This week, I’d love to hear your thoughts: What was the biggest vendor news you’ve seen, whether it’s a big product announcement or a competitive setback? Let me know what you’ve read, heard or seen, and we’ll compile the biggest vendor plays of the week tomorrow. If you’re an ITKnowledgeExchange community member, leave your username and you could even win a couple of extra knowledge points for the best submission.
When Google Wave was first announced, it reminded me of the iPhone debut: Dubbed the “Jesus Phone”, it was the be all, end all device that would revolutionize the way we look at phones. And somehow, despite some problems, Apple’s been able to ride that hype perfectly, and in many ways the iPhone actually did revolutionize the industry. Bully for Apple, but can Google duplicate their success?
The company has had its share of quiet duds, and from my talks with analysts, developers and some early end users, Wave could become another one of them if not handled right.
1. The killer app question Telecom analyst, ITKE blogger and Wave developer Tom Nolle has been bullish on Wave’s potential since the beginning, but is worried that its true potential is in enabling new technologies, not in improving old applications. If these “improved old applications” take the spotlight, Wave could be lose out: Sure, an improved commenting system, as Mashable suggests, would be nice, but the infrastructure and complexity that Wave brings to the table make it a bit overkill for marginal improvements that could be done another way.
Instead, Nolle told me today he expected Google’s next major announcement to be touting an orthogonal application to current uses, throwing out the idea of a next generation message board, wiki or meeting place in favor of something that just isn’t doable today — without Wave.
2. A business model Kicking dirt in the eyes of Microsoft, Cisco and other tech giants is all well and good, but why try and kill Microsoft Office, WebEx and a host of other enterprise applications if you can’t turn a dime on it? Besides, even if they didn’t produce Wave, Google Apps already have the collaborative advantage.
Nolle said Google is walking a fine line between staying open and letting Wave be so easy anyone can do it. That could point to trying to grab future revenues by being the primary, if not only, Wave host. Amazon’s found great success in the unexpected cloud services realm, and Google App Engine‘s made clear that’s an area Google wants to get into.
3. Rolling out to the right people For whatever reason, I’ve been lucky when it comes to Google roll-outs: I received invites early on for both GMail and Google Voice (formerly Grand Central). But I’ve never seen the hype build like it has around Wave invites. Google’s been very choosy about who gets invites: Currently, it’s mostly developers who have received the invites.
There’s a good reason for that.
An analyst friend of mine, with a less technical background, recently got an invite. He was pretty optimistic about Wave’s potential, but admitted that, as of now, his team had been able to do very little with the offering. There just wasn’t much there for the average end user yet, and if early users are turned off by being prompted by a blank canvas, it won’t matter how great that canvas really is because the word of mouth will be negative.
Xobni creates an information profile for each person you interact with, and surfaces historical information that is relevant to what you are working on. Xobni displays contact information, threaded conversations, attachments, related people, email usage statistics, and information from the web. Xobni organizes your communication data and makes it available through intuitive navigation and super fast search.
Now, the company appears to be moving a darling of some tech early adopters to a wider audience. On a recent drive, I heard a radio voiceover helpfully explain “Xobni, that’s ‘Inbox’ spelled backwards,” while more mainstream websites are bearing big, brand awareness-raising display ads, signaling that Xobni hopes to win over the hearts and minds of end users along with IT. Have you seen it, or a similar productivity-boosting program, enter your organization, either installed by IT or end users themselves? Exchange’s native search can be a powerful tool, but it’s often clunky.
Even if Xobni’s big push isn’t successful, the company seems to be on to a leading trend: HP is attempting similar inbox-life integration with Friendlee, while Gist duplicates some functionality with a more social approach. Michael Scalisi, an IT manager in California, has a thorough overview over at PC World for those who’d like some first hand experience.
Google’s GMail last went down in a big way at the start of this month, and now GMail’s facing more outages. At least they have a temporary solution, although it would be nice if it were a bit more prominently displayed for users and administrators (why not link to this on the front page?):
We’re aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail, but we’ve provided a workaround below. We will provide an update by September 24, 2009 11:29:00 AM UTC-4 detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change.You can access Gmail via IMAP
More on Google in the Enterprise:
- Help user-IT relations with a party: So crazy it might just work
- GMail fails, but will Google Guerrillas back down?
- Would Shakespeare slice up the server admin?
- Is your IT department fighting Google guerillas?
For the lay person, even basic cryptography can seem almost completely indecipherable (*cringe*), but it’s also incredibly important: Just how vulnerable e-mail is to basic attacks, for example, is routinely underestimated, and too many users think that because their data is locked behind a Windows password, it’s secure. Fortunately, we have individuals like Jeff Moser to deftly break down even the most obtuse lessons into a fun, funny and, most impressively, comprehensible stick figure lesson on cryptography, and specifically the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
Ok, so the guide probably won’t be the best pitch in updating woefully inadequate security practices, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?
Brendan Cournoyer at Windows Server Notebook points out Microsoft’s Windows 7 marketing strategy: House parties. And lots of ‘em:148,252 if Microsoft’s party page is to be believed. And what will all those people be doing at these parties? Not to be too cynical, but we’re guessing that a good percent of the hosts are just using the party as a chance to snag the free copy of Windows 7 Signature Edition that hosts get. Because really, would you want to attend a party where the structured events are demoing how to block games, transfer user accounts from one PC to another and “have your guests try clicking through some of the WET screens*.”
Even Microsoft’s best marketing efforts don’t make it seem like too much fun:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/1cX4t5-YpHQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Thanks, but we’ll hold our party for the Microsoft’s oFone finally makes its debut. Now that is software worth celebrating:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/WazA77xcf0A" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
In the meantime, we’ve got plenty of Windows 7 resources to help you plan your party, so click below to get ideas for your shin dig, or send me your activity ideas in the comments or at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Maybe we can put together a slightly more entertaining list.
More on Windows 7:
- Windows 7: Through the Looking Glass, by Tony Bradley
- Brien Posey’s Windows Blog
- The Windows Server Notebook
When former IBM alum and noted iSeries critic Bob Cancilla disappeared from the Internet, it caused quite the stir on the Midrange.com mailing list: His Twitter account, @i_nsider disappeared (cache), as did his blog, I-nsider. Commenters speculated that Bob would be back, and they were right: Cancilla addressed the mailing list himself the next morning:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Bob Cancilla
Date: Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 9:45 AM
Subject: Re: Bob Cancilla’s blog taken down?
To: Midrange Systems Technical Discussion
I have two blogs that I shall keep up dated. They are:
Cancilla on i — http://cancillaoni.blogspot.com/
Modern Computer Systems – http://computersystemstoday.blogspot.com/
Modern Computer Systems will discuss my ideas for the future of corporate systems. It is business systems architecture centric discussion that is none technical at least from a technology standpoint. I spent the bulk of my career designing and building 3 what today might be called ERP systems for 3 insurance companies and an Insurance software house before taking a detour into IBM with the misguided thought that I might make a difference in what they were doing. I was wrong.
Cancilla on i will have posts on my take on the iSeries and its unfortunate state of affairs.
The article I posted on Cancilla on i is similar to the one I had on the i-nsider but is different.
Please note my business today is pure consulting not constrained by any products. My goal is to provide the best path for my clients that I believe to be correct. Some of you may disagree with my opinions on the future of iSeries. I caution you to look very carefully at what is going on within IBM along with the goals and objectives of the IBM’rs who tell you that the future of IBM i is rosy. I will not quote numbers as that would be totally inappropriate, but be assured that the numbers seem to be rapidly decreasing.
Some of you quoted some major companies that are using iSeries. Many of those are leaving the platform under mandate from their corporate IT organizations. Again I will not name names as I got that information while at IBM so that would be inappropriate, but some of the largest and best known iSeries shops are leaving the platform.
So Bob Cancilla is definitely back (he even has a new Twitter account, @RCancilla) and definitely still dour on the prospects of a rosy future for the iSeries.
More on IBM iSeries:
- Bob Cancilla on the future of System i, by Mark Fontecchio
- System i decline, modernization, and the next 5 years at the IT Knowledge Exchange iSeries Blog
- Myth or Truth: The Fall of the iSeries or System i Platform? is a response by Peter Briggs to Bob Cancilla’s contention the iSeries is doomed
After my post asking whether your boss knows what you do for a living, I received an e-mail from a reader who recounted how taking a risk in extending his job description paid off later down the line, and I wanted to share it. The reader asked to remain anonymous. -Michael
My first IT job was as an RPG Junior Programmer at a large pharmaceutical manufacturer’s Canadian office. I was given minor program maintenance tasks. One of them involved a small change in a daily sales report program. I had just completed a community college computer degree and was appalled at the report layout, which, among other problems, had a terrible case of what I call “column creep,” i.e. many columns of figures with totals that didn’t quite line up, so that by the time you moved across the page to the right-most columns, the total underneath the last column actually belonged to the previous column, and the last column total was alone in the right margin. It was ugly and hard to read, and related columns were not grouped together. I told the programmer I reported to that I could really improve this report and was curtly ordered to do what I was told and no more.
So I did, but I also asked around and was astounded to find out that this very poorly designed report was read first thing every day by all the office sales managers and every major company executive: It was the most visible of all the IT reports. So one day in the cafeteria, within the earshot of a sales executive, I told the IT manager that with a day or two of work i could make vast improvements to this report. After I left, the sales executive told the IT manager that he would welcome any improvement to this critical report.
This resulted in a series of initiatives assigned to me to find “low hanging fruit” i.e. fast and easy opportunities to improve IT reports, making them easier to read, better organized, and providing more relevant information. Our department began to be more responsive to user requests and my career got a huge boost because word got around that I understood and spoke the language of the business units, and that I could help them organize data into more usable information.
Recently, I came across Kevin Beaver’s advice to define your job role:
The average network admin is having an identity crisis. Sometimes these IT pros are on top of the world with lots of responsibilities, then a few weeks pass and they’re on everyone’s bad side. Management has unrealistic expectations, and users, well, they love you and hate you – often at the same time.
Despite the up and down nature of working in IT, you actually have more power than you think to make positive changes in your job.
Kevin offers four practical steps for breaking through and finding a career you enjoy:
- Find out what it is that you’re really supposed to be doing.
- Accept responsibility.
- Set goals.
- Raise the bar.
It was the first point I found most interesting: “Find out what it is that you’re really supposed to be doing.” It seems so obvious, but if you had to get up and give a presentation in front of a kindergarten class about what you do, would your boss describe your job the same way? In a former life, I had a job where I was supposed to be devising reports about audience reach, which I did. But I also volunteered around the small business to do tech support, build a website mock-up, show someone how to do a mail merge … and none of that was in my job description. That’s the sort of natural job evolution that happens all the time, and for a small, 6 or 7 person company, it’s no big deal. But for larger companies, or if you’re looking to make sure you have the right experience for the future, it might be best to make sure what your job is on paper matches what you’re doing in the real world.
Have you encountered this slow, inevitable responsibility shift before? Did it end up getting in the way of your “real” job, or did it help you advance your career? I’d love to hear your thoughts, either in in the comments or at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.
Editor’s Note: Last week, we saw how tablet warranties could go awry, with one IT administrator stuck with the shipping tab when her tablets went wonky. Joshua Garick, a lawyer in Boston, MA., offered to share a few more reasons why IT administrators should think twice before buying that extended warranty. -MM
Warranties are often marketed as a way to provide peace of mind that you can be made whole in the event your purchase is defective. The reality, however, is that warranties are often cash cows for merchants who prey on risk adverse and legal un-savvy buyers. Most sales of tangible goods actually come with implied warranties whether or not the merchant or the manufacturer discloses their existence. As a result, it may be the case that you’re better off not purchasing elective warranties.
The sale of goods was historically governed by the caveat emptor doctrine – let the buyer beware. If a product was defective, the buyer had no recourse against a merchant. In modern times, most states have enacted consumer protection and warranty laws aimed at leveling the playing field. Some examples include:
- Implied Warranty of Merchantability: The sale of a good carries an implied warranty that the good is merchantable. This means that the good is of fair average quality, is fit for the ordinary purpose for which the good is to be used, conforms to the promises of fact made on any labels, or would otherwise pass without objection based on industry standards.
- Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose: The easiest way to describe this warranty is that you get what you ask for. If you inform a merchant that you are purchasing an item for a particular purpose, and the sale is premised on this special request, the merchant has impliedly warranted that the product he sells you will be fit for that particular purpose. For example, if you tell a car dealer that you need a truck capable of towing, there is a breach of warranty if the truck he sold you is incapable of meeting this purpose – even if the truck is otherwise operable and merchantable.
- Warranties by Affirmation: In its simplest form, this is a warranty that you get what you are told you are getting. An express warranty is created when a merchant makes a statement of fact or a promise relating to the sale. Because you relied on this promise and made a purchased based on such representations, there is a warranty that the goods will conform to the promise made by the merchant. For example, if a merchant tells you they are selling you a 2005 Honda Accord, there is now a warranty that the car is actually a 2005 Honda Accord.
If a product is sold in breach of any of these warranties, the merchant is required by law to repair the product, replace the product or refund the purchase price for the product, all at their own cost. Thus, these warranties (as well as other consumer protection statutes) provide valuable tools to combat abuse. And the best part is these warranties are free of charge.
Merchants, however, can limit or even waive these implied warranties under the right circumstances. For example, if you purchase an item and the seller indicates in the bill of sale that it is sold “as is,” or “with all faults,” this constitutes a waiver of all warranties. In such a situation, the buyer should beware that he will be liable if the good is defective. A merchant may also waive implied warranties by indicating so, in writing, in an obvious or conspicuous manner (i.e., it cannot be hidden in the fine print).
More importantly, when you purchases an optional warranty such as an extended warranty, you may do so at the expense of the full protections provided by statutory warranties. For example, an extended warranty may provide only a few years of coverage; it may require the buyer to bear some costs (i.e., the cost for shipping to a repair center); or it may provide warranties against flaws in workmanship and construction only, while disclaiming all implied warranties. In these cases, a buyer may be in a better position if he declines to purchase the extended warranty because he is afforded full protection of the warranties provided by law – not just the provisions the merchant decides to offer its customers.
This is not to suggest that all extended warranties are bad investment or that they always disclaim implied warranties. Like any contract, it is important to read the small print to understand the terms of a merchant’s warranty. Similarly, since consumer protection and warranty laws vary by state, it is important to understand the legal landscape in your jurisdiction to learn of your legal alternatives. Though seemingly a daunting task, there is a wealth of information available online, from attorneys, from the Federal Trade Commission and similar state agencies, from your state attorney general’s office, and from consumer advocacy agencies.
Joshua N. Garick, Esq. is a graduate of Cornell University and Suffolk Law School. He is an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and focuses his practice on all areas of civil litigation. He can be reached at email@example.com.