got some proper respect. It's time they got their props. (Image from the BBC.)
This year IBM will bring in $4.66 in profit for each share of common stock, currently worth about $85. It has sales of almost $93 BILLION per year now, and brings $8 billion of that to the bottom line. (By contrast Microsoft, which claims it has run out of ideas, has one-third the sales, albeit nearly the same level of profit.)
Ah, yes, you say, but what has IBM done for me lately?
A very important political story snuck by us last week. I blame John Kerry for it.
The story is the new push by Intel for 802.16 WiMax spectrum.
While there are lots of high frequency bands in which WiMax could live, the inescapable fact is that the lower your frequency the farther your waves can travel. That's why AM stations can be heard across the country (when conditions are right) while FM stations have trouble being heard across town.
Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney (above, from the Intel site) is lobbying China, the UK and the U.S. to open up space in the 700 MHz band, frequencies UHF TV stations will be abandoning as they move to digital broadcasting, for unlicensed use as WiMax transmission bands.
It's a lack of entrepreneurs.
Microsoft hires smart people, who have good ideas. But Microsoft has just one entrepreneur. His name is Bill Gates. Everyone else is a manager.
This is why Microsoft is looking more and more like IBM. This is precisely what happened to IBM itself, as Tom Watson Jr. exhausted his Last Big Idea (the IBM 360), suffered some heart problems (he recovered), and left the company in 1971, aged 55.
IBM, in the 1970s, became bureaucratic, it became backward-looking, it devoted itself wholly to the interests of its big customers. It became vulnerable to the first kid to come along with a Clue.
How can Microsoft solve its mid-life crisis?
There are many bloggers, of many types.
Lately many "professionals," that is people with jobs, have started blogging. Like the estimable Jeff Cornwall, who holds the Jack Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship at Belmont College in Nashville.
Recently, Professor Cornwall did a piece advising entrepreneurs on what to do about all these terror alerts, which was sent to me by a reader.
His advice: panic.
Under Ed Zander Motorola has a new dance. It's aiming to be the Ginger Rogers of technology. (Send an e-card of this illustration thruogh FamousFoto.)
At the 1992 Democratic Convention former Texas governor Ann Richards explained it this way. "Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels."
Motorola is letting others dictate the dance, it's adapting its form to their needs, and it hopes to leave with the diamonds on its neck, arms and fingers.
Let me give you two examples.
You ever leave a pot of coffee on the counter too long? I have. After several days it starts tasting really funky, and these nasty white organisms start partying on the top of it. (BREW logo from Vayusphere.)
Well, that's what seems to be happening to Qualcomm's BREW development environment, in which Verizon is demanding all applications on its cellular network be written. There's no circulation in a proprietary environment . If the creator doesn't apply regular heat (and risk that nasty, metallic taste) things are going to get funky fast.
Remember those stories a week ago to the effect that there was a shortage of Google AdWords? (I don't think OneWebHosting will mind my linking to that illustration, especially when I link to their own ad as well.)
I noticed, on these pages and on my own newsletter's home page, that this is no longer the case. In fact, many technology terms are now going begging. I know this because Public Service Ads from Google have been appearing in both locations.
All of which gave me an idea for "gaming the system."
Microsoft spent the last year exploring lots of big business ideas. I even pitched Always-On to some Microsoft executives. In the end the company decided it had no worthwhile idea, so it's giving its profit back to shareholders.
Microsoft brings in $1 billion worth of free cash every month, and has set a $75 billion pay-out plan, including $30 billion in share buybacks. This is all in an effort to raise its stagnant stock price.
The result will be a higher price, but I guarantee you it will also mean a lower price-earnings ratio. Microsoft has decided to become a widows-and-orphans stock because it can't see any worthwhile way to invest its profits.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Because if Microsoft, with all the money in the world, can't thnk of anything better to do with its money than give it away, what does that say for the rest of us? What does it say for the technology business climate?
I'm not sure what to make of this, although what's left of computing's chattering classes are eating it up.
$435 million for an online ad placement agency. And what the chattering classes demand most is that it be "integrated," that is, folded totally inside AOL rather than allowed to run by itself.
But Internet activists fear both campaigns are just bringing up the drawbridges on resources.
First, the spam fight. (The image here is also the solution to your e-mail problems, Whitehat Interactive.)
Spam does not just hurt the spam-ee. It is also destroying the spammers, their customers, and the entire effort to turn e-mail marketing into a legitimate business.
The reason isn't in your cluttered inbox, but in a simple falsehood. The falsehood is that spam costs nothing. (The picture is of a good book on writing for direct marketing, which you may buy here.)
Everyone believes this lie. Spammers certainly believe it. Their customers believe it. So, too, do those brand names that run "e-mail marketing campaigns."
More important, so do very legitimate marketers engaged in very legitimate double opt-in e-mail marketing campaigns.
Even legendary marketers are failing to understand this Clue. Let me give you an example.
There has always been a great divide on the Internet between two types of marketing, permission marketing and interruption marketing. (The picture is an illustration of the latter, which you can learn all about here.)
Permission marketing holds that customers be treated with respect, that their attention be paid for, and that their value be based on their level of interest in a proposition.
Interruption marketing holds that customers be forced to see your ad, and that successful messages must push themselves into the consciousness to take effect.
On the Internet permission marketers use databases to build lists, and seek to target their messages to the best possible prospects. Interruption marketers think cost per thousand, and emphasize the content (both technical and creative) of the ads themselves.
The problem, in the end, is there's a contradiction between these two forms of advertising. One treats the client with respect, the other doesn't.
And the latter view continues to dominate.
There's this old legal maxim that when you don't have the facts argue the law, when you don't have the law argue the facts, and when you don't have either pound on the table.
Sun is pounding on the table. (Watch the picture above move here, at NASA's Visualization Studio.)
Sun has abandoned its hardware uniqueness and gotten in bed with computing's lovable loser, Fujitsu. (That's proof they don't have the facts.) They've also said "me, too" to Bill Gates' audacious prediction that, very soon, hardware will be free. (There is the proof they haven't got the law.)
What have they got? Click below to find out.
Last month, on this blog, I asked "Who Killed the PDA?"
I was hammered for it. But I wasn't wrong. (PDA image is from nec.com.tw)
Proof came today when Sony announced it was "suspending" production of its Palm-based PDA, the Clie.
The PDA is dead. So what comes next?
I took the kids to see Shrek 2 today.
Good movie. Thumbs up and all that. Fun for the whole family. (The image is from Cinepop in Brazil.)
The Dreamworks picture is breaking all sorts of box office records. And the use of technology is astounding. I actually recognized Jennifer Saunders (as the Fairy Godmother) before she spoke -- computer animation has gotten that good.
But the theater where we saw it was practically empty. Now, this was a matinee, and the movie was playing on six of the theater's 18 screens. But the place was empty.
This got my spidey-sense tingling. (Sorry, wrong movie.) Let's just say it made me think.
Buried deep in a story about Dell's printer strategy is a unique take that deserves applause.
I'll now hand it to The Register:
The 1700 toner cartridges are cheaper too, costing $89 for up to 6,000 pages apparently a 35% cost-per-page saving, if compared to other companies' cartridges.
The dirty secret of the printer business is it's a razor blade business. The dirty secret of Lexmark is its move to use copyright laws to prevent others from selling ink to its customers. Ink is practically free (when compared with the price of the cartridges they come in).
Dell is going to make a huge profit at those ink prices, absolutely massive. But if other companies (like Lexmark) decide to challenge it, this could be the start of a price war consumers will get real benefit from.
We all want to believe that at least some crooks are capable of rehabilitation.
But as I've said before here, that's not the way we think when the accused are corporations, or even corporate officers.
In those cases it seems to be rehabilation first, then punishment.
Last week I mentioned several examples -- MCI and Putnam, Citigroup and Janus. Pay the fine, go to bankruptcy, maybe you don't have to admit to anything at all.
Here's a more egregious example -- Richard Strong of Strong Capital.
The biggest mistake Microsoft has made over the last decade is to confuse media with computing. (The illustration, by the way, is part of a satire.)
It's an easy mistake to make. Computing is now central to the production and distribution of all media. This is a big source of end-user and corporate computing demand.
There was great rejoicing in Redmond last week, I'm certain, when Comcast announced it would use Microsoft's DVR software.
So what could be wrong? Plenty.
But in the end it will do them no good.
SBC is taking this strike to reduce its labor costs. It thinks that will save it.
But the problem at SBC isn't labor costs. It's that the value of its installed plant, its capital, is depreciating in line with Moore's Law, while much of it was bought on 30-year assumptions.
The impact of Moore's Law accelerates with time. It doesn't decelerate.
Labor costs can only decline arithmetically, in other words, while the impact of what's happening is growing geometrically -- downward.
The TV financial news today is filled with ads for outfits that, to my way of thinking, should not be sucking financial oxygen.
There's MCI and Putnam Investments. There are Citigroup and Janus Funds. Tyco is still around (it's making money I hear). Even Enron has yet to be totally liquidated.
What happens when you or I commit a crime is we are tried and convicted. This is very hard to do when the crime is done with a pen, behind the corporate shield. The states' batting average is low. What usually happens, instead, is that the company pays a fine -- sometimes a massive fine -- but usually without admitting wrongdoing. The cover-up, in other words, winds up being sanctioned by the court.
Add to that the complete failure of corporate governance in catching these crooks before the vaults are looted, and you have what I call Dracula Inc., corporate immortality, and immortal immorality. (Somehow, Bela Lugosi will always be Dracula to me, and obviously, to the folks at Shillpages too.)
I think it's time to stick a stake through some corporate hearts.
Way back in high school, nearly 35 years ago now, I lost my first newspaper job. (The illustration is from a Buddhist temple. Cute, huh? Keep reading for enlightenment.)
Well it wasn't a job, actually. I was canned from the school newspaper, along with the rest of the staff, after some editorials appeared against the Vietnam War.
Most of the "old" staff did what you expect. They went to their parents and got the money to distribute their own paper, one that was just as slick as the regular paper.
I took a different route. I went to the market. I sold ads. I kept my costs down and generally broke even. Kept it up for nearly three years.
The lesson stuck with me. Begging isn't a business model.
I associate this lesson with conservatism, but in our time it's often ignored. Young conservatives have an easy time getting money -- from parents, from foundations, and from publishers more interested in propaganda than truth.
Anyone else is left to beg.
Here's a note to the beggars. Get off your knees.
Intel's decision to turn away from straight-ahead development of its Pentium IV and Xeon lines, in favor of putting all its eggs in low-power chips, is a big, big deal.
For starters it's another illustration of Moore's Second Law, which holds that as chips get more complex they get more expensive to make. Even Intel can't do it all any more. (Buy the image as your wallpaper here.)
But the choice Intel has made has yet to be properly analyzed. When it is, the decision will be seen to be, In My Humble Opinion (IMHO), very, very wise.
Gateway was always a follower, not a leader. It followed Dell into custom manufacturing, but while Dell moved into computers-as-capital-goods (selling servers and business systems), Gateway followed home computing down the consumer electronics rathole. (The illustration is courtesy CertifiedInstructors, a training school.
Its differentiator became its stores, which morphed into consumer electronics palaces, but they lacked the buying power of Best Buy and the cost control of Wal-Mart -- they never had a chance.
The last time a big tech company went public without having to, its name was Microsoft.
The famous story from that IPO is of Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates, still young and tight with a buck, forced to fly first class to New York for the event, using the in-flight phone on board to rag their investment bankers about the money they were wasting.
But the Microsoft IPO didn't really challenge the way Wall Street worked. Gates' bark was worse than his bite.
But there's a problem with the attention. It lets those without big names get off scot-free.
Ed Zander, the new head of Motorola, is not a genius. But if your timing is right you don't have to be. (The picture is from Ed's alma mater. You will note, however, that he does have the hair line of genius.)
Zander joined Motorola just as the dollar was falling like a stone against the Euro. The result, in the intensely price-competitive world of mobile phones, was that his prices were falling (in real terms) while those of arch-rival Nokia were rising.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Image courtesy of Sony Pictures, which can afford the bandwidth.)
The latest option plan before shareholders dilutes the company's value by a nifty 12.7%. Forget 2000, zero zero party over out of time. Broadcom's gonna party like it's 1999. Don't like it? Don't have a cow, man. Stock options are one of my Top 101 Reasons why the 90s ruled. (My 16-year old daughter loves the show, Seinfeld is their Reason #1, and who am I to argue?)
Intel announced what many considered a "blow-out" quarter, with sales up 20% and net income nearly doubling.
Imagine what they could do without one hand tied behind their back. (The image is from a 1995 paper on Internet payment systems by Michael Pierce of Trinity College, in Ireland.)
In Intel's case, the hand behind its back is communications. Intel dominates basic computing, although its lead in servers is shaky enough that it needs promotions. But in the chips that run cell phones, or routers, or any device based on communications, Intel is an also-ran.
To me, this makes them a magazine hospice.
A hospice is where people go when they are terminally ill. A business hospice is where you dispose of your final, key assets before filing bankruptcy and leaving your creditors with nothing.
The only real asset a journalism enterprise has is its credibility, a trust between the editors and the readers. Break that, and you are truly bankrupt.
This is what "product placement" within editorial pages does, it kills credibility.
I'm not just saying this as a journalist. I'm speaking from personal experience.
What do these stories have in common:
This is, in many ways, a dangerous trend.
IBM has bought India's #3 outsourcer, Daksh. It will be renamed IBM Business Consulting.
Daksh has 13 clients, including Amazon.com, Forbes reports, and 6,000 employees. The company cost $150-200 million, and it had revenues of $60 million. Do the math on sales per employee -- it's fairly modest.
The deal gives IBM a total of 15,000 employees in India. It's expected to be part of a rush of such deals by U.S. firms. (The illustration, by the way, is from an IBM Web site, about a technology conference in India.)
CRN is reporting that Sun Microsystems has settled all its disputes with Microsoft and entered into a broad alliance. (Sunset courtesy of XLCus.Com.)
Something like this was bound to happen. Despite Scott McNealy's brave talk at CTIA last week, he was in fact like Lee after Richmond fell. The only question was whether Gen. McNealy would surrender the Army of Northern California (Sun) to IBM or Microsoft.
To my surprise, he surrendered it to Microsoft.
Under the terms of the Sun-Microsoft agreement, Microsoft pays $1.6 billion to settle all outstanding legal issues, vice president-software Jonathan Schwartz becomes Sun COO, and Sun lays off 3,500 people while acknowledging a quarterly loss of $750-810 million. (Any similarity between this and the agreement Grant signed with Lee at Appamattox (pictured) is purely coincidental.)
What does it mean?
The two-CD set following 9-11, called "America: A Tribute To Heroes," is fascinating in retrospect for how it made old songs moving with a new context.
The best-known of these was Bruce Springsteen's "My City of Ruin," which opened the show. Originally written about the failing economy of Asbury Park, NJ, the faded beach resort town where he began his career, its prayer to "Rise Up" gained new clarity in the wake of the tragedy, and brought the house down to its knees before they were barely in their seats.
Shortly afterward, Tom Petty came out and sang his "Won't Back Down," a 1980s song that, again, gained a new context. (The picture is from a Tom Petty ticket broker.)
In the wake of Microsoft's decision to fight the EU's sanctions in court, we have yet another context for Petty's lyric. "You can stand me up at the Gates of Hell but I won't back down..."
I saw Microsoft get triple-teamed today.
Yep, they got hit with defenders on three sides, three top guns all trying to stop Gates from scoring again on the court of financial success.
How much you want to bet that Bill Gates doesn't have a little Michael Jordan in him? That's one big advantage of being a geek over being a jock. When you get to be 49 (as Bill soon will be) you've still got your hops.
First, I see Scott McNealy over at CTIA, once again demonstrating his server-based Star Office. "No floppy, no fan, no Microsoft, no virus, no there there." The demo is impressive, as are numbers like "4 million Java developers," "50 million Java cards" for security, "1.5 billion Java-powered devices," and "46% of my employees don't have an assigned office." But the market doesn't see much in the way of profits there, either. (Drawing from Encrypta.)
I never thought I'd have to suggest this to Intel, even in jest.
But they need to Americanize. (The picture is a branded image from the Intel site.)
The thought comes to mind on word Intel is going to rename its future chips along the lines of Germany's BMW motor cars.
No offense to the Germans, but to me numbers just aren't sexy. Names are sexy.
BellSouth has hitched its future to the good old U.S. of A. (If you think that's a mistake put your money where your mouth is by buying the great Telefonica bike-racing jersey at left.)
The course was set firmly this weekend with the $5.85 billion sale of BellSouth's Latin American mobile assets to Spain's Telefonica.
The asset sale is necessary so it can pay its part of the bill for AT&T Wireless, which its Cingular joint-venture with SBC decided to pay $41 billion for last month.
Will it work?
You may notice a new name on our blogroll this morning. It's Rajesh Jain, a Mumbai (Bombay) entrepreneur, blogger, and sage. (The picture is from an April 2003 profile of Jain in an Indian publication.)
India is among the hottest topics in America at the moment. Everyone is afraid of losing their job to India. Indians are, in the American mind, brilliant, indefatigable, and will work for peanuts (or at least a nice satay sauce).
Well, many Indians are brilliant. Many do work hard. And, while the wages of, say, an Indian help desk worker look low by American standards, understand that it spends very well locally, and that college-educated Indians can care for large families, or live lavishly, on those salaries.
The great part of covering technology is that Cluelessness is dealt with ruthlessly.
The sad part of covering technology is that Cluelessness is dealt with ruthlessly, and I have to watch this rough justice in action. It's sad in any language. (The image is from Sun's Canadian site.)
What you did in business before doesn't count. The market's constant demand is not, what have you done for me lately, but what are you doing for me now, and what will you do for me tomorrow?
If the answer is, not enough, then the market's rough justice comes into play. In this case, it means that bonds in Sun Microsystems are now junk.
I have seen this trick before. (And you can get this picture as a spiral notebook here. It's item 135.)
The trick is known as a "roll-up" and it's presently being executed by Ask Jeeves. The idea is that you buy out a bunch of minor competitors and suddenly look like a major one.
It works about as often as Bullwinkle's tricks.
Some 43% of shares were voted against chairman Michael Eisner's re-election to his own board, and he was stripped of the title. But he remains CEO, and nominally his power is enhanced, since he's free of those stakeholders for another year.
But as a general rule shareholders are about as restive as delegates to a Stalinist party congress. I have some Disney shares in my IRA, and while I'm not happy with Eisner I never bothered to vote my proxy, meaning those votes were cast for Eisner. People need to take an affirmative action to vote no, and even highly-organized campaigns by big, savvy shareholders usually fail.
Speaking of health care, News.Com has a "special report" out on the problems of health care paperwork.
It may be the biggest health care scandal of all. (The picture, by the way, is from Stafford Medical, an outfit working toward solving this very problem.)
Every time I go to any doctor, I have to fill out a form. This despite the fact that everything one needs to know about me is in a computer somewhere, and the doctor gained all my "private" information on the phone before making the appointment.
Have you ever thought about how much money that wastes, and how easy it would be to end that waste?
While waiting for a family prescription to be processed I "Napstered" the cover of "The Wall Street Journal" (I looked at the stuff over-the-fold on the front page) and found much of it devoted to Microsoft vs. Consumer Electronics. (The drawing is by Matt Elder and you can find more here.)
Microsoft has drawn universal resistance from the consumer electronics industry toward licensing its Windows operating system, even the kernel. The article's thesis was that this has everything to do with Microsoft's "embrace and extend" policy, and fear that, if they let Microsoft serve them, pretty soon they will serve Microsoft.
I think it goes deeper.
Time sure flies when you're having fun.
Few can quibble with the job he's done. I certainly won't. He was a Stanford Professor before he began climbing the greasy pole at Intel, in 1974. Before joining the company he was also a Fulbright Fellow and the author of a materials science textbook.
I mention all this because it's time to consider who will follow him.
The market says Cingular overpaid in its acquisition of AT&T Wireless.
The proof lies in the tales told by the deal's advocates. It's about consolidation. The idea is that, with fewer players (and this deal eliminates two -- AT&T and NTT DoCoMo) the remaining players can enjoy something like monopoly profits, or at least oligopoly profits (which as Coke or Pepsi will tell you are tasty indeed).
But are the barriers to entry really that high?
Comcast's offer to buy Disney this morning is good news for Disney shareholders, but bad public policy. (In fairness, I should mention here that my IRA presently holds 200 shares of Disney, but I have never held Comcast stock. I do, however, use Comcast Cable, but only for TV. And the Comcast logo at right is from CNNfn.)
The proposal represents an attempt to marry two "Trusts," -- the cable trust and the media trust -- into one big thing.
Generally, I think folks should stick to their knitting. This becomes harder-and-harder the more you combine disparate businesses under one umbrella. People go from being entrepreneurial, and bottom-line oriented, to being bureaucrats, managing to the numbers rather than the customers. This is the kind of lunacy that caused Time-Warner to buy AOL.
It's Time-Warner, in fact, that Comcast's Brian Roberts is trying to emulate. But Time-Warner built its cable empire at the same time it was combining various media properties. At Time-Warner, the cable guys have always known they worked for the media company, not vice-versa.
The word Roberts will spin around this is "synergy." I don't believe in it, not between big companies. I do think a big company can buy a small company and, perhaps, exploit it in ways the small company never imagined. But big mergers almost never work, in the long run, not for the shareholders anyway.
Oh, and rather than illustrate this with the Disney logo, which everyone else will do, I decided on the picture above, the box for MouseHunt, the 1997 Dreamworks release starring Nathan Lane and Lee Evans. It's a role I suspect Roberts and his father will be reprising in the next several weeks.)
Parks Associates has a new research report out indicating (not to my surprise) that most consumers think consumer electronics when considering a Media Server. And most of those who think of a consumer electronics company think of Sony.
Consumer electronics are appealing because, despite all the ballyhoo about people who can't set the clock on the VCR, most of us can at least play a tape. When we think of entertainment we think of sitting in front of the TV, not fighting with a PC. (My kids are different in this -- their preference for PC and Internet technologies is increasing with age. My daughter turns 16 soon (thank you (I think)).)
There is a second, hidden message in this report, namely that a Sony buy-out of Apple does indeed make some sense. Apple has been better than anyone, even Microsoft, in marrying PC and CE technologies. Marrying them to Sony's content guarantees their future. Just give Jobs the autonomy (and fortune) he needs in the deal...I'm starting to have a yen for it.