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October 2010

Ex-Factor

Sunday, October 31, 2010 0

At this time every year, whether I watch or not, my Twitter stream seems to erupt with reality TV comments; the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

The only problem is, its the same tune every year:

  • Who is this joker?
  • Who is voting for them?
  • I can’t believe xx has made it through again!
  • etc, etc…. You’re Fired!

Tonight, my stream is full of X Factor comments and about one particular person; a guy called Wagner.  It seems everyone wants him out, yet he continues to make it through every week.

 

Which really reminds me of the Irish phenomenon that was “Jedward”.  Everyone wanted them out, yet they continued to make it through week after week.  Someone must be voting for these people, which makes the social networking commentary all the more amusing.

 

Me?  I’ve already picked my winner for this year….

 

 

If she doesn’t win this competition, I really hope she hits the big time in another way.  I’d hate to see her cameo on “Celebrity Juice” with Keith Lemon.

 

Five Years Ago.....

Friday, October 29, 2010 0

Five years ago, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie (the man who replaced Bill Gates at Microsoft), wrote a company wide memo entitled “The Internet Services Disruption” where he laid out the future vision of where he planned to take the direction of the company. This future was a world of cloud computing platform where services and applications could be built and housed.

Fast forward and Ray has finally issued a follow up to his world famous memo, this time entitled “Dawn of a New Day” and this new memo sets the next strategic direction for the company and for the industry as a whole to take the next step towards Ozzie’s vision of the future. The memo makes for interesting reading and really starts to make you think about the computer industry in its current state, how far it’s progressed and where next it will be going – for me it’s inspirational and makes me feel good about what is on the horizon for the future.

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Complexity Kills

As someone who uses technology every day and someone who embraces the Internet, the devices we use to connect to these services and the people behind these things, its easy for me to forget that those who don’t necessarily follow the industry as closely or don’t use this technology every day can sometimes feel like they have been left behind or have no interest in the latest gadget. Its also quite easy to miss what has happened within the industry over the past few years; smart phones have become intuitive and easy to use expanding the market beyond the geekiest of geek and into the pocket of the many, tablet computers have finally made the transition between niche and into mainstream and new online services and applications have become intuitive and instantly useable to the average person.

Yet look beyond this simplicity of the UI and you start to uncover the complexities of just what is going on; a smart, intelligent device filled with a myriad of gadgets and toys (accelerometers, touch screens, sensors, etc), connecting seamlessly to an online and continuous service via a software application such as an app or a highly complex browser using a number of complex algorithms, protocols and add-ons. It really is a mixture and fusion of hardware + software + services.

All of this is much more apparent within the mobile phone market than the PC market right now, but there is no doubt that at least part of the PC market will head in this direction over the next few years. For me this will be the home computing market, the enterprise market in my mind is still a very different beast that needs to be controlled far more carefully due to the requirements for more compliance, increased security, data protection/sensitivity, network environmental factors, etc.

This is not to say the enterprise can’t or won’t follow a similar model, it just has to be adapted especially for this environment and a further level of complexity will be added – this will be no more complexity than most IT teams already have to deal with and most businesses should be able to transition accordingly, but assurances, guarantees and trust all need to be worked out; whether that is a trust between business to business or between the employer and each employee or even both.

Despite the challenges in this area, there will always undoubtedly be a cross-over of technologies and user demand will no doubt drive resolution for these challenges to be overcome. As users begin to use continuous cloud based services in their personal lives, eventually they will come to expect these same services or cross-connectivity with their professional lives – especially if their personal computing requirements are simplified down to intuitive and easy to use software and applications.

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Simplicity Rules

The reason modern devices seem to have simplicity about them is due to the way we interact with them; simply compare the traditional keyboard and mouse with the new touch screens and voice commands. Non-technical users are more likely able to respond to something they can physically reach out and touch and manipulate in a logical way (flicks and pinches), than learn the skills to move around a track pad or a difficult to tame mouse.

The blurring of the boundaries between application and browser is also significant here. Users are no longer afraid of installing applications that simply work out of the box without prompting any difficult questions – but removing the complexity for them, most users don’t realise that the application they are using is simply a cut-down ‘built for purpose’ mini-browser, connecting to a back-end service.

Is it therefore feasible to expect that the modern day browser will continue on a path of dilution for specific needs and requirements rather than an all encompassing entity for every eventuality? Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 may have already anticipated this market by being able to create application specific tabs from within the IE browser that each has their own custom tools or buttons to help navigate through the ‘online application’. In my opinion a single dynamic browser is far more appealing than specific mini-browsers or apps.

For the typical user the browser has become indistinguishable from the continuous service apps they currently use. Some work needs to be done here, but there will certainly be a tipping point at some point in the future as to which way the industry will aim for.

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Post-PC Device

Just as there may be a dilution of the modern day browser or a paradigm shift towards more dynamic web services presented through an all encompassing web browser(s). The discussion then needs to turn towards understanding what a post-PC device might be and how it will function.

The term ‘post-PC device’ first needs answer the question; are we really ready to shift away from a traditional PC onto other devices? In the home, unquestionably the PC has already begin to shift away from the traditional PC with the rise of cheap netbooks, simple to use smart phones, tablet computers and media centres, however in the workplace the PC and laptop still rules.

This mirrors the adoption of cloud based services in people’s home lives and the clinging of traditional server/desktop model and traditional applications within the workplace. Looking into the future, I find it hard to believe that this IT model will significantly change all that much over the next five years, however this will deeply depend on the company and any shift in business.

The cultural effect of the financial downturn has left large companies downsizing and more people possibly ready to take that risk towards setting up their own small businesses; and its these types of small businesses that are likely to jump and adopt these cloud bases services and more dynamic ways of working in a bid to reduce the costs of servers, networks and so on. Larger companies who already enjoy the benefits of having these assets in place are more likely to stick with them – or close variations of these devices. It will all come down to trust, security and reliance/assurances on ‘up time’ and availability verse large companies hosting their own cloud services rather than relying on others to create these services.

In the home environment, the devices used in the home are already more specialised – your Xbox provides entertainment, Kindle delivers written content, tablets used for casual browsing and interaction, smart phones for connectivity outside of the home and so on. Looking into the future I can only predict that these devices will be diluted down even further, especially as hardware becomes cheaper and users can increase the number of devices they are able to purchase.

It’s likely that the ‘three screens’ will remain predominant; a large display in the living room, a ‘main’ computer system and a primary mobile device. However other devices will make their way into the home; a kitchen device, a CPU for the home controlling lights, heating, security, water flow, displays in every room, wearable devices such as next generation smart watches, head-up displays, tablets, ebook readers, in-car entertainment systems, bicycle computers and beyond – all driven and interconnected by this cloud platform.

These devices won’t be versatile; they will be ‘appliance-like’ and perform unique tasks in a simplified and easily understandable format so they can be used by the masses instead of the geeky few. Their on-chip OS will be minimal and only capable of performing a unique set of tasks, the rest of work performed within the cloud, making them instantly-usable, interchangeable and replaceable – simply purchase your new device and log in and have your profile and data flood into the device and continue from exactly where you left off; no set up time, no lengthy installs, no data loss – simple, yet effective.

Again this will be a full circled fusion of hardware + software + services working together.

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Revolutionary

This paradigm shift towards the cloud, paired with these intelligent devices and elements of what we already know as social networking will revolutionise our lives and transform industries, start new ventures whilst simultaneously destroying others. All will face the same backdrop of issues that already exist today; privacy, trust, security, integrity of data, etc, but as the already 500 million Facebook users will testify, sharing of data is becoming more and more an every day occurrence.

Imagine devices that are able to proactively scan your location, healthy, track your life style and share these details with the online community – not necessarily other people, but with other services, resulting in a chain reaction of computing services designed to assist you throughout your day.

Your current location dictates everything that you do; recommendations for food, nearby events, movies, friends, or just about anything else you can think of - directing you to where you should be and ensuring that you get there on time without delay.

Clothing actively monitors your health, allowing real time monitoring of your vital statistics, a medical service creates telemetry of your body, looking for any obscure patterns and instantly putting you in direct contact with medical authorities if the system detects early symptoms or a further check up is required.

Breaking news, that is personalised to your interests and concerns are delivered to your mobile device. Messages in the forms of email, voice, video, speech are delivered and traded with your nearest and dearest in either real-time or on-demand at your leisure – with a trusted an online service actively scanning these messages and prioritising and alerting you depending upon the contents.

These devices will also be self preserving based upon intelligent design, shutting down or sleeping to preserve energy – and as the processing is done within the cloud, battery life will increase and last longer. However, these devices will also have new ways of replenishing, solar power, body heat and movement (kinetic), will all draw in power and keep the devices operating for days or weeks without requiring charge.

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“The first step for each of us is to imagine fearlessly; to dream”

In our industry, if you can imagine something, you can build it

Ray Ozzie has set the challenge for Microsoft to be bold, be inventive, dream and think big. They have laid the foundations for this vision of the future, now comes the building of the blocks for what sits upon this new foundation.

Some have commented that this vision of the future is a direct mirror of the same things Google and Apple are trying to achieve with their platforms; however I don’t believe this to be true – Ozzie is aiming beyond this current generation and planning ahead for the next. The problem for Microsoft is that they need to continue to work and support their existing generation and plan for the next with their Windows, Office and Enterprise software platforms, but their commitment to this future appears to be totally focused and they are ready to invent the future.

The next five years are going to be pretty interesting. The Future is coming....

Zuckerberg: Genius or One "Billion-Dollar" Hit Wonder?

Sunday, October 17, 2010 0

Today I went to see “The Social Network” – the film based on the rise and rise of Web 2.0 darling website “Facebook”.

From everything I’ve read about Mark Zuckerberg, the film is highly inaccurate, but since when does that stop Hollywood from spinning actual events into a Blockbuster. But regardless of the spin, I absolutely adored the film and it started me thinking – is Zuckerberg really the genius everyone makes him out to be?

Now, there is no doubt that Facebook is a billion dollar company – and it takes both talent and luck to achieve that – but compare Zuckerberg to the “genius” of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or even to the boys over at Google and its suddenly clear that Zuckerberg has only ever done one thing – The Facebook.

Gates built Microsoft from scratch, at a time when computers weren’t popular or widespread with the mission statement “A PC on every desk and in every home”….Basic, DOS, Windows, Office, Enterprise software, and now Bing/search, mobile, XBox, Entertainment, Labs, the list is endless.

Over at Apple, Jobs has a similar resume – Apple computers, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad tablet and also Pixar and Disney, entertainment in the form of Apple TV and iTunes. Virtually disrupting the way people buy and engage in entertainment directly from beneath the companies that created entertainment companies.

Finally, Google made it big by turning search into a billion dollar business off the back of advertising, but unlike Zuckerberg they have branched out in a Microsoft-esque way and gone into mobile phones, browsers, their own Operating Systems and beyond with other online entities such as YouTube, Gmail, Google Earth, etc.

Which brings us back to Zuckerberg. What is next or comes next after Facebook? Is there another idea bubbling away within the young CEO’s head? (Was Facebook ever in Zuckerberg’s head or as the movie suggests, was it stolen? That’s far from me to judge and I don’t want to, he’s been credited with it already).

Does there even need to be another idea after Facebook? I don’t know the answer to that question, but looking at the state of other social networks such as MySpace and the privacy, boredom, social change elements that may eventually hit Facebook at some point, to me it would seem foolish to not diversify or ride the wave of another business on the back of Facebook.

One element that did impress me and even inspire me was the ‘nothing will stop me’, relentless streak – arguing over the meaning of words and holding multiple conversations by asking multiple questions all at the same time that reminded me a lot of Bill Gates trials over the Microsoft monopoly throughout the browser wars with Netscape. It impressed me.

I also liked that throughout the film, in just about every scene, there was a whiteboard. I know in my job in IT, the whiteboard is my absolute best friend and its one of the most powerful tools I have at my disposal for planning ideas, keeping a to do list, etc. I have a notice board on my wall at home, I’m considering trading it in for a whiteboard – think I just might!

Back to my point though, is Zuckerberg a genius? I’m waiting for the next chapter before I make my decision, so far, the boys doing rather well for himself.

My Wradio: This Time Its Promotional (But I’m Campaigning For More!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010 0

Way back in June, I wrote a blog post pleading for someone – anyone – to get Russell Brand back where he belonged on the radio – and with the released of his new book; “My Booky Wook 2: This Time Its Personal”, TalkSport radio has snapped him up to do 20 shows as he tours the country.

Fantastic!

But even more fantastic, unlike the previous occasion when Brand was asked to host a one-off show with Noel Gallagher, this time the old gang has been reunited back together and Matt Morgan and Mr Gee have been dragged back into the radio spotlight. What could be better?

I’ll tell you, producing the show is former Radio 2 legend (who brought Chris Evans, Jonathan Ross, Brand himself and the talent on BBC 6 Music onto the airwaves over the years), and the woman who fell on her sword over the ‘Sachsgate’ scandal, Lesley Douglas.

Its a happy reunion and one that I hope is extended beyond the 20 week book signing stint. Brand belongs on radio and his fans want that show back on the airwaves, rumours of the Brand being snapped up by US Radio Stations isn’t what his British public and fans want, its the gang back together on UK airwaves, long term is what we want.

Its early days, I’m loving what we’ve been given, but hopeful that someone steps up and makes him and Matt and Mr Gee an offer that they can’t refuse – you never know, maybe even Mr Gallagher will be persuaded to re-emerge onto the airwaves with the rest of the gang.

FFS

Friday, October 1, 2010 0

Everyone loves a Friday right? Well, I’m starting to move away from this theory – why I hear you ask? Friday is the day of the popular ‘#FF’ or ‘#FollowFriday’ hashtag on Twitter.

In the early days of Twitter – and I’ve been a user for quite some time now, before the service really hit its popularity stride – the “Follow Friday” meme used to really mean something, it was an opportunity to really endorse one of your followers to all of your other followers as someone who may be of interest to them as presumably your followers share at least one of the same interests as yourself.


It was a good way of connecting with people, especially if you were able to tweet a reasonable account of why such a person deserved to be followed. I think they call this “building communities”.


But now I dread Friday’s on Twitter, it’s the day my stream is filled by those that still insist on writing endless lists of usernames for people to follow, without any reason or indication why. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not clicked on someone’s username contained in one of these lists for a long, long time, never mind start to follow one of these users.


The “Friday Follow” is an outdated mechanism these days and there are other, better ways to locate those users that would be most interesting to you. Perhaps I’m just being grumpy (wouldn’t be the first time), but this is something that is really starting to get on my nerves, especially as it’s almost a childish game that belongs somewhere else other than Twitter. I remember when Twitter was cool and the only people on it where the techies who ‘got it’, inevitably as more and more ‘mainstream public’ users signed up, the service started to move away from that demographic – for the better I might add, but the “Friday Follow” is now out dated and I think its time to move on.


If I had a more public platform with a large amount of influential readers, I’d be ready to start a campaign, right there on Twitter to start to shun this antiquated practice – unfortunately I don’t have such a platform yet and thus here is where my campaign will end.


In the meantime, I’m now considering taking a leaf from Paul Carr’s recent trend (of quitting the social networking sites in favour of blogging), but only on a Friday. Avoid Twitter on a Friday once the #FF’s are out of the way for the day. #FFS

Great Scot!! This is heavy....

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No, you haven’t been travelling through time back to 1985, but it certainly may feel like it as this week sees the re-release and return of the popular time travelling film “Back To The Future” back to the silver screen. I can’t be more excited to get the opportunity to visit the cinema to re-live this epic film in all its glory on the big screen.

The purpose of the re-release is that the film has reached its 25th Anniversary, but the films re-release is much more important than that in my mind; it’s a return to the silver screen for the great Michael J. Fox.

I’ve wrote before how much I admire Fox for this work and campaigning on behalf of his Foundation; having read both of his books, I developed a huge respect for the work and struggles that he went through as he transitioned from Hollywood Superstar to campaigner, to setting up and running his own Foundation.

I can only imagine how proud and thrilled he will be to have one of his movies returning to the cinema. Don’t get me wrong, the film is immensely popular already and is one of the highest purchased DVD box sets to date – I must have watched the trilogy about a million times.

I can only hope that they re-release the next two films to the cinema, but for now the first film is more than sufficient to rekindle my interest in the film and experience a classic at the cinema.

-- For more BTTF see here --

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