Tech Strategy Trends

April 10, 2011  9:43 AM

The Stifling ‘Investment and Innovation’ Bogeyman

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

‘Investment and innovation’ is the bogeyman of the tech world. If a rival company makes a move that gives it an advantage, competitors cry foul and claim it will stifle ‘investment and innovation’. If a government agency has the audacity to suggest some ground rules for fair play for an industry, the industry proclaims that the regulatory oversight will stifle ‘investment and innovation’.

Two recent examples are AT&T’s move to acquire T-Mobile, and the FCC efforts to establish a framework of Net Neutrality rules. In response to the news that AT&T is purchaisng T-Mobile–simultaneously making it  the biggest wireless provider and the only GSM-based wireless provider in the United States, Sprint–which will then be a distant third (a.k.a. “last place) for major wireless providers in the United States claimed that allowing the acquisition will stifle innovation in the wireless industry.

The major players in the broadband industry have played the ‘stifle investment and innovation’ card in trying to fend off efforts by the FCC to establish rules for net neutrality, while the proponents have played the same ‘stifle investment and innovation’ card in arguing for why net neutrality rules are necessary.

The other side of the investment and innovation coin is where–in the same breath–the affected companies claim that no regulation or oversight is needed because they are already operating fairly in a way that is healthy for competition. This week, the FCC mandated that major wireless broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon open their data towers to smaller competitors. The response from AT&T and Verizon was that they are already playing nicely just fine, and that the additional regulatory oppression will stifle investment and innovation.

It is all just a smoke and mirrors distraction. It is a rallying cry that makes for a nice soundbite and grabs a headline or two, but I have a card of my own to play–the ‘BS’ card.

Listen–if companies were investing and innovating, they wouldn’t have anything to worry about. The fruits of the investment and innovation would speak for themselves. If the broadband industry was investing and innovating, we wouldn’t have major portions of the country without adequate high-speed broadband, and we wouldn’t consider 10mbps or 20mbps, or even 50mbps to be all that ‘high-speed’.

Want to know what real investment and innovation look like? Check out Google’s GIGABIT broadband. Google is investing in pilot networks delivering gigabit-per-second broadband (1000mbps) just to prove it can be done. Google is not an ISP and won’t profit directly from providing broadband service, but it is investing in innovative technologies just to set a bar that the rest of the industry–which isn’t investing or innovating to any degree worth talking about–can follow.

And, if companies are already playing nice–not throttling specific types of network traffic, entering into reasonably priced peering agreements to share wireless data networks, etc.–then they have nothing to be concerned about with the rules. What they are saying, in effect, is “we don’t need your rules because that is the way we already operate,” to which I respond “if that is the way you already operate, then you won’t mind if we put that down in writing just in case some other less scrupulous competitors of yours don’t share your sense of ethics and fair play, right?”

April 6, 2011  12:14 PM

Microsoft Should Follow Its Own Mantra

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

“Do not log in as an Administrator. ”

How long has that security best practice mantra been recited? How many times have you been reminded that malware attacks generally execute with the context and permissions of the currently logged in user, so you should generally log in as a standard user to minimize the potential damage from exploits?

But, Microsoft should put its money where its proverbial mouth is and just make that the default. Why? Well, I will explain why. Those who have the understanding and skill to safely function logged in as an Administrator also have the necessary understanding and skill to do what it takes to create a user account with administrative privileges and log in using it. However, the reverse is not true–your average user does not have the understanding and skill to realize they are logged in as an Administrator, nor do they have the understanding or skill to create a separate login that is just a standard user and log in using it.

Microsoft went half way by implementing the split token for Administrator privileges and requiring consent to elevate privileges with UAC when necessary. That helps protect even user accounts with Administrator privileges from being exploited, or from accidentally modifying crucial aspects of the Windows OS. But, the vast majority are not Windows gurus or security experts, and lack the fundamental knowledge it requires to determine whether a UAC prompt for privilege escalation is legitimate or not….so they just click “Allow” and go about their business.

The problem is that when you install WIndows as a home user, it just asks you for a name to assign to  the user account, and by default it makes that user account an Administrator. If Microsoft doesn’t want average users to log in as Administrator, then it shouldn’t automatically make every user an Administrator.

Microsoft should modify the installation procedure for Windows 7–and for any future implementations of Windows. The installation process must create an Administrator account so that at least one account is available with unrestricted access to the system, but the installation process should clearly state that the Admin account is for special circumstances only, and should be used through the “Run As” process when necessary. But, the installation process should then require that the user create a username and password for a standard user account as well, and–most importantly–the standard user account should be the default account for logging in to Windows, and the Admin account should be hidden.

Any user that doesn’t have the understanding and skill to access the Admin account has no business accessing the Admin account anyway.

April 4, 2011  9:45 PM

Windows 8 Getting a Ribbon Interface Overhaul

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

The world seems to have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft’s ribbon interface–people either love it, or they hate it. The ribbon was first introduced in Office 2007, then extended to additional products like Outlook in Office 2010. Now, screenshots from a leaked early build of Windows 8 suggest that the ribbon interface will replace the traditional toolbar in Windows Explorer as well.

Like many innovative Microsoft features (such as UAC), the ribbon interface suffers from a combination of resistance to change and a lack of understanding. Users are so busy whining and complaining about how Microsoft changed the interface they’re used to that they can’t be bothered to invest the time to embrace the new interface. But, those who do understand and embrace the ribbon interface generally love it and find that it makes working with the associated products more intuitive and efficient.

Aside from the ribbon interface, Windows 8 is also expected to run on ARM processors–like those powering the vast majority of tablets and smartphones, and it is expected to be tablet ready, or perhaps come in a tablet-optimized version. There is no update on when to expect Windows 8. At this point, Microsoft seems to still be in the very early development.

When it does arrive, I guess we’ll have to look at renaming this blog.

April 3, 2011  9:01 AM

An Inconvenient Truth: Firefox Edition

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Firefox 4 was downloaded 7.1 million times in the first 24 hours it was available. As of right now, it has been downloaded more than 56 million times in less than two weeks. Impressive.

Unfortunately, racing out of the gate is not the same thing as winning the race–and it is highly unlikely that Firefox will win the race. Firefox 3 set launch day download records as well, but that hasn’t stopped the Mozilla browser from steadily declining in market share.

Microsoft’s latest browser–Internet Explorer 9–is only available for Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Windows XP, which is still the number one operating system with more market share than Windows 7 and Windows Vista combined, is left with Internet Explorer 8, and rival browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. It should be a prime opportunity for Mozilla to capture significant market share.

However, Firefox has already been available for Windows XP for years. It didn’t stop IE8 from becoming the leading browser version with more than a third of the overall market, and double the second place Firefox 3.6. If every Firefox 3.6 user makes the switch to Firefox 4, the new Mozilla browser will quickly grab market share, but primarily at the expense of previous Firefox releases, resulting in little change to the overall market share for Firefox as a whole.

As Windows XP users transition to become Windows 7 users, though, most of them will stick with the Microsoft browser they are already familiar with and invested in–and embrace the additional functionality and integration that the Internet Explorer 9 provides with the Windows 7 OS. Those Windows XP / IE8 numbers will transition to Windows 7 / IE9 market share.

There is certainly more parity in the browser market today. The days of Microsoft’s 90 percent market share and virtual monopoly are gone. Firefox has a comfortable market share, and Chrome is on the rise. But, downloads don’t equal usage, and launch day spikes don’t equal market share–so we’ll have to take a look at the usage stats a few months from now and see how things are trending.

March 27, 2011  10:24 PM

Windows Phone 7 Gets Copy and Paste (Finally)

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Microsoft finally unleashed the highly-anticipated NoDo update for Windows Phone 7, and with it the even more highly-anticipated copy and paste functionality the mobile platform should have had when it launched.

I can’t say that I rely heavily on the copy and paste functionality on my iPhone. In fact, I rarely use it. But, it is a feature which users expect on a smartphone. The iPhone originally did not have copy and paste either. After complaints and user backlash, though, Apple added the feature two years after the initial iPhone with the release of iOS 3.0.

Meanwhile, Microsoft was sitting on the smartphone sidelines–letting Windows Mobile die a slow death by attrition while it scrapped it all to go back to the drawing board and engineer a completely new mobile OS. That decision–the decision to build Windows Phone 7 from scratch rather than continuing to try and incrementally improve on the shaky foundation of Windows Mobile–was brilliant. But, if you are already sitting out the smartphone game during development, and if you have already delayed the release of your new mobile OS for other reasons, why not just wait another month or two to put the copy and paste functionality in there?

Overall, Windows Phone 7 seems quite capable and I think Microsoft should be commended. It may not threaten to surpass iOS or Android any time soon, but it is a solid mobile platform that should earn its fair share of the smartphone pie. I just think it was silly to launch such a major platform hobbled out of the gate by something as silly as copy and paste functionality.

It has it now, though. So…hooray! Any Windows Phone 7 users out there? I’m interested for feedback on the platform in general, and your initial thoughts on the copy and paste functionality. Was it worth the wait?

March 26, 2011  12:39 AM

IPv4 Addresses Are a Hot Commodity

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

This is what the Internet has come to. Microsoft has reportedly purchased more than 650,000 IPv4 addresses from the bankrupt Nortel at a cost amounting to $11.25 per IP address. As The Register describes it as, “more than you’d expect to pay for a .com domain name.”

We’re out of IPv4 addresses, so it has come to this. Stephen Lawson, an IDG News journalist, explained, “The end of the central supply of IPv4 addresses signaled the urgency of enterprises and service providers to migrate to IPv6, the latest version of the protocol, which has been available for more than a decade and allows for an almost unlimited number of addresses.”

The addresses might not be available from IANA, but that has created an opportunity for companies that own large blocks of unused IP addresses to barter them to the highest bidder. IPv6 has been around for some time, and many devices and network components are compatible with IPv6, but the transition from IPv4 to truly embracing IPv6 has been arduous.

I don’t have any qualms with companies trading and selling blocks of IPv4 addresses as a band-aid, but it shouldn’t be a crutch to avoid the transition to IPv6. On June 8 of this year, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other major Internet properties will offer all content over IPv6 for World IPv6 Day–a 24-hour pilot to demonstrate that the world is ready for IPv6.

When IP addresses cost more than Web domains, I think its time to embrace the next-generation solution.

March 22, 2011  10:53 PM

Who Doesn’t Like Earning Badges (and Amazon Gift Cards)?

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Badges make the world go around. OK, that is perhaps overstating the value of badges a tad. But, people love to earn badges. The quest for badges is the fuel that drives services like Gowalla and Foursquare.

While checking in at Starbucks more than anyone else and becoming the Foursquare “mayor” of your corner coffee shop is impressive, ITKE has some badges that we feel are a greater accomplishment. Just spend time on the ITKE forums contributing to the conversation and sharing your valuable wisdom and experience with other ITKE members and you will be rewarded.

Not only is earning a badge for helping your fellow ITKE forum members much more gratifying than getting a badge for spending more money on lattes than anyone else, but with our badges you get more than mere bragging rights–you also get prizes! The prizes range from an ITKE tshirt all the way up to a $100 Amazon gift card.

You don’t have to stop checking in on Foursquare on your quest to be mayor of Starbucks. But as long as you’re hanging out there eating cakepops while you surf the free Wi-Fi, you should invest some time participating in the ITKE forums so you can earn a real badge.

March 21, 2011  9:25 PM

Japan Disaster to Have Long-Term Impact on Technology

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

It was bad enough that Japan was rocked to its core by 9.0 magnitude earthquake off its shore. It was bad enough that the earthquake stirred up a tsunami that broadsided the island nation and washed away entire homes with a giant wave. It was bad enough that a volcano eruption was also triggered. It was bad enough that thousands of lives were lost. It was bad enough that nuclear reactors across Japan are on ther verge of meltdown and radioactive catastrophe following the natural disaster. Now, technology will also suffer the fallout of Japan’s bad fortune.

According to a report from iSuppli, a tech research firm, “Manufacturing operations have stopped at Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Ltd.’s Shirakawa facility. MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. also stopped manufacturing at its Utsunomiya plant.” These two facilities account for a quarter of the production of silicon wafers used in making semiconductors.”

The iSuppli report also states, “These companies supply not only domestic Japanese demand for wafers but also semiconductor manufacturers around the world. Because of this, the suspension of operations at these plants could have wide-ranging implications beyond the Japanese electronics industry. A 25 percent reduction in supply could have a major effect on worldwide semiconductor production.”

There are a variety of factors impacting the ability of the Japanese manufacturers to resume operations. Many employees were killed by the disasters. Facilities may have been damaged. Roadways are impassable. Some areas are still evacuated due to the threat of nuclear meltdown.

iSuppli believes that the existing supplies are sufficient to keep PC and other tech gadget manufacturing going, but that if production doesn’t resume in Japan within about two weeks, there will be problems.

March 19, 2011  10:38 AM

Putting the IE9 Launch Numbers in Perspective

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Microsoft reports that Internet Explorer 9 was downloaded 2.35 million times in the first 24 hours following its official launch. That is almost 100,000 downloads per hour, or 27 downloads per second. It is impressive–but it is also only a quarter of the 8 million plus downloads of Firefox 3 on the first day it was available.

So, is IE9 only a quarter as successful as Firefox 3? No. Statistics are fun because they paint an entirely different picture when viewed through a different lens. So, let’s put the IE9 stats in perspective and see how it compares.

The Firefox browser is available for Windows…and Mac OS X…and Linux…and FreeBSD. Basically, Firefox is available to run on virtually all PCs in existence.

Contrast that with Internet Explorer 9. Internet Explorer has always been Windows-centric, meaning it is not available for platforms other than Windows. But, Internet Explorer 9 narrows the field even farther because it is only compatible with WIndows 7 and Windows Vista–not XP. That means that the audience for IE9 is restricted to only about one third of the PCs in the world.

If you try to draw an apples to apples comparison, you can take the 2.35 million IE9 downloads and multiply by 3 to make up for the difference in the number of potential PCs. Extrapolating the statistics–if IE9 had an equivalent audience, we can assume it would have had 7.05 million downloads.

Still quite impressive, but also still lagging behind the success of the Firefox 3 launch. And, odds are fair that the IE9 downloads are almost completely cannibalizing IE8 market share. To be fair, though, let’s give IE9 six months or so and then see how it compares against specific versions of Firefox or Chrome.

March 16, 2011  10:26 AM

Hey Microsoft, There’s No Rush for Windows 8

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Microsoft is reportedly hard at work on the next-generation desktop operating system–ostensibly dubbed Windows 8. There were initially some leaked rumors that Windows 8 was being fast-tracked for July of 2011, followed by rumors that Windows 8 is “delayed” until late 2012.

It seems silly to me to talk about a vaporware product missing a rumored deadline as “delayed”. Besides, Windows 7 just launched at the end of 2009. It is the fastest-selling operating system ever and has been a tremendous success, but more than a year after its launch it only has 23 percent market share–less than half the market share of the decade-old predecessor to its predecessor, Windows XP.

I realize that Microsoft has marketing and revenue motivations for wanting to crank out a new Windows OS, and that technology changes quickly and Microsoft needs to update or replace Windows 7 to adapt. Fair enough. But, in my opinion, Microsoft should not release Windows 8 until WIndows 7 has 50 percent market share, or at *least* surpasses Windows XP.

Windows 7 is a phenomenal operating system. Personally, I can’t fathom why anyone would willingly stick with Windows XP. But, the tenacious endurance of Windows XP demonstrates that users abhor change and will cling to a comfortable OS that just works. Convincing users to turn around and upgrade again from WIndows 7 to Windows 8 after only a couple years is a formidable challenge.

I look forward to Windows 8. It sounds like Microsoft has ambitious plans for the next-generation operating system. But, I don’t believe Microsoft should go out of its way to rush Windows 8 to market. Let Windows 7 simmer a while.

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