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rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Silverlight to be announced for the iPhone soon?

Interesting announcement this morning from Apple: that non Apple dev tools can be used to create iOS apps:

In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.

Nothing in the release mentions the browser.  In fact the part that says “apps do not download any code” seems to imply not allowing RIA at all.  This part is a bigger pain point for users.

But if the Silverlight runtime (full .NET?) or Flash can be used to built full applications, that is pretty cool.

904 days ago I posted Counting the days till Silverlight announced for iPhone.  That sure was more than I expected, but how many more days now?

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Thoughts on Jailbreaking

I finally jailbroke my iPhone.

I was never particularly interested in doing it.  Even though I have been frustrated with the unnecessary limitations of the iPhone imposed by Apple/Jobs.  I know this surprises people who know me – they’ve told me so.  Why haven’t I?  Because over time I have transformed form a gadget-happy tinkerer to someone who just wants these tools to work.

This is in-part due to my experiences with a particular kind of tool: the smart phone.  On Windows Mobile and BB smart phones, I would try 3rd-party software and then quickly delete after crashes and negative battery performance.  I’ve had few similar experiences like that with the iPhone.  The 3rd-party tools add significant utility to the phone but generally don’t break it.  This change in my thinking isn’t just for phones:  I’m shipping back my PopBox today.  Lots of promise, but it just doesn’t work for me with my video formats, and my NAS. 

But I digress.

There are a few things that have bothered me about the iPhone.  None of these are hardware problems, just things I think it should be possible to do with a non-jailbroken phone:

  • I don’t want to unlock my phone to see if I have any email. 
  • I want notification profile support like on the Blackberry.  I loved the feature where you can put your phone into the silent profile and have exceptions.  Travelling and don’t want your phone to wake you up, but want to accept calls from your family in case of emergency?  No problem.
  • I don’t want to navigate around to change a simple setting (like turning off Bluetooth or WiFi).
  • I want to use a Google Voice native app.  The mobile Web app is quite good, but it takes too many steps to make a call – and too much time waiting for the page to load. 

Long story short, I now can do all of these things and I am much happier about my phone. 

The full story, though is that I jailbroke before a week of vacation during which I had no way of restoring my phone.  As a result, I kind of screwed it up and didn’t feel like risking uninstalling some apps without a failsafe.  I got home and fixed it (without the failsafe).  All good, but it does leave me feeling that jailbreaking really isn’t for everyone.  As easy as the jailbreakme.com site is, it certainly makes the phone more complex.  I’m OK with the increased complexity – I’m still a gadget-happy tinkerer deep down – but I couldn’t imagine a non-techie dealing with it.

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iPhone 4 antenna problem? Blame the users!

Plenty of people are guessing how tomorrow’s Apple iPhone 4 event will go.  I’m pretty cynical about what Apple thinks of us customers, so here are my 2 cents:

  1. The entire event we will be about how users are wrong – that is, there is no problem if you just hold the phone correctly.
  2. A dizzying array of evidence will be presented concluding that the iPhone 4 has the best antenna of anything ever.  And that users are wrong.
  3. There will be a direct attack on Consumer Reports for their apparent flip-flop and the validity of their tests will be questioned.  After all, the Consumer Reports testers are users and, well users are wrong.  
  4. Apple will provide a free bumper to those who request one, but it will be clear that only quitters and the non-worthy actually need one.
  5. No recall will be issued; however, a design change is certainly in the works and that won’t be mentioned at all.

I can sum this up as follows:

The Apple response will be that there is no actual problem aside from user error.  Or as I’ve said to a few people, the real problem is that some iPhone users have left hands and they insist on using them.

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Counting the days till Silverlight announced for iPhone

Now that we have the Adobe CEO saying, We’re bringing Flash to the iPhone.

How many more days until we hear Microsoft publicly commit to Silverlight on the iPhone?  I bet we hear it within two weeks.

Why do I care?  It validates some of my earlier arguments.  Here and here.

Scott Guthrie?  What do you say?

Update: Adobe clarifies CEO’s iPhone Flash comments.  Maybe Apple will fight to keep their platform closed after all.

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Schonfeld wrong on why Microsoft adopted Flash Lite

Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch reports that Microsoft Adopts Flash Lite For Windows Mobile As a Stopgap Measure.  For those not keeping track of this, Adobe stopped supporting flash on Windows Mobile some time back.  And now it looks like Microsoft has licensed the Flash Lite run time for Windows Mobile directly.

This is good news for Windows Mobile users, but Shonfeld is wrong about Microsoft’s reasons.  He says,

… for Microsoft, this is just a stopgap measure until it can gain more traction for Silverlight, its Flash-competitor. The mobile version of Sliverlight 2.0 does not ship until the second quarter. Making WinMo more capable won’t detract from Silverlight’s appeal. There is a desperate need to get a full Flash-like experience on a mobile device. Flash itself is supposedly too slow on mobile phones. That leaves an opening for Microsoft win over converts to Silverlight by bringing video, animation, and other rich-media experiences to mobile. Nokia is already on board.

Does he really think that Microsoft would get into bed with Adobe Flash just because the Silverlight runtime doesn’t ship for one more quarter?

No way.

Microsoft is licensing Flash because they realize that they are losing to the iPhone.  Simply put, Microsoft wants to make Windows Mobile better.  Only running Silverlight would be a limitation, not an advantage.  So they license Flash.  My guess is that they’ll have a pre-installed Java runtime too.

On a related note, licensing ActiveSync to Apple has been much debated.  Was is a good thing for Microsoft?  Yes, and it is consistent with Microsoft licensing Flash Lite.  Why?

  • I think Microsoft has made the decision that Windows Mobile has to compete on its own merits (and not because it is a part of a greater lock-in with Microsoft Office). 
  • Microsoft also wants to protect their back-office Exchange licensing; what better way to do that than to make it easier for mobile handsets to support Exchange?

Adopting Flash is a step in the right direction.  And licensing ActiveSync forces this point home.

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Why Apple Won’t Dominate Next Gen Computing

Alex Iskold of ReadWriteWeb tells us Why Apple Will Dominate Next Gen Computing.  He is wrong.

Apple’s success isn’t about the software

Alex Iskold’s premise is that Apple’s software platform is superior, therefore they will dominate.  He says . . .

Apple’s secret sauce has been its software.

First off, this is not Apple’s secret sauce.  Apple’s not-so-secret sauce is their ability to deliver highly-polished total product: hardware + software + services + image.

Controlling the hardware and software is a baseline requirement for a company to do this, but they go beyond that to build beautiful, desirable, and highly functional total products.  A good part of this is observable beauty and another part is pure marketing genius: the creation of desire and belief in the hipness of the product. 

Compare Apple’s total product approach with . . .

  • Microsoft licenses Windows Mobile for a variety of devices, not being a handset manufacture, it doesn’t control the total product.  For example, Samsung Blackjack.  Popular phone?  Yes.  Windows Mobile a flop?  No, but for user experience it compares very poorly against the iPhone.
  • Microsoft licenses Windows Vista to a wide range of OEMs.  Same story.  A little worse because when they did have influence over the total product, they botched it.  Example? The Vista Ready campaign and surrounding lawsuits.
  • Palm?  They had the slickest PDAs for quite some time.  They controlled the total product but forgot the services part so Blackberry beat them handily.  There death nell was selling of the software and licensing WM5.
  • The XBox 360.  Microsoft builds the hardware + software + service.  Runaway success.  Home run. 

My point? 

It isn’t the software, it isn’t the hardware, it is the total product. When a company controls the total product they can achieve Apple-level success.

Why Apple won’t dominate

To dominate, Apple has to penetrate into the greater computing space (and stop being a high-priced niche brand).  Either

  • their hardware becomes ubiquitous; or
  • they broadly license their platform to other hardware manufactures.

The first one is ludicrous:  user preferences are too varied for a single hardware vendor to be the one solution.  Apple has mostly done it with the iPod, but that is a piece of consumer electronics and pales in comparison to the complexity of computer systems in general.  If they believe this to be a good strategy, they would likely have to greatly broaden their product mix and lower their prices.

The second one, while certainly possible, would greatly complicate the Apple story, Apple software quality, messaging, etc.  And still, broadly licensing technology will not result in domination.

Only if Apple chooses one of these approaches can they possibly dominate next-generation computing.  And then they have to execute brilliantly.  And then several years have to pass for people to be in a position to replace hardware.  And then a huge migration has to occur.  And then, Cocoa what?

Anyone think this is Steve Jobs plan?  No way. 

And if it is?  Short Apple.  There is too much choice out there in terms of hardware, developer platforms, better licensing models, nascent cloud platforms, etc., for Apple to dominate.

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Ballmer @ MIX08

A little late, but here are my notes on the Steve Ballmer keynote at MIX08.

The Q & A format was certainly better than having Steve Ballmer just talk for an hour, though I got a little tired of Guy Kawasaki’s cracks at Ballmer — about his wealth and method of travel, how Microsoft “should have hired” him.  It got better when he stopped that.

I thought the best questions were from the Audience:

On .NET being baked into IE

Why isn’t IE built on .NET.

This has been a common theme, that is, the lack of .NET adoption for some major Microsoft products.  Part of that is dog-fooding, but a bigger part is that the developer stories for these products are harder for lack of deep .NET support.  For example, Office and IE are not based on .NET.  Connecting between their unmanaged, COM, BHO worlds and the managed .NET world is more than a little painful.

Anyway, his response was that .NET wasn’t expected to be as proven and as far along by the time Vista shipped.  Fair enough, but I would have been happier if the delays in Vista were related to a real WinFx in the OS than the reasons given.

The iPhone

What about Silverlight for the iPhone?

Steve Ballmer responded (paraphrased) . . .

Would love to get it on everything;

Can’t say we’ve been having talks about it; and

Licensing model not so good.

Right.  The licensing model is not so good.

Maybe Microsoft can pay Apple a bunch of money so Silverlight can run on the iPhone.  Then developers can build the apps for free?

Sounds good to me.

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When iPhone + Silverlight?

Onstage during his keynote at MIX08 yesterday, Scott Guthrie said they’ll be bringing Silverlight to “everything with an SDK”.  Yesterday, I suggested this was a dig at the iPhone with its lack of an SDK. 

Of course, that was yesterday and today we expected an announcement from Apple on the new SDK.  I also surmised that the SDK wouldn’t be deep enough for Silverlight, but reports are that I was wrong.

So, my guess is that Scott was hinting at Silverlight for the iPhone.

Cool.

So, Scott, when we’ll we see it?

And Ray Ozzie, please get the Office Team onto .NET, specifically the Office Mobile Team onto Silverlight.

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ScottGu @ MIX08

This is the third of three posts on the MIX08 keynotes.  This is like live blogging without the live, since I’m writing this in Oakland.  You can follow my comments at http://twitter.com/rwandering.

Scott Guthrie et al.image

Most of the discussion was on Silverlight 2.  This is the coolest thing Microsoft is doing in the Internet space and it is (happily) pervading a lot of their strategy. 

Media

  • Silverlight 2, adaptive streaming very cool.
  • Advertising templates for Visual Studio.  Struck me as odd, but it looks good, and advertising is the corner stone of free.  I won’t be running out to try this one.
  • Double-click and Silverlight.  To keep “gold standard of reporting”, they support Silverlight for instream ad delivery.  Makes sense.

Silverlight 2

  • Silverlight 2 supports many languages (including JavaScript).  This is such a benefit to the .NET strategy that blows the doors off of Air and Java. 
  • Silverlight 2 built-in controls will truly accelerate Silverlight adoption.  New controls open-source with unit tests.  Very cool.

The Silverlight demos did not disappoint

  • Hard Rock International demo was really cool.  They showed deep zooming to incredible detail and zooming way out to see the entire collection, tiled.  Lots of Beatles stuff in there too.  Yay.
  • Aston Martin site cool too.  The number of options that a user can select.
  • Cirque de Soleil Human Resources system.  Custom built HR system.  This kind of application shows how IT can’t ever really be dead.  That is, one-size-fits-all HR systems don’t work where a company sees competitive advantage or reduced costs in custom systems. 

WPF Enhancements

  • Performance.
  • Better controls.
  • Write custom effect that can be pushed down to the GPU.

Silverlight Mobile

Windows Mobile and Non-Windows Mobile, but what does that mean?  Nokia Symbian, of course, but what else?  Scott says more and more devices.  In fact, he said,

Everything with an SDK. 

Is that a dig at the iPhone?  I wonder if the iPhone SDK when released will be deep enough to allow Silverlight.  My guess is no.

Anyway, good job Scott.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  The Microsoft .NET strategy really rocks.

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The return of the Newton!

Image:Apple Newton MP100.jpgAppleInsider reports in Up next for Apple: the return of the Newton.

Finally, an upgrade path for my Apple Newton MessagePad 100.  I sure hope they don’t leave us early supporters out in the cold on this one — let’s all team together and demand a deep discount on an upgrade!

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