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Posts Tagged ‘microsoft’

HP Slate vs iPad

Perhaps a more apples to apples competition is HP/Microsoft vs. Apple for the yet to be valuable category of “tablets”.

The HP Slate and Apple iPad devices are remarkably similar.

Here’s the Slate:

Here’s the iPad:

That’s right… the same basic concept and function.

you know why Apple will sell more than HP?  Marketing.  Look at how Apple polishes everything up from the product design to the silly video.

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Straight Shot:  The Zune HD is a better gadget than the iPOD touch.

Still needs work:  The Zune HD has only a handful of games available and almost no apps.

Frustrating:  Despite a decent browser, most websites kick the Zune browser to their crappy mobile sites.

Long Wind:   I’ve been a avid user of the ipod touch since it’s launch.  I love mine.  However, it’s starting to annoy me.  The battery with wifi is weak on the touch.  The itunes store doesn’t save your password and prompts you incessantly.  I hate the way apps come up and shut down.  It’s heavy.  The headphone jack is on bottom… blargh (so is the zune’s… double blargh).

my biggest beef though is that the itunes experience is old and the track by track business model annoys me.  I much prefer the amazon mp3 approach for track buying (buy once and it’s yours) and the Zune pass for all-you-can-eat subscriptions.

The Zune HD is a great little device.  I mean it is little… very light and thin.  Touch screen is crisp and responsive.  The user interface is nice and seems fresh.  The HD radio is very nice.   Ok, i’ll admit it’s still a bit geeky looking compared to the sexy ipod/iphone curvey/shiny/flashy cases…. but geeky is the new sexy, right?

Mark My Words:  The Zune and the Microsoft entertainment ecosystem will continue to chip away at Apple’s dominance.  From gaming  to VOD to music players Microsoft has a better line up and that will win out over time.

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No. Not really.

This is the main reason most new search engines fail.  This is also why refreshes to existing search engines with radical features don’t work particularly well either.

It’s really a misconception that search engines could be made better.  Common discussion suggests one day the search engines will magically find what we need if only someone will write the perfect semantic algorithms or rank pages better.  Other common attempts to improve search include improving the search interface via cleaner design, more links, less links, categorization and so on.  It is all a big fat waste of time.

The web is messy.  It’s mostly unstructured.  Structure is buried in noise and the noise grows very fast. With this ever growing mess,  the search engines do exactly what we all want them to do.  They help users source possibilities.   They take this mass of web pages, databases and media and make it navigable.   The idea of one engine to rule them all is a bit unrealistic, and probably intractable.  Just do a little thought experiment – can you imagine data that is not effectively accessed and navigable via a little search box? I can – Maps.  So we have Google Earth, Maps and other ways of moving through that data.  Images.  Images are better navigated visually (for a variety of reasons, not least of which is characterizing an image in words…)  There are many other examples.

Another way to think of it… search is just a first layer of discovery.  Yes, of course, we can go deeper than a first effort in some search activities, but generally speaking it can only give you a rough cut.  Where is boundary on that?  No one knows and it changes all the time, but it generally is a thin layer compared to the depth one needs to go to really dig into a data set or subject matter.  This limit arises from the noise on the web, the loose structure of hyperlinks, folksomonies and presentation layers.  The limit is also a result of the difficulty in forming short statements that fit in a search box that properly characterize what one is looking for and filter what one doesn’t want to see.

Again, these are not problems.  Search is what it is and it works.  Just as tables of contents, indices, bibliographies, reference librarians, bookmarks, dog ears, post it notes all do what they should and do it well.  We’re never going to need or want fewer ways to navigate and take notes.  The variety is where efficiency lies.

So if you’re waiting around for a Google killer in web search.  Move on.  It ain’t going to happen.  There’s no big enough reason that it would.  What would that mean anyway? [many great search engines exist that are at least as capable as Google…]

Sure you might have someone that competes with Google for ad dollars, but no one is going to compete with in indexing the web and doing your first layer search. There is definitely roomo innovate  and compete with Google in delivering highly targeted, high performance advertising.  There is definitely a way to compete for audience as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and others demonstrate.

Finally, the cost of indexing and mining the web will never get cheaper.  Even though the hardware and bandwidth prices go down the algorithmic methods, spam fighting, and the raw “keeping up with the web” continue to grow.  Perhaps the most important point here is that advertising budgets have nothing to do with these costs.  That is, improvements in the technology, at this point, don’t necessarily equate to a growth in advertising revenue.  This is one reason why it’s probably not feasible to compete in web search and, my hypothesis is, that growing search ad revenue enough to keep up with the costs is going to be almost impossible.  Add to this the idea that there are no more users for search engines to entice into using them.  Everyone that uses search is using Google or the others.  The search companies have to go outside of web search to gain audience.   At some point the existing model for search and search advertising is going to flatten (it might already be doing that).  This further destroys any motivation to innovate in pure web search.

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Another battle of platforms is upon us!  Unfortunately this platform battle suffers from the ills of the past battles like the OS wars, Browser wars, Web video wars, HighDef format wars and the brewing Mobile OS wars.

Here are some of the keys to longevity in a platform battle.

  1. Developers/Content Creators are the engine that makes all this go.  If your platform doesn’t make it easy to create AND deploy, it’s not going to win.
    1. JavaFX doesn’t deploy to LINUX.  This is insane when you think about it.  Sun, an open source embracing company, plopped out a platform that won’t work for the platform a TON of java developers primarily use makes no sense.
    2. WPF is windows only whereas Silverlight mostly works everywhere, but the tools that make it easy to create apps are windows only and they are expensive.  Expression studio is great and it would be very competitive on Mac and Linux.  Probably more annoying than anything is that Silverlight still uses Windows Media for video, which really is only good on Windows and its not possible to create high quality WMV on anything other than windows.
    3. AIR can be built on any platform with FlexBuilder, which is based on eclipse.  The windows and mac versions of FlexBuilder are better, but the linux one does ok.  Flash technology is ubiquitous and in version 10, so it’s well tested on all platforms
  2. Successful platforms minimize user headaches in installing and/or using developed apps
    1. JavaFX uses web start and all the other painful applet like launching experiences.  i.e. it’s clunky.  There are so many prompts to users and potential non starters making it very difficult to get a consistent install experience.
    2. WPF is embedded in vista, not available elsewhere. Silverlight is one of the easiest Microsoft deployments.  No complaint there.  it actually works.
    3. AIR and Flash have some weirdness with upgrade prompts and security issues at times.  Generally it’s easy.
  3. Branding matters
    1. JavaFX?  We’ll see on this.  I personally think the Java  is something that people either love or hate.  Keeping Java in the name is going to hurt adoption because the haters aren’t going to go near it.   Also, names like “FX” are pretty lame and non descript.
    2. WPF is lame.  Luckily end users never interact with the name.  Silverlight  – it’s fine.  No one knows what it means, which is probably just as well so that people don’t hate it just because it’s .NET or Microsoft.
    3. AIR – Not bad.  Though, people still call anything flash related as “flash”.
  4. Oh, yeah, the technology is the most important thing!
    1. JavaFX.  Based on my early tinkering and viewing the demos, this has some real power under the hood.  It doesn’t hurt that Java has been around forever and there’s a big community and code base to repurpose.  It’s likely to have more power to do bigger things natively than the other platforms, which are mostly “interface” platforms.  More 3D opportunities available here.
    2. WPF/Silverlight.  There is some power behind silverlight and the .NET backbone.  Flex and Silverlight are very similar, so I’m not sure Silverlight has any technology that makes it standout against AIR.  If you use WPF on Windows you get the backend to do anything.
    3. AIR.  We know what we get with AIR.  It’s a good interface and small game making platform.  You’re not going to put tons of 3D into air without specialized libraries nor are you going to do a lot of data crunching.  One of the most impressive AIR apps out there is the DirecTV NFL Superpass.  It shows up some real cool technology and it doesn’t hose your system.  The Flash engine is ridiculously small for what it does.  The coming inclusion to embed C code may make this one killer engine.

This platform battle is somewhat odd in my opinion.

As a web developer (mostly), I’m unlikely to abandon the browser to produce a Rich Internet Application.  It’s too much work for most projects and I don’t get any of the benefits of having it run in a browser (don’t have to worry about the OS or installs, etc. etc).

For any desktop apps I have to build, I’d rather just use the target platforms native toolset.  The  write once, run everywhere approach just doesn’t work.  Not even with web server back ends.  I’ve tried it many times.  Unfortunately there’s always some gotcha.

I suppose the RIA concept could replace other ways of building interfaces for desktop applications.  Like most web tech things though, it appears the Ad Agencies use the RIA concept more than any serious development shop.

What are you using for your RIA development?  Are you doing RIA at all?

Lemmeknow.

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I’m now the owner of a fancy macbook.  Here are some notes on my apple buying and using experience.

Mac and Apple stores definitely have a distinct smell to them.  It’s been reported by many on the internet and as far as my last 5 or 6 apple products go, there’s something they do with the packaging and/or the hardware itself.  It’s vanilla smelling.

Apple stores using Windows Mobile to process credit cards.  yup, that’s what their hand helds run.  If that doesn’t underscore the real battle in tech companies, I don’t know what does.  Apple has all the media and fun things, Microsoft still owns transactions, even at the Apple store.  Another proof of this… iWork’s Numbers spreadsheet app doesn’t do pivot tables or conditional formating (staples in financial work) and Excel crushes at that. Yes, they like to market that in a tongue in cheek way but really that keeps people stuck to Windows more than anyone can imagine.  Pivot tables and credit cards – kinda important.

The MacBooks are cold to the touch which is very comforting considering the last 3 Sony/HP computers I have all run hot and make you very afraid of exploding hardware.  It’s a really off-putting user experience to have a hot computer.  Not sure why that’s not a bigger concern/been solved.

Shareware is better on a Mac.  The cult of mac seems to even force software hacks to take a little more care to polish their apps.  The software works better and always looks better.  Take the shareware IM clients.  The most popular ones on Windows are funky looking and tend to be very bulky in use.  The popular ones on mac are lightweight and generally try to integrate well with the Mac OS.

AppleCare is a rip off.  Except we all get it because Apple markets very well and the Mac products aren’t ones you “feel” you can just rip off the top and fix it up.  It’s very clever.

Making appointments to see a Mac genius to have them fix your stuff?  Yikes, another marketing effort.  You don’t need an appointment, by the way.  Just go to the counter and ask to fill out a fix request form.  Fill it out, leave your gear, and they will fix it up fast and CALL YOU when it’s done.  Now that’s service.  Why don’t they just market that INSTEAD of the best buy like experience where I wait for 30 minutes to talk to someone who fills out the form anyway?

Kids love Apple stores.  Kids do not like Best Buy.  Really.  Apple, yet again, got that right.  Make a place that kids ASK to go to AND behave when they are there… guess what? parents go.  Best Buy – get a babysitter or don’t go.

Java on Mac is great.  Man, had Java worked this well for me on Windows I might have become a java fanboy.  Really.  It’s weirdly smooth to update, use applets, build stuff and the IDEs work really well.  That’s not so much an Apple Experience thing, however, it stuck out for me.

Oh, now I’m also cooler.  I measured that.  Definitely cooler in an absolute kinda way too.  Like everyone notices.

Not.

Nonetheless, Apple is different, for sure.  Sometimes good, sometimes not.

~R

 

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Yeah, yeah, by now you have the news. Microsoft wants to spend $44bn to buy Yahoo!

Personally, I want this to happen.  Professionally, I think it will drive search, online media, and social networking to new vistas (hahahaha, good pun!).

I’m not going to talk about the business case for this.  Everyone and their mother will do that.

I owe any success I have to 4 things: Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, and Britney Spears. No really.

I have no Microsoft stock.  I have no Yahoo! stock.  I don’t work at Yahoo! nor Microsoft.  I have worked at Yahoo!, consulted for a division.  Most of the “investors” in companies I’ve been at made their fortunes at Yahoo! I’ve attempted to sell businesses to Microsoft.  I’ve partnered with Microsoft on media and advertising efforts.  Microsoft software powers most of my daily tasks and has consumed 75% or more of any IT budget I owned. (i know, I know… linux is cheaper….)

Sites’ SEO and usability I was responsible for accounts for well over 2% of the Google Index.  Most of the businesses in my experience make a substantial revenue line from Google ads and get most of their traffic from Google directly or indirectly.

In 5 companies I’ve worked at or consulted “Britney Spears” has been the largest source of traffic and best example of how to be “findable”.  Yes, inevitably all pop culture and music sites must devolve into “What is Britney Doing Now?” More advertising money is earned against Britney Spears than any other term on the internet, at these 5 companies and net wide.  (Britney’s handlers should trademark her name and likeness aggressively and attempt to collect royalties.  I mean, she really has made a lot of people very rich and most have no grasp of how much traffic and clicks she drives)

Putting all that together… literally 98% of my income and assets are tied to those 4 entities.  Microsoft and Yahoo! make up at least 60% of of that 98%.  This is the truth.

So yeah, I’d rather owe less people than more.  Combine Yahoo! and Microsoft and I only owe 3 entities.  Google should buy Britney Spears (they make enough money and get enough traffic from her in search, youtube and blogger!).  Man, that’d be great.  Just 2 entities.  that’s not so bad.  it’s kinda like parents.  I can handle that.

~R

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There’s just more and more analysis and speculation about how critical it is to be fast.

Slashdot linked to this fairly decent NYtimes article about Google and Microsoft.  One of the key points, which I actually agree with, is that GRID COMPUTING IS AT THE CENTER OF ALL FAST INNOVATION IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE.

I have tons more to talk about with grid computing and will save that for a later entry.

I wanted to also point out the recent Yahoo! announcement of their investment in the Apache Foundation and the hiring of a key person there.  They don’t hide from the fact that this will help them be FASTER due to the bigger, quicker open source community.  It’s clearly yet another move to compete with Google and Microsoft.  It’s particularly strategic considering Apache is a foundational component to so many web things and lucene and hadoop (more grid computing!) are directly competitive with Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

Recently Google announced they are working on these web things called “knols” which are basically wikipedia/about.com style landing pages to search results.  (Gee, all those landing pages on the web are worth something? go figure.)   This is a “get it faster” strategy too… as it get me more ad dollars faster than waiting for wikipedia and others to put google ads all over the place…

i could go on and on about moves big companies are making to simply KEEP UP.  it’s damn near impossible to keep up the pace at any company.  Why?

  1. The talent is fluid.  They can do themselves or they can go to the competition
  2. Big companies almost always get slow.  Start ups don’t have the cash flow to invest heavily in things like super computing, lots of bandwidth, etc. etc.  (one way or another something is subverting speed)
  3. The foundations of the technology are changing quicker than we can agree on standards.  (Over 10 wireless standards, no browsers work the same, .Net is on version 3.5, vista isn’t taking over, intel macs make them a force (but who knows how to code that), flex, silverlight, ruby on rails, python, ajax…).  Without standards it’s hard to educate buckets of programmers.  Without lots of programmers, hard to transfer knowledge quickly.
  4. If the programmers aren’t getting it fast enough, who in the organization is?
  5. Transparency to users – they get their say and they say it hard and fast.  course correct quickly or it’s over
  6. China
  7. India
  8. Tampa – cheaper US labor markets, accessible for high tech/remote projects
  9. and tons more reason

In fact, I have so much to say on SPEED, i’m going to launch into a series of posts on who is fast, what it takes to be fast, what undercuts speed, how you can’t fail fast enough………

fast to bed now.

~Russ

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