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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Google I/O Day 1

Quick notes from Google I/O today. 

Best things I saw were (in order):

  1. Android.  Very disruptive.  It will force the iPhone to be more open.  It will further commoditize the hardware (driving down prices).  It places Symbian, RIM, and WM into filling niche roles.  Of course the other mobile OSes aren’t sitting still, but they are already playing catch up.  This will put them further behind.
  2. GWT.  JavaScript apps written in Java with familiar tools.  Cool.  Interesting how Microsoft and Adobe are solving the JavaScript-dev-maint problem with rich containers (Silverlight and Air / Flash) while Google is solving it with a Java to JavaScript compiler.  The former are working outside
  3. OpenSocial.  The fundamentals of this API and Friend Connect are to allow social applications to interact across silos.  To me this means user control.  This will ultimately force silos (like Facebook) to open up.  I like it.

Participated in the ongoing argument between Robert Scoble and Steve Gillmor regarding FriendFeed.

Met a man dressed in a pirate costume.  Or Ben Franklin costume.  Pano Kroko.  Fascinating guy.  Checkout

Ran into an old friend, Julian Wixson.  Hadn’t seen him for at least ten years.

Went on a trek with Robert, Steve, Pano, Julian, Vincent Nguyen of Slashgear, Mark Lucovsky  and a student to see Gary Vaynerchuk talk about his new book.  I learned two things:

  1. It is about a 15 minute walk from Moscone West to Union Square. 
  2. Don’t drink the same varietal twice.

Got back to the Google party just in time to see Flight of the Conchords.  Those guys are very funny.

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Yahoo not in Microsoft

I had to drop off the emergency Gillmor Gang last night before I had a chance to give my thoughts on the Microsoft / Yahoo deal.  Not only did Steve call an emergency Gang, but it looks like the blogosphere did as well.  Anyway, here is what I think:

All bad for Yahoo

  1. Yahoo fought the deal, lost a bunch of key employees, increased “golden parachutes” for employees, etc.  While Yahoo didn’t ask for a takeover bid, it was pretty clear Ballmer was going to go after Yahoo again.  Jerry Yang should have been ready, but wasn’t.  His response was to take measures which make it harder for the company to do business as an independent.
  2. Yahoo’s stock price is about to plummet.  My guess is well below its price before this all started.
  3. And, investor lawsuits. 

Mixed for Microsoft

  1. Ballmer spent a lot of time and money on this and came up short.  Unless he had the secondary goal of sabotaging Yahoo this was just a waste of time and money.  Clearly he thought he could get it done, but he didn’t, and he failed there.
  2. Merging the companies together would have been very difficult culturally — and I think a long hard slog for everybody involved.  Good thing this is avoided.
  3. Microsoft still needs to jumpstart their advertising revenues.  It really isn’t clear how they do this.  Live Mesh is a longer term play for building a stick and highly compelling services platform.  This will convert to ad revenue, but not very quickly.

The real issue for Microsoft is how to convert the (still strong) Office / Windows revenues into a sustainable and growing advertising platform.

What I think Microsoft needs to do now:

  1. Robert Scoble says that Live is a damaged brand.  Building cool services won’t fix this on its own.  Microsoft needs to fix this by defining Live in a way that is clear.  Live can’t be all things to all people!  Define it.
  2. Windows Vista is a damaged brand.  While this is slightly off the topic of a services platform, it is dead center on the Microsoft definition of S+S.  They need to fix this.  The whole “Vista Ready” fiasco really informs what Microsoft did wrong here.  Number one priority for Microsoft on Vista should be to make it as performant and stable as XP. 
  3. Wait.  Keep building out their very cool services and dev platform.  Get a Silverlight Office out.  Keep an eye on Yahoo.  Maybe after Yahoo gets hammered, the economics will make sense.

Microsoft clearly has had a two-pronged strategy here: build and buy.  Buy is out for now — as it isn’t clear what other acquisitions get Microsoft what they need — but build is going like crazy.  The problem with build alone is that it only works accompanied with brand.  So I think the real question is:

How will Microsoft fix their brand woes?

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Google Reader Misappropriated Our Shared Items

image_thumb[1]Earlier in the week I stopped using Google Reader for a few days.  Every time I started it, I would be reminded of their new sharing features (see the dialog on the left).  Then I would close the browser tab. Why?

Google changed the Reader user-contract with no notice.  This rankles me.  I’ve lost control of my shared items.  This is a dramatic change with only the weakest of opt-outs.  What’s more, any opt-out is too late.  My items have already been shared.  What kind of opt-out is that?

Oh, but there are more options.  They give us the ability to manage who gets to see our shared items.  But only after others have a chance to read them.  For example, I can hide my items from my “friends” who are on Google Reader.  Other “friends” that start using Google Reader will get to read my shared items immediately.  The onus is on me to make sure I actively manage the list. 

And the icing on the cake?  “Friends” wasn’t a word in use by Google Reader before.  Now it has been defined to mean my Google Talk contacts.  No fair.  This is not analogous to Facebook “friends”.  In Facebook, I accepted people as “friends” based on the Facebook definition.  Now my Google Talk contacts are my “friends” based on Google’s new definition.  This is clearly backwards. 

Is Google breaking their terms of service?  Almost definitely not, but they are changing a basic part of the user-contract: that user data won’t become more public without user consent. This is a perfect example of the “User-Beware contract“, summed up as: “we’ll change the user contract whenever we feel like it.”

What’s next? 

Your email contacts have been shared with your friends

Your emails have been shared with our advertisers

You calendar entries have been shared with your . . .

You get the idea.  This may seem like a joke, but frankly I don’t know what is in store for the user contract.

Steve Gillmor suggests this is arrogance on Google’s part, and he’s probably right.  Yet mostly people are ignoring this or don’t get it (e.g., Scoble doesn’t seem to get why anyone would care). 

Why is the blogosphere giving Google a free pass on this one? 

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A Microsoft pawn? Me?

John has an excellent post wrapping up his trip to SC ‘07 — the bashers’ ball. He is tired of all the Microsoft bashing:

It is amazing to me the level of religious fervor that Microsoft still inspires. The bashers out there can be perfectly calm and reasonable about a wide range of topics – but say the word “Microsoft,” and they turn bright red and irrational. I have watched this phenomenon for years, and still find it inexplicable. Microsoft is a company. That company makes software. Some of their software is very, very good. Some of it is remarkably bad. I don’t understand why some people find it so hard to remain objective (or even civil) when discussing their products and market presence.

Statement of fact.  Nothing new exactly, but then he goes on how this relates to our company (emphasis mine) . . .

Many Microsoft bashers think that all of us at Digipede are mouthpieces for the Evil Empire, and that we are just pawns of the Microsoft machine. On the other hand, while we have plenty of fans within Microsoft, there are also some Microsoft employees who think we are difficult annoying troublemakers . . .

Pawns of Microsoft? Please. But maybe we are misunderstood. The other day I found myself convincing Steve Gillmor that I’m not a Microsoft fanboy (I don’t think I succeeded). But John says it well,

In fact, none of us at Digipede love or hate Microsoft – we work with Microsoft. We do so for real-world business reasons that help us change the world for the better while building a great company. We work with other companies too, but Microsoft occupies a special place in the technology landscape, and we work very, very hard to understand how to work with them to our mutual benefit. There are some great people there doing great things, and the bashers only hurt themselves by blinding themselves to these very real contributions.

Yeah, I don’t love or hate Microsoft; however, I do really like Microsoft .NET.  Does that make me a pawn of Microsoft?  .NET isn’t my religion.  I’m not a zealot about it.  It doesn’t mean that I think everyone should be using .NET / Windows nor does it require that I go around bashing Apple / Sun / IBM / Google / Linux / Java / PHP / Rails / whatever. 

I don’t think Microsoft bashing is a requirement for entry to the HPC and Apple fan clubs either, is it?

As long as I can remember, I have detested the religion of the OS (or programming language, or platform, etc.). Passion for technology is great — it’s a requirement for success in this field.  But I’m tired of people using their passion to bash, bash, bash. 

Maybe I just don’t get it, but if you’re a basher, please just move along.  And if you still think I’m a Microsoft pawn, well, I’m not going to convince you, now am I?

Note to Robert Scoble: you had the temerity to criticize Apple and the zealots came out in force — even called you a Microsoft shill. Welcome back to our club, Robert — though I’m not sure you ever really left.

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Microsoft postpones PDC and more

Robert Scoble had a great post on the PDC and what is going on at Microsoft.   I liked it so much I included most of it here with my comments.

The PDC stands for “Professional Developer’s Conference.” It happens only when Microsoft knows it’ll have a major new platform to announce. Usually a new version of Windows or a new Internet strategy.

So, this means a couple of things: no new Windows and no major new Internet strategy this year.

I agree there is no new strategy this year and that is disappointing; however, Silverlight is huge and this year, and if not an Internet strategy it is an Internet developer strategy. 

Cleary Mix07 was the place to be — I would have made sure I went if I had known that PDC was going to be cancelled.

Some other things I’m hearing about the next version of Windows? There still is a ban on .NET code in core parts of Windows. They aren’t getting enough performance yet from .NET to include code written in it inside major parts of Windows. This is a bummer, because .NET is a lot easier to write than C++ and letting Microsoft’s developers write .NET code for Windows would unleash a bunch of innovation.

I fully agree with you here — a definite bummer.  Yet I don’t agree about the performance of .NET.  Certainly there are parts of Windows that need to be unmanaged code; but Digipede has a slew of customers using .NET for computation and getting terrific performance from it.  Face it, this “not performant yet” argument is used by people at Microsoft from kernel / device authors (OK) to the Office team (what?).  It is hard to separate the good arguments here from just plain bias and inertia. 

The person who told me this (who works at Microsoft) told me .NET still takes too long to startup and load into memory and because Windows is now being compared to OSX they can’t afford to ship components that would slow down Windows.

What?  If this were baked into the OS, couldn’t they do a better job of sharing this startup cost (i.e., doing it once with reuse)? 

This gets right back to my posts about how the Windows .NET API is actually dead (see these: WinFx).

It also means that Ray Ozzie’s team probably doesn’t have anything dramatic to announce yet and they aren’t willing to have live within the bounds of a forcing function like the PDC (PDC forces teams to get their acts together and finish off stuff enough to at least get some good demos together).

This is the “no Internet strategy this year” part.  Yup.  Definite bummer.

Some other things I’m hearing from the Windows team? That they are still planning out the next version of Windows. So, I don’t expect to see a beta until 2008 (probably second half of the year, if we see one at all) and I don’t expect to see a major new version of Windows to ship until 2009.

Microsoft says it won’t be as long between releases of the OS now.  I think, though, we won’t see a major new version released until Windows till 2010.

Anyway, this is sad cause I was hoping to see Microsoft make an all out push for developers this year.

Well, I think they have.  Their developer story is getting better and better every quarter.  I think they should have had the PDC anyway and continued to flog the .NET 3.0 and new .NET 3.5 stuff particularly Silverlight. 

What do you think it all means? Am I reading too much in between the lines?

Maybe you are.  I think the timing for the PDC was definitely wrong for Microsoft.  The Microsoft Internet strategy we are really waiting for has to do with Office / other applications and Internet services.  When this is unveiled, I think it will have less to do with developers than warranted at a PDC.  Ironically that should have been announced at Mix, but will have to wait for the next one.

Will Microsoft unveil a new Internet strategy at Mix08?  I bet.

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Digipede on ScobleShow

In early April, John, Dan and I visited the offices of PodTech for an interview by Robert Scoble.  Dan wrote about it at the time (here).  It was fun, and Robert asked good questions.  He put the videos up over the weekend, included here by the magic of the PodTech player.

Editor’s Choice: highlights from Digipede’s interview and demo


Demo of building a grid with Digipede


Talking about Digipede’s grid technology

Robert asked me a question that I didn’t expect: what was challenging for me in desigining the Digipede Network.  In answering, I forgot to mention probably the most challenging part: designing the Digipede Framework API.  This is both the part that I have the most fun with and the most challenging.  Challenging or not, building usable APIs is a key part of any development platform and continues to be an important part of my job.

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TechCrunch 5

Had a great time at Mike Arrington’s party last night, TechCrunch 5.

These parties are on an upward trajectory (I wrote about the previous one here). Last time there were boxes of pizza strewn about; this time there was catering — some of the food was quite good. Last time it was very cold in the backyard; this time there was a tent. Last time it was pretty full; this time it was absolutely packed. Next time, I think Mike is going to have to get an even bigger tent.
Anyway, thanks to Mike and Robert Scoble for the great time. I see in the pictures that Robert and Shel Israel took off their shirts for a photo (I missed that). Here are the Flickr photos. Even better, Robert’s Dad was there. And of course Patrick Scoble was also there. Robert’s dad must be very proud of his son / grandson.

Some people I talked to:

  • I ran into Nima Dilmaghani, a developer evangelist at Microsoft. I did a double-take when I saw him, because I don’t usually see Microsoft people at these events. He has the right approach to .NET evangelism: he doesn’t claim it is the right answer to every problem, but can knowledgably explain the relative benefits of the platform in an honest way. Note that link is to his empty WordPress blog — I’m hoping that will shame him into getting his blogging going 😉
  • I also talked with Ramana Kovi of ePlatform; look for their launch soon.
    Keep your eye on Kevin Burton’s Feed Blog. Word has it he was chasing a scoop last night; I don’t know what it was.
  • I talked a bit to Andrew Bunner, Director of Engineering of Rojo. He demonstrated some of the new features for me. I asked him about the AttentionTrust and its principles; particularly about principal #2, Mobility (we’re looking into that). In talking to him, though, I think that there is still a general misunderstanding about the AttentionTrust. It is about the 4 principles and the mission. That’s it. The ATX (attention recorder) allows you to store locally and / or provide data to services (one right now, ROOT). Using it isn’t in any way a requirement of the AttentionTrust’s principles.
  • I saw Zach Coelius again, his company Triggit is coming along. I realized he reminds me of my best man, David Shaw.

And many others, too. A splendid time for all, methinks.

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