Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why ballerinas don’t fall over

“And, since you ask, this is exactly how pirouetting ballerinas avoid falling over as they spin on their toes - while their bodies spin their heads stay focused on a fixed point. As we look at the dizzying array of technologies that are becoming available now, we need to keep our eyes fixed on our objective - creating a managed personal computing platform that users will accept. That means standardizing software components and personalizing with user environment management.”

This quotation comes from from Martin Ingram, Vice President of Strategy at Appsense, appearing in Virtual Strategy Magazine . Published nearby in Bedford, NH, electronic subscriptions are free.

Those of you who have met me might unfairly surmise that I have never studied ballet. A couple of decades ago I was both kickboxing competitively and dating a ballerina (actually two, mostly sequentially, with a slight but embarrassing overlap). On a typical week, the ballerina was far more likely to be bruised and battered than I. The reason: she was trained to rely on the actions of the others in her ensemble, while I was trained to defend myself at all times.

So, to anyone who is installing or integrating new products, I propose the Ingram-McQuilken approach: focus on a fixed point but always be prepared to defend yourself.

With a tip of my hat to my wife, Lee-Ann, who studied ballet, to my granddaughter, Nellie, who studies it today, and to former World Kickboxing Champion Dick “The Destroyer” Kimber, who taught me to keep my guard up.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Morgan Stanley Acclaims the Mobile Internet

Morgan Stanley has just released “The Mobile Internet Report” containing lots of great financial and market data along with some well-designed PowerPoint slides. For a flavor of the report, here are a few excerpts from a truly extensive document.

Material wealth creation / destruction should surpass earlier computing cycles. The mobile Internet cycle, the 5th cycle in 50 years, is just starting. Winners in each cycle often create more market capitalization than in the last. New winners emerge, some incumbents survive – or thrive – while many past winners falter.

A single galvanizing event – like Microsoft's Windows 3.0 launch in 1990, Netscape's IPO in 1995, or Apple's iPhone debut in 2007 – jolts the industry forward and captures the hearts and minds of consumers;

Make no mistake; Apple (and others) are not just trying to upset the cell phone market. They are aiming to transform how communications works, how entertainment and news are distributed, how goods and services are purchased... and how we control all this stuff from the ever-expanding, rechargeable remote controls we carry in our hands. To date, Apple's products and timing have been impeccable.

The US has grabbed the leadership, after being a global mobile laggard for more than a decade – thanks to the likes of Apple, Google,, and many others (including a bevy of startups)… and Silicon Valley competitive juices show no signs of letting up.

According to Morgan Stanley’s model, tech cycles tend to last ten years. We entered the Next Major Computing Cycle – Mobile Internet – 2 years ago.

Big winners in the four previous cycles include the following:

Mainframe Computing (1960s)
Control Data

Mini Computing (1970s)
Digital Equipment
Data General
Wang Labs

Personal Computing (1980s)

Desktop Internet Computing (1990s)
Yahoo! Japan

Mobile Internet Computing (2000s)
Still in the early innings; opportunities abound.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Smart Phones Crying in the Rain

Today I met with Kevin Short of UNH to discuss a lecture series I am preparing on Smart Phones, Virtual Machines, and Cloud Computing. Kevin was the founder of Chaoticom, one of the first companies to successfully build a business downloading music to cell phones. Chaoticom was started in 2000 as a spin off from UNH, and provided me with my introduction to programmable mobile phones. After VC investment, the company was renamed Groove Mobile; it operates today as LiveWire Mobile, which was recently ranked by Deloitte as the 49th fastest growing company in North America.

For the first few years, Chaoticom was a great technological success, but partnerships with the cell phone carriers were hard to come by, particularly in the US where Sprint finally subscribed to the service. Consumer demand grew slowly.

This week I read a post from the Startup Swami that explains this phenomenon. The Swami says: "Our job is to sell umbrellas on every street corner when it is raining. We can't make it rain."

“Allow me to explain. A few months ago, I was in New York City when it began to drizzle. Although I was wearing a nice suit, the drizzle didn't bother me much. However, by the time I had walked a few more blocks, it was pouring. As I waited on the street corner for the walk sign, I spotted a man selling umbrellas on the opposite side of the street. I made a beeline across the street to purchase an umbrella. I didn't care how much the umbrella cost -- he had my solution, and I needed it bad.

“As I continued my walk now with an umbrella in hand, I noticed that there were umbrella salespeople on almost every corner. And almost every single seller was surrounded by people who were waving their cash around to try to get one of those precious umbrellas. A few blocks later, most of the umbrella sellers were sold out.

“Every time I come across a new startup, I ask myself a fundamental question: are there lots of people in the world that are looking for this solution or is the startup trying to create demand? It is very hard for marketing folks to create demand (that's the job of salespeople) -- and it's almost impossible in consumer markets.”

I intend to incorporate this anecdote into my guest lectures on Entrepreneurship and Raising Angel Capital at UNH.

The Startup Swami is Matt Douglas, Founder & CEO of Punchbowl Software. You can find his full blog post here.

iPhone most popular mobile phone in the US, says Nielson

Nielson Wire market research just announced the most popular mobile phones in the US. The iPhone topped the list, no real surprise; among the missing: Nokia. The most popular sites visited were topped by Google Search, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail. The most popular video site was YouTube. Click here to view all their data, followed by a barrage of comments.

Their list:

1. Apple iPhone – 4%
2. BlackBerry 8300 series – 3.7%
3. Razr V3 series – 2.3%
4. LG VX9100 enV2 – 2.1%
5. LG Voyager – 1.7%
6. Samsung SPH-M540 – 1.5%
7. BlackBerry 9530 series 1.4%
8. LG VX9700 – 1.3%
9. LG Vu series – 1.3%
10. BlackBerry 8100 series – 1.2%

Friday, December 18, 2009

Don Dodge on the Future of Computing

Today, in his very influential blog, “Don Dodge on the Next Big Thing”, Don both writes about the work environment at Google and speculates on the future of computing. I’ve known Don for several years; we are both members of the eCoast Angels Network and we have often worked together advising start-up companies such as VKernel. From his post:

The future of computing – I think Google has made three big bets on the future of computing; Chrome OS (browser), Google Apps (cloud), and Android (mobile). The trends are pretty clear. All the exciting new applications are running in the browser, with application code in the cloud, and the cell phone as the platform. Your cell phone will become your primary computer. I think in the near future there will be docking stations everywhere with a screen and a keyboard. You simply pull out your phone, plug it into the docking station, and instantly all your applications and data are available to you. Chrome OS, Google Apps, and Android make this vision possible.

“Think about the cell phone you had 10 years ago, in 1999, and compare it to the phone you have today. More power, more memory, better networks, more applications, etc. Now project 5 or 10 years ahead. The vision of your phone as your computer is not far off. You will be able to decide which applications and data you want resident on the phone and which you want in the cloud. You will be able to plug it in anywhere; in an airport, hotel, airplane, office lobby, etc, and have instant access to everything you need.

2010 the turning point - I think 2010 will be the year that enterprises of all sizes start their transition to Gmail and Google Apps, and take their first steps towards the vision of the future. The move towards Cloud Computing is obvious. Gmail and Google Apps are the easy first steps in that direction. The cost savings are enormous,over $500 per user per year. Compare that to buying software licenses and maintenance from the old style software giants, and add the costs of server hardware, and IT managers to run them.

“The next 5 years are going to be exciting. There will be big changes in the software industry. I am thrilled to be at Google and look forward to being a small part of the movement to the future of computing.”

Don was also interviewed by VentureBeat where he talks about many things, including his new Google phone. Attracting the most vehement comments are his views on Microsoft.

“VB: Now that you’ve left Microsoft, how do you feel about the company’s future?”

DD: At a high level, Microsoft today is where IBM was in late ’80s, early ’90s. When I was just starting my career, IBM ruled the world. IBM was the dominant computer provider in the world — hardware, software, network, you name it, IBM was king. I think in the late ’80s and early ’90s, we saw that shift and Microsoft became king of the hill. And in 2009, 2010, going forward, Microsoft is sort of like IBM. It’s a longtime company with a great tradition and still very profitable, but it’s not the leader. Microsoft is not making the innovative leaps and coming out with the new stuff. People used to fear IBM and they don’t anymore. More recently, startups and competitors feared Microsoft, and I think over the past five or 10 years since that consent decree, I think that changed the company dramatically. I don’t think startups and competitors fear Microsoft the way they did 10 years ago. Part of it is the natural evolution of companies, part of it is the changing culture from that consent decree”.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

VCs still fond of Wireless and the Cloud

If you plan to raise Venture Capital for your Smart Phone or Cloud Computing start-up in 2010, you may be in one of the rare sectors where VCs are optimistic. A survey of US VCs shows the percentage expecting increased investment in these sectors:

Internet 46%
Software 25%
Wireless 30%
Media 33%

Topping their list overall is Clean tech, where 54% predict
increases.Writing in peHUB Wire, Deborah Gage says “Venture funds will shrink and the number of firms will shrink, said a majority of the 325 VCs surveyed, although they do expect to invest a few more dollars in more companies.

“They also plan to invest more in clean tech and Internet companies along with companies in China and India. They favor later stage investments over seed and early stage — a fact that concerns NVCA President Mark Heesen, who worries about innovation — and they expect exit markets to improve slightly, with more mergers and acquisitions and a few more IPOs.

“As a new feature, the NVCA included a list of Tweets provided by VCs on what they expect to do differently next year. Here’s a daring one — ‘More risky.’”

Get all the data here: VentureView 2010 charts

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Smartphone Market: A Rugby Scrum?

The fast pace of change in the Smartphone space presents great opportunities for entrepreneurs and developers, but creates a great new risk I’ll call “choosing the wrong platform.” Anyone preparing a business plan must be prepared not only to choose which platforms (phone and OS) to develop first but must be prepared to convincingly defend these choices to investors or managers less well informed than they are.

Writing in today’s NY Times, AZADEH ENSHA says the Smartphone marketplace increasingly resembles “a rugby scrum (the Verizon Droid versus the BlackBerry Storm versus the Palm Pre versus the HTC MyTouch versus the Apple iPhone ).” Market survey numbers don’t just change dramatically year by year, but quarter to quarter. Gartner has just published Q3 figures on Smartphone sales. Some excerpts:

  • Smartphones continued to represent the fastest-growing segment of the mobile-devices market and we remain confident about the potential for Smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2009 and in 2010.
  • Nokia’s share of the worldwide Smartphone market reached an all time low in the third quarter of 2009 at 39 per cent, compared with 45 per cent in the second quarter of 2009. Research In Motion reached 20 per cent share, its highest yet.
  • Apple’s worldwide Smartphone share reached 17 per cent as iPhone sales totaled 7 million units in the third quarter of 2009. Sales in the fourth quarter should be even stronger as Apple starts selling in China, through one additional carrier in the UK, and in an additional 16 countries.
  • In the Smartphone operating system (OS) market,Android picked up momentum but with only a handful of Android devices available, its share remained modest at 3.5 per cent. Windows Mobile 6.5 only became available in October, too late to have an impact on the third quarter, so sales of Windows-based Smartphones saw another decline.
Interpretations of these results vary, but I did enjoy “How Microsoft Blew It With Windows Mobile” by Brian X. Chen in Wired:

“Microsoft Windows continues to dominate the PC market with a 90 percent market-share stronghold, but when it comes to Smartphones, Microsoft is getting beat up worse than a mustachioed villain in a Jackie Chan movie.

“Windows Mobile has lost nearly a third of its Smartphone market share since 2008, research firm Gartner reports. Windows Mobile had 11 percent of the global Smartphone market in the third quarter of 2008, according to Gartner, and last quarter Windows Mobile’s market share plummeted to 7.9 percent.

“Meanwhile, Apple’s global market share grew from 12.9 percent to 17.1 percent, and RIM saw a rise from 16 percent to 20.8 percent, according to Gartner’s figures.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Dinosaur vs. The Cloud

Why is it so hard to kill a web 1.0 dinosaur” asks Scott Kirsner in his blog this week? To investigate, Scott interviews Matt Douglas, founder of MyPunchbowl.

If you are not familiar with MyPunchbowl, it is a great party planning site. I will be using it to send out both ecards and invitations to our holiday parties, although it can do much more.

“In many ways, they've built a site that has surpassed the Web 1.0 dinosaur of party planning, Evite” writes Kirsner. “MyPunchbowl makes it much easier to decide upon the best date for a gathering among a group of friends, or organize a potluck where everyone brings a different dish, for instance… but MyPunchbowl (founded in 2007) still lags way behind Evite (founded in 1997) in terms of usage.”

Yet MyPunchbowl forges ahead, announcing this week the acquisition of some assets from GroupGo of Waltham to help party hosts find local vendors, such as a flower shop, a balloon-delivery service, or a Mexican restaurant with a private dining room.

I asked Matt Douglas if had a technological advantage over established competitors? “Yes, absolutely -- we're heavily involved with Cloud Computing. In fact, you can mention that the new MyPunchbowl local vendor portal is built off of the Amazon EC2 cluster. Fast, robust, and scalable; perfect for a project like the local vendor portal and for a startup like MyPunchbowl.”

So we have here not just a clash of applications, but a clash of technologies. My bet is on Cloud technology and on MyPunchbowl.
Full disclosure: the eCoast Angels, of which I am a member, participated in the original financing of MyPunchbowl.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Metcalfe’s Law, let me count the ways…

I keep pondering the implications of a billion connected people and a trillion connected devices. These estimates, from my post on IBM and Cloud Computing, originated with IDC market research, predicting that by 2011, there will be one trillion Internet-connected devices, up from 500 million in 2006.

But if that is the size of the network, what is the value of this network?

Metcalfe's Law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users. Using Google, I determined that one billion squared is a quintillion, a one followed by 18 zeroes.

But are users just people? According to the Wikipedia, Metcalfe's Law was originally presented, circa 1980, not in term of users, but rather of "compatibly communicating devices." Is the value of the network going to be a trillion squared, which is a septillion, a one followed by 24 zeroes?

I suspect that if we toss out a quintillion here, a septillion there, eventually it will add up to real money.

For more discussion of Metcalf’s Law and its relevance, read Simeon Simeonov’s “Metcalfe’s Law: more misunderstood than wrong?”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cloud Briefing in Technology Review

MIT’s Technology Review Magazine this month contains an excellent 11-page briefing on Cloud Computing. This briefing, with interactive diagrams, can be viewed by clicking here.

A few tidbits:

Key players in this field include: Werner Vogels, Amazon; Jim Blakley, Intel; Reuven Cohen, Enomaly; Dave Douglas, Sun; Kevin Gibbs, Google; Kristof Kloeckner, IBM; Ray Ozzie, Microsoft; and James Urquhart, Cisco.

Private companies to watch are 10Gen, 3Tera, Appistry, Elastra, Enomaly, XCalibre, ServePath, Heroku, RightScale, and Joyent.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Is Zipcar leading a second generation of iPhone Apps?

Fully one quarter of Zipcar members use iPhones, according to Zipcar’ s Luke Schneider, who unveiled a new iPhone app at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. Scott Kirsner reports “it got me salivating (I'm a Zipcar member): it offers GPS help finding cars that are available, and can even honk the car's horn to help you locate it in a parking lot. See the video demo here, wherein Schneider shows off their use of Apple’s 3.0 SDK mapkit and demonstrates the Honk icon to spontaneous applause.

From Kirsner’s Innovation Economy blog: “Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith told me today that he has already been testing the beta version on his iPhone, with a few of the company's cars here in Boston. ‘We're finishing the app now, and then we have to do a complete new software download to our whole car network, so that iPhones will have the ability to honk the horn and unlock the car for you,’ Griffith said. The app will be free. Griffith estimates that it'll be available in about four weeks. Future versions of the Zipcar app, he added, might give Zipcar members discounts on music, or deals on iPhone navigation apps or other travel-related apps.

Could this be the start of a new wave, the Second Generation of iPhone Apps? It took fifteen years to get to third generation computers (IBM/360). Can an iPhone generation be less than a year?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Skyhook included in Dell Netbooks

Skyhook Wireless Inc. , one of the companies we follow, has closed a deal with Dell Inc. to supply its hybrid Wi-Fi and geographical positioning system for integration into Dell’s Mini 10 netbook.

“I think what’s really neat about this is that this is the first time we have seen this new category of netbooks looked at as a purely mobile device. They look at it as more of an enriched Smartphone” says Skyhook founder and CEO Ted Morgan.

Initially, two Skyhook applications will be offered with the Dell Wireless 700 location solution: CoPilot and the Loki Dashboard. CoPilot is a navigation application that gives turn-by-turn driving directions as well as local search of key points of interest. The Loki Dashboard is a web portal that uses the netbook’s Skyhook-based location engine to customize widgets for news, weather, tweets, photos and events around you.

For more information, try Mass. High Tech. A description of Skyhook’s technology can be found here in my blog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Intel Capital Still Investing Aggressively

So many articles have appeared recently describing how venture capitalists are NOT investing that we can forgive the entrepreneurs among us for thinking it rains every day here in NH.

In contrast, Intel seems to be a pretty optimistic company, and not just because Intel CEO Paul Otellini recently said he saw quarterly sales at the chip giant return to "normal" levels. While many venture capitalists have been hunkering down since last October, Intel's venture capital unit has been actively looking at deals.

Lucy McQuilken, Investment Manager at Intel Capital, confirms that she is aggressively looking for investments. "We're very active," she said. "It's an excellent time to invest. We invested through the last downturn in 2001 and I think we wished we invested more. Some great companies were built during that time."

To learn more, click here to view Bambi Francisco’s interview with Lucy on Vator TV News.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

IBM investing $100 million advancing mobile services


IBM just announced plans to shift $100 million investment over the next five years into a major Research effort which aims to advance mobile services and capabilities for businesses and consumers worldwide.

"Mobility and the associated analytics will change virtually every enterprise business process," said Paul Bloom, chief technologist, IBM Telecom Research. "It will change the relationship between enterprises and their customers, their employees and their partners, enabling them to do business in more intelligent, efficient ways."

When I created this blog, I saw little attention being focused on the area where smart phones and business apps intersect. Once again, in our field, change can be rapid. In the future, I intend to concentrate this blog on analysis and interpretation, rather than breaking news. Journalists from the trade press have more timely, complete and accurate information and better access to company executives than I have.

The NY Times broke this story about mobile services this morning, but if you are interested in more details, I’d suggest you read today’s press release directly from IBM.

With its “cloud” announcement tuesday, and its “mobile” announcement today, IBM has once again revised the rules of the industry without consulting the other players. Competitive advantage: IBM. Exciting times lie ahead.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

IBM’s “Cloud for Business”

IBM today introduced the industry’s first set of commercial “cloud” services and integrated products for the enterprise, claiming “this will give clients a reliable way to standardize IT functions that are rapidly becoming too costly or difficult to use.”

IBM endorses the prospect of a billion connected people and a trillion connected devices. This estimate originates with IDC, predicting that by 2011, there will be one trillion Internet-connected devices, up from 500 million in 2006.

An early analysis of the announcement, “I.B.M. to Help Clients Fight Cost and Complexity,” appeared in the NY Times yesterday.

This announcement is complex, we’ll all need time to evaluate it, so I’ll just include a few selections from the IBM Press Release, which you can find right here in its entirety, and which contains links to additional material:

Based on nearly two years of research and hundreds of client engagements, the IBM Smart Business cloud portfolio is meant to help clients turn complex business processes into simple services. To accomplish this, Smart Business brings sophisticated automation technology and self-service to specific digital tasks as diverse as software development and testing; desktop and device management; and collaboration.

From utility grids to roadways, water systems and financial instruments, the world’s physical infrastructure is rapidly becoming more instrumented and IT-enabled, and corporate data centers will have to deal with a new flood of transactions and data coming from a billion connected people and a trillion connected devices. These offerings are aimed at helping clients deal with entirely new kinds of tasks and the colossal data burdens facing the data center.

“Cloud is an important new consumption and delivery model for IT and business services. Large enterprises want our help to capitalize on what this model offers in a way that is safe, reliable and efficient for business,” said Erich Clementi, General Manager, Enterprise Initiatives, IBM. “Today’s Smart Business announcement demonstrates that we take this responsibility seriously with cloud investment and solutions targeting the early opportunity. We are responding today as we did assisting enterprises with the shift to e-business and in the embrace of open source and Linux.”

The IBM Smart Business portfolio includes three “on-ramps,” or ways to quickly deploy the cloud model:
· IBM Smart Business standardized services on the IBM Cloud;
· Smart Business private cloud services behind the firewall built by IBM (run by IBM or the client);
· and IBM CloudBurst workload optimized systems, for clients who want to build to their own cloud with pre-integrated hardware and software.

All three offerings include IBM’s service management system – a kind of air traffic control system for IT – that automates self-service, provisioning, monitoring as well as managing access and security for the cloud. This reflects IBM’s leadership and more than $10 billion in investments over the last five years in control and automation technologies, which become critical as the digital and physical infrastructure converge.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Let us now praise iPhone users

Forrester Research says iPhone users are richer, younger, and perhaps even more productive at work than those who use competing smart phones. Few of you will believe that I am richer, younger, and more productive than Dan Bricklin, who uses a G1; although he also has an iPod touch so he can experiment with the interface.

Neil Hughes reports on the study in his blog on Apple Insider:

iPhone users are younger: 30 percent of iPhone users in 2008 were of Generation Y, a larger portion than the rest of the smart phone market,

iPhone users are more educated and affluent: 49 percent of iPhone users have a college education, and 67 percent earn more than $70,000 a year,

iPhone customers spend more on their service: the average monthly phone bill for an iPhone user was $87, compared to $76 for the smart phone market, and $66 for traditional mobile phone users,

Employers are slightly less likely to subsidize an iPhone: 24 percent of respondents with an iPhone said they are compensated by their employer for their phone bill, while 28 percent of smart phone users have their employee pay all or part of it.

Comparing customer Internet usage, the study shows that the iPhone blows away its competitors: 78 percent of iPhone users reported they access the Internet at least weekly on their phone, while only 38 percent of the rest of the smart phone market were on the mobile Web that often.

The study was performed last year, since which I have become neither younger nor more affluent. Disregarding Generation Y, Dan is a Baby Boomer, and I modestly describe myself as a member of the Greatest Generation.

I continue to recommend Dan's book: "Bricklin on Technology." One of his chapters: “What Will People Pay For?” has been reprinted in the Harvard Business Review. You can read an excerpt here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Itanium Awards: I'll be a Judge

The Itanium Solutions Alliance has just announced my selection as a judge for its third-annual Innovation Awards competition. “We are very pleased to have secured such a strong caliber of judges for this year's Innovation Awards," said Joan Jacobs, president and executive director of the Itanium Solutions Alliance. "The fact that this year's entries will be carefully evaluated and the winners selected by this distinguished panel of industry leaders adds another dimension of credibility to this prestigious awards competition."

The Itanium Solutions Alliance Innovation Awards were designed to recognize and reward end users and developers for outstanding use of Intel(R) Itanium-based servers in their applications. Individuals or organizations with Itanium-based solutions may enter, at no cost, in one of four categories: Mission-Critical Data, Data Center Modernization, Computationally Intensive Applications, and Humanitarian Impact. Winners will be honored at a special event during the Intel Developer Forum, September 23rd, 2009 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the winning submission in the Humanitarian Impact category will receive a $50,000 cash award.

The Itanium Solutions Alliance Innovation Awards judges for 2009 are:
Joe B. Alexander, strategy and technology consultant; educator
Ken Cayton, president, Systematic Market Analysis
Jon Erickson, editor in chief, Dr. Dobb's
Sverre Jarp, chief technology officer, CERN openlab
Dr. Rinaldo Jose, president and co-founder, Lakeway Technologies
George McQuilken, co-founder, eCoast Angels Investment Network
Michelle (Mickey) Pierce, senior product manager, Mainframe Migration Alliance, Microsoft
Dr. Andrew Razeghi, lecturer, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Clay Ryder, president, The Sageza Group
Dr. Mark K. Smith, executive director, Universal Parallel Computing Research Center, and managing director, Gelato Federation
Michael Vizard, director of strategic content, Ziff-Davis Enterprise

About the Itanium Solutions Alliance
The Itanium(R) Solutions Alliance is a global community of hardware, operating system and application vendors dedicated to accelerating the adoption and ongoing development of Itanium(R)-based solutions. Formed in September 2005, the Alliance comprises some of the most influential companies in the computing industry with a shared, strategic commitment to delivering mission-critical computing solutions based on the Intel(R) Itanium(R) architecture.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

RIP: IBM Systems Journal (1962-2009)

This Spring, without Obituary Notice, Memorial Service, or 21-gun salute, IBM quietly interred the venerable IBM Systems Journal, thereby laying to rest one of the great artifacts of the company that built the modern computer industry and laid the foundations for our modern connected world. I served as Editor of the Journal from 1974 to 1977, the best job I had at IBM, so I’d like to say a few words.

Having seriously underestimated the market for computers in the 1950s, IBM entered the 1960s with a burning zeal to create a great company and a great industry. One barrier was education; it was becoming apparent that the optimal use of digital computers in the enormously varied situations in which they were to be applied would require significant knowledge of many areas and an over-all systems approach.

At the time, there were almost no systems science or computer science departments in universities. To fill this void, the IBM Systems Research Institute was established as a graduate-level academy for IBM employees. Shortly thereafter (1962) the IBM Systems Journal was founded as an adjunct to the institute to disseminate information about computing systems, programming, and applications. The great John McPherson, one of the true pioneers of our industry, served as the first Director of the institute and as the main advocate for the IBM Systems Journal (SJ).

As the industry grew, so did the number of overlapping professional journals, and by the early 1970’s IBM considered eliminating the SJ. When I became Editor in 1974, it was with the understanding that we were to continue refocusing the journal to what I came to call “advancing the current practice of computing,” while most journals chose to focus on theory.

The results were heartening. Circulation increased to 65,000 making the IBM SJ the most widely read technical journal in the computing industry. Despite our emphasis on practice, a study based on the Science Citation Index showed us to be the fourth most referenced journal. Other changes included efforts to put the journal closer to a paying basis by increasing the number of paid subscriptions and selling reprinted articles for use in classes and seminars.

But the real value of the journal was not its weight at the postage meter, but its effect on the computing industry.

A foundation element in modern software engineering is software inspections, consisting of a peer review of any work product by trained individuals who look for defects using a well defined process (see Wikipedia definition). The origin of this now-common practice was work done by Mike Fagin at the IBM laboratory in Endicott NY. Fagan had published a lab report describing inspections, which Associate Editor Al Davis found and presented to me. Despite a perceived lack of scientific rigor in the original report, Davis worked closely with Fagan to produce “Design and code inspections to reduce errors in program development, published in 1976. This paper is probably the most widely read and reprinted article ever published in any IBM journal.

Another effect on the industry was our role in promoting relational data bases. I tried very hard to interest Ted Codd, inventor of the relational model, to prepare a paper for us, but he preferred the professional society journals. We did, however, discover an IBM research project in San Jose named “System R” and we worked diligently with the research team to record these developments, publishing significant papers in 1977 and 1981. Larry Ellison read about System R in our journal and proceeded to develop the Oracle relational data base, thus transforming the IT industry and making himself (today) the fourth wealthiest man in the world.

So now, with the help of YouTube, it is time to organize our wake. I’ll play the Pogues’ “Body of an American.” You can join them singing “Danny Boy.” And perhaps we can all share A Wee Deoch-an-Doris for the IBM Systems Journal, for the many fine folks who contributed to it, and for Auld Lang Syne. (Warning –consuming this beverage would be cause for dismissal from the old IBM).

Footnote: for more detail, refer to ”A History of the IBM Systems Journal “ by George C. Stierhoff and Alfred G. Davis, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1998.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Skyhook Locator System in NY Times today

A concise and informative article on Skyhook and its Locator System appears in the Business Section of Today’s NY Times. Whereas the Times does not make its site available to non subscribers, you can find some of the same information on my earlier blog post on Skyhook’s CEO, Ted Morgan.

I do find certain confusion in the industry about location sensing, its capabilities and how it works. On the iPhone, location sensing takes place as follows.

When the owner selects an application involving location, such as Tides, Latitude, Yelp, Loopt, Car finder, or Taxi Magic, the iPhone calculates whether it is likely to get the best and fastest information from its own GPS chip or from Skyhook’s system.

GPS searches for Satellites. Skyhook checks a list of nearby Wi-Fi access points and cell towers against its database and triangulates the device’s location within 30 to 60 feet. Skyhook claims its system, XPS, is superior whenever GPS signals are blocked by walls or trees, and that XPS responds much more quickly than GPS. The Skyhook data base now includes more than 100 million wireless networks and 700,000 cellular towers.

Skyhook’s XPS is now installed on 37 million Apple iPhones and iPod Touches worldwide, as well as a variety of other devices. The company says it handles 250 million location requests a day. Good show, Skyhook!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reading Dan Bricklin on Technology

I’ve been fascinated by a new book, Bricklin on Technology. I’m not the only one. The omnipresent Scott Kirsner tweeted that reading this book “is like downloading a few gigs of Dan directly to your cerebral cortex.”

Rather than concentrate on one review, I think I will work some of his thoughts into a number of posts, this one stressing the importance of Apps for the PC and the Smart Phone. Then again, perhaps these are my thoughts, but he provoked them.

VisiCalc, introduced thirty years ago this month at the1979 West Coast Computer Faire by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, went on from there to change forever the computer industry. For the arrivistes among us, VisiCalc was the world’s first spreadsheet, progenitor of today’s Excel and many programs in between.

Personal Computers were available in 1979 (though not the IBM PC), but, before VisiCalc, there was no compelling reason to buy one. VisiCalc’s ability to update rows and columns in real time not only gave the user a way to revise financial statements but provided a superior solution to that offered by alternatives such as mainframe-based time sharing systems. Typically, a mainframe would have to upload an entire screen from a remote terminal, perform the update, and then rewrite the entire screen, far less timely and user friendly than VisiCalc on the Apple II.

Moreover, VisiCalc was a tool that could be adapted to many purposes, such as developing a complete financial model of a business. And, as a business tool, the purchaser could likely deduct the cost of VisiCalc and a home computer from his income taxes.

The other general purpose tool introduced at the time was word processing. The Apple II was never a great word processor, due in part to the keyboard and display. The preeminent word processor of its day was the Wang Word Processor, a cluster of microprocessor controlled screens sharing a disk drive. This product line was so successful that, at its peak in the 1980s, Wang Laboratories had annual revenues of $3 billion and employed over 40,000 people.
Enter the IBM PC (1981) with spreadsheets and word processing; exit Wang and the minicomputer companies, DEC, Prime, Data General, Nixdorf, and more.

The great strength of computers is that they are general purpose machines. As such, they don’t really solve any specific problem; it is the software that provides the solution. PC manufacturers understand this. Before the Apple App store, cell phone makers tended to develop proprietary software that served a few purposes, all related to being a cell phone, not a general purpose problem solver.

My conclusion: in the marketplace derby, the general purpose programmable device always comes from behind to overtake and defeat specialized (and therefore arbitrarily limited) implementations. Cell phone manufacturers, beware.

How VisiCalc and the early word processors evolved into Excel and Word is a fascinating story, a business and legal story as well as a technological one, but to tell it would take a big book, not a blog.

Historical footnote. Dan Bricklin received his first IBM PC prototype from my former colleague at the IBM Cambridge Scientific Center, Fritz Giesin. I had left IBM in January, 1981, and never knew this. It was a circuit board on a piece of plywood with sockets to plug in a keyboard, etc.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New England Innovation Month

A flock of unnamed local activists has conspired to designate June as “New England Innovation Month,” complete with a web site. Check out the Innovation Month homepage for a list of events and happenings.

I consider this a great idea, and early responses are encouraging. “ New England’s innovators and innovative companies, we believe, will be key players in economic recovery and the long-term economic strength of the entire country. And forging new connections between diverse people with fresh ideas is a critical part of the innovation process—and a fundamental part of Xconomy’s mission. So we’re proud to be part of a month in which there will be so many opportunities to do just that,” says Rebecca Zacks.

One session I’ll attend is on June 25, moderated by Scott Kirsner: "What's Next in Tech: Exploring the Growth Opportunities of 2009 and Beyond."

“The idea is to provide a picture of the tech clusters that are going to drive the next waves of growth here in Massachusetts, from cloud computing to robotics to videogames to energy efficiency to social media,” says Scott. “Speakers include venture capitalist Bijan Sabet from Spark Capital, iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, Brian Halligan of HubSpot, and Tim Healy, who runs the publicly-traded EnerNOC.

“One goal leading up to the event is to start some blog conversation about the high-potential areas in tech right now... a discussion we'll obviously continue at the event on June 25th.”

My colleague Don Dodge and others have already joined the conversation. Don sees the next big things in tech as Cloud Computing, Mobile Applications, Social Networks, and what he calls “Hyper local News, Search, Community.” Don explains his reasoning in his blog. Read Don’s post here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cell Phone Design, 1983 to 2009

Guy Kawasaki sent a Tweet this weekend about the evolution of Cell Phone Design between 1983-2009. The collection of photos is most impressive.

I was introduced to the first of these phones, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, by Al Berkeley, then a General Partner at Alex. Brown. Alex. Brown, who had unwritten the first IPO in America back in 1808, brought public some of the most exciting growth companies of those times, including Microsoft, Oracle Systems, Starbucks, and United Healthcare. Al himself was instrumental in creating a public market for software stocks and, later, cell phones.

That day, we were looking for a cab to the airport; Al took us outside and called the dispatcher of an empty cab that was driving by. I’ve never forgotten this particular demonstration.

If this was my list, I would have included the recently announced Nokia 6216 since it is the first commercially available cell phone with Near Field Communications capabilities. You can read about it in Gerald Madlmayr’s blog.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Videos, humor, Ballmer disses the iPhone

It being a dreary Saturday, I’m looking around for amusing items. This brief video poking fun at iPhones, iPhone Apps, and social networks uses language no worse than my Granddaughter uses on Facebook, so it must be OK.

I’m less amused by Steve Ballmer’s recent comments. “There’s still, in my opinion, more venture capital than there are good ideas to support the venture capital,” Ballmer said in a speech to Stanford students studying entrepreneurship as part of the school’s “Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders” series. As the worldwide economy contracts, fewer mediocre business ideas will get funded, he said. That will result in a healthier startup environment than exists now, when “too many companies can hang on for almost too long with too much money.”

Of course, the flaw in his argument lies in our imperfect ability to separate the good ideas from the bad in their early stages. If you would like see an amusing but significant example, look at this video from 30 months ago, Microsoft CEO Ballmer laughs at Apple iPhone. A sample, “We’re selling millions and millions and millions of phones this year, Apple is selling zero.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Parking, FasTrak, and Wireless Payments

Whereas payments are central to business Apps for smart phones, I thought I’d describe some wireless methods that are currently under consideration. I was inspired to do so by the following news from the left coast.

Parkers at San Francisco's International Airport can now use their FasTrak transponder to pay for their parking. They have been testing it on a few lots at the airport and get about 200 transactions a day. This month, the system will expand to all the parking area at SFO. If it becomes popular the concept will be extended to Oakland and San Jose.

California’s FasTrak system, typically used for highway and bridge tools, is called the E-ZPass here in the East, and goes by other names in other regions. Think of it as an RFID chip used for Transportation payments.

“This is the beginning of the end of cash usage at parking lots, opines John Van Horn, founder, editor and publisher of Parking Today Magazine and blogger at PT’s Parking Blog. “ Soon (five years) cars will have transponders and they will be linked to your credit card, and queuing for entry tickets or exit payments will be a thing of the past. It may be even reasonable some day to not have gates at all, like on many toll roads.”

At least three payment methods are currently being considered for smart phone implementation.

FasTrak (E-Zpass). These and similar systems rely on a transponder in the car and a reader located at the tollbooth, both typically provided by Mark IV Transportation Technologies. The transponder consists of an RFID chip packaged with a battery. When the transponder comes within range of the reader, the ID is transmitted and verified at the reader. Processing is offline. When the motorist purchases the transponder, funds are deducted from her credit card ($30 here in NH) and transferred to the FasTrak operator. Tolls are deducted from this amount until a minimum threshold is reached, when another $30 will be charged to the card by the operator.

Tap and Go.
An RFID chip with an antenna is embedded in a credit card. When the card comes in close proximity to the reader, an electrical current is created and the ID (credit card number) is transferred. Further processing, including authorization and payment, takes place online as it does with any credit card. The official name for this is Near Field Communication, as described in my earlier post.

Stored Value. Funds are actually stored on the card, in memory, and the amount is reduced as the card is used. One good example, from the pre-RFID days, is the Parcxmart Card used to pay for parking and miscellaneous small dollar purchases in New Haven and other Cities. Cards are sold and funds are added by participating merchants, paid by either cash or credit.

Smart phones have batteries, have processing power, and have far better transmission capability than any of the methods described above. Smart phones are user programmable, so major portions of the application could be shifted to the phone itself. Moreover, smart phones could allow direct two-way communication between the parking operator and the consumer. So why don’t we have better payment methods for smart phones? Watch this space and ask me later.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nokia App Store This Month?

Forbes is reporting today that Nokia is preparing an App Store second in size only to Apple's for roll out later this month, thus opening up vast opportunities for a new group of independent developers.

Though Apple, Research In Motion and Google already offer similar services, Nokia's launch promises to be the biggest app store opening yet and could re-shape the mobile applications market writes Elizabeth Woyke,

The store, which the company is calling Ovi Store after the Finnish word for "door," will debut with a catalog of 20,000 items. In comparison, Apple and RIM launched their stores with a few hundred apps, although Apple claims 35,000 apps today. Google's store opened with a few dozen.

“Users can access the store two different ways. It will ship pre-loaded on the company's new flagship handset, the N97, before July, and be included in phones released in the future. Consumers who own other, recent Nokia phones will also be able to download the store from the Web onto their handsets. The idea: People will buy more Nokia devices if they are paired with great services.

“The store is so large because Nokia is stocking it with a broader selection of digital content. The company says there will be lots of entertainment and media files, including an entire category of short videos and "mobisodes." The store's 20,000 items will be across all of these categories, not just apps.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Making Money Selling Free Apps?

How much money can you make from a free iPhone application? Quite a bit says Jason Kincaid, writing in TechCrunch.

A report from AdWhirl says that applications that crack the top 100 in the Free Apps list make $400-$5000 a day - a wide range, but even at the low end that works out to around $12,000 a month. And while applications that do reach the top positions in the App Store eventually lose steam, after the initial dip revenue tends to remain consistent over time. Of course, making it to the top of the Free Apps list is easier said than done, and most developers make far less than $400 a day. But the same is also true of the vast majority of paid applications - in fact, there’s actually less competition on the Free side of the store.

As for AdWhirl, the company allows developers to tap into multiple iPhone ad networks at once. It is obviously in AdWhirl’s interest to promote iPhone advertising, since that’s their business. But it’s clear that there are definitely quite a few free applications making good money.

Anyway, cheapskates such as myself no longer have to feel guilty about selecting free Apps. And when Blackberry and Nokia open their own App stores, it will certainly unleash the creativity of lots more application developers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Smart Phone as your Mainframe?

The emergence of the Mobile Computing Cloud (McCloud) may lead to surprising innovations; here is one effort to give superpowers to your smart phone. Researchers at Intel in Berkeley create a supercharged clone of your smart phone that lives in "the cloud" and lets it do all the computational heavy lifting that your phone is too weak to handle.

CloneCloud uses a smart phone's high-speed connection to the Internet to communicate with a copy of itself that lives in a cloud-computing environment on remote servers. The prototype runs on Google's Android mobile operating system and seamlessly offloads processor-intensive tasks to its cloud-based double.

Of course, one could imagine an alternate implementation including smart phone and cloud based VM hypervisors that shift the workload automatically, no double required.

“But CloneCloud wouldn't just make smart phones more efficient: it could also make them more capable. A test application developed by Chun performs face recognition on photos. It required 100 seconds of processor time on a standard Android phone, but it finished in only one second when run by a clone of the phone running on a desktop computer. Because the software runs on a cloud-computing platform, it can be scaled in terms of the amount of both memory allocated and processing power, both of which increase performance on computationally intensive tasks.”

This work, developed by Byung-Gon Chun, a research scientist at Intel Research Berkeley, and his colleague Petros Maniatis, was recently reported by Christopher Mims in Technology Review and will be presented HotOS XII conference in Switzerland later this month.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Choose the Cloud, Lose Money, Who Says So?

Shortly after blogging about the MIT Symposium featuring Amazon’s approach to cloud computing, I found a report , McKinsey: Adopt the cloud, lose money, in the Register, which I put aside for additional thought and later comment. I had opined that victory in the Cloud market eventually goes to the low-cost producer.

When virtualizing private data centers, a company takes a powerful server and subdivides it into many servers to increase efficiency. This consolidation provides the necessary cost justification for the switch to virtual machines, leading to the current great success of VMware and others. This is the approach favored by McKinsey. Google, in contrast, does the opposite by taking a large set of low cost commodity systems and tying them together into one large supercomputer. At this level, the Amazon and Google approaches are similar.

Recently, the Official Google Blog helped clarify the issues. “While most discussions of cloud computing and data center design take place at the hardware level, we offer a set of scalable services that customers would otherwise have to maintain themselves in a virtualization model. For example, if a company wanted to implement a typical three tier system in the cloud using virtualization, they would have to build, install, and maintain software to run the database, app server, and web server. This would require them to spend time and money to acquire the licenses, maintain system uptime, and implement patches.“

In contrast, with a service like Google App Engine, customers get access to the same scalable application server and database that Google uses for its own applications. This means customers don't have to worry about purchasing, installing, maintaining, and scaling their own databases and app servers. All a customer has to do is deploy code, and we take care of the rest. You only pay for what you need, and, with App Engine's free quota, you often don't pay anything at all.”

My view so far: the benefits of the Cloud cannot be beat for new companies and new applications. For legacy applications McKinsey may have a good point, but the data is unclear. So for now, I agree with this approach:“As companies weigh private data centers vs. scalable clouds, they should ask a simple question: can I find the same economics, ease of maintenance, and pace of innovation that is inherent in the cloud?” asks Rajen Sheth, Senior Product Manager, Google Apps.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Clouds, Smart Phones, and Virtual Machines

Having recently participated in forums on both Mobile and on Cloud Computing, both well run, intellectually stimulating, and attended by hundreds, you might infer that I have been discussing which technology will be more significant. The forums, in Cambridge MA, were held only eight days and 12 minutes walking distance apart, yet appeared to attract disparate audiences. Outside of myself, the only person I saw attending both forums was Mike Werner, Platform Strategy Advisor- Cloud Computing, Microsoft.

Ask me to declare a winner, I say virtual machine concepts. The combination of Smart Phones and Clouds, connected through a revived belief in virtual machines, will be the new paradigm. It needs a new name, maybe McCloud (the Mobile Computing Cloud).

Meanwhile, some parties are battling over ownership of the old paradigms. From

VMware CEO Paul Maritz took another jab at IBM, sometimes called a pioneer of virtualization because of its use of the technology in its mainframes.

"Even IBM, which likes to claim to be the inventor of virtualization, didn't fully realize and anticipate what could have been done with this technology," Maritz said. "It's not about individual machines but about how groups of servers relate to each other."

First and foremost, Virtual Machine operating systems were invented at IBM’s Cambridge Scientific Center by a team led by Bob Creasy. I would give much of the credit for extending the virtual machine outside the bounds of its host to my friend Edson Hendricks, who developed the RSCS networking subsystem, which he described in a seminal paper in the IBM Systems Journal. Ed’s subsystem became the basis for VNET, IBM’s internal network which in the 1970s became one of the largest computer networks in the world.

This is not to disparage the fine work done by VMware and others extending the virtual machine concept, but putting the virtual devices on the network opened up many of these possibilities. You can do more today with a multi-gigabit packet switching network than you could with a 2400 bit dial-up line.

I referred to Ed’s paper recently while I was preparing an SBIR proposal for a virtual machine security subsystem; his approach holds up very well, thirty years later.

The scramble for credit reminds me of my old friend, Eddie Bernays, who organized a festival commemorating the 50th anniversary of Edison’s invention of the light bulb. Attendees included President Hoover, Henry Ford, Orville Wright, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Madame Curie.

I fondly anticipate that most of you will participate in the 50th anniversary of Cloud Computing, honoring me as the inventor of the concept. What’s that you say: I didn’t invent Cloud Computing? Well, Edison didn’t invent the light bulb either; you can look it up in your Wikipedia. Then again, Thomas Edison and I both knew Eddie Bernays, the Father of Modern Public Relations; Long life to all.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What is Near Field Communications?

Near Field Communication or NFC is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology enabling the exchange of data between devices over about a 10 centimeter (around 4 inches) distance. NFC is primarily aimed at usage in mobile phones. The technology is a simple extension of the proximity-card standard. An NFC device can communicate with existing contactless smartcards and readers, and is thereby compatible with the contactless infrastructure already in use for security, public transportation, and payment.

Plenty of applications are possible, such as:

Mobile ticketing in public transport — an extension of the existing contactless infrastructure,
Mobile payment — the device acts as a debit/ credit payment card,
Smart poster — the mobile phone is used to read RFID tags on outdoor billboards in order to get info on the move.

Future applications could include:

Electronic ticketing — airline tickets, concert/event tickets, and others,
Electronic money -- stored on the card and used like cash,
Travel cards—parking, museum discounts, tourist passes,
Identity documents -- student IDs, recreation pass, dump sticker,
Mobile commerce -- ads, coupons, payments, gifts, loyalty programs,
Electronic keys — car keys, house/office keys, hotel room keys, etc.,
NFC can be used to configure and initiate other wireless network connections such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The MIT Mobile Experience Lab recently issued a 45-page report on NFC and student life:

“We developed the following directions in which new innovative ways of using NFC with the mobile phone could be developed: Ubiquitous information, Health/Safety, Networking, eMoney, Smart Mobility, Entertainment, and Smart Objects. An example of ubiquitous information would be a virtual tour guide where the user could tap his/her phone on the tags as they toured a place, and thus consult the information pertaining to the site, as well as receive information about next items on the itinerary, where to eat/drink, and also the main commercial activities in the area. This system could easily be ported to libraries, museums, stores, etc. In regards to Health, a person could easily use NFC to record their workout data from exercise machines, as well as monitor their daily calorie consumption when ordering from smart menu boards. With this information, your phone could give timely diet suggestions, gym programs, and doctor alerts.”

The hot application for NFC, which some believe will be the killer app, is using the cell phone as a credit card. VISA and MasterCard have both recently announced a number of large-scale pilot implementations worldwide. Nokia has announced new NFC enabled phones. Blaze Mobile has announced the Blaze Mobile Wallet as an iPhone App, while also announcing a joint effort with MasterCard Worldwide to promote an NFC based mobile payment sticker that can be affixed to any cell phone, allowing “Tap & Go" purchases at any of the over 141,000 merchant locations currently accepting PayPass. To my surprise, there are already 20 PayPass locations in Portsmouth, NH, and 30 in Portland, ME. You can search for merchants in your own town here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

iPhone: the Dreadnought of the 21st Century?

I found such a well written post on the iPhone by MG Siegler in TechCrunch that I felt a need to send you a couple of excerpts.

First a few facts: “People can downplay the actual number of iPhones in circulation all they want — the fact of the matter is that it has changed things. While there were some third-party mobile app developers before Apple’s App Store, they received almost no attention, and as such, it wasn’t really a viable business. Now, everyone and their mother is flocking to develop for the App Store. And every major mobile player is rushing to make their own app stores. But Apple’s already has over 35,000 apps — and in a few short hours, there will have been one billion apps downloaded in just 9 months.”

Now a strong opinion: “The fact of the matter is, that iPhone is simply the best all-in-one device that I’ve ever owned. I cannot imagine my life without it now. I would be lost — sometimes literally — without it. I say that because I know that of the 21 million iPhone owners out there — there are a great deal who feel the exact same way. That may be annoying, and may even sound pretentious to those who don’t own an iPhone — but I’m giving you my honest take as someone who has owned and/or tried a lot of the so-called “smartphones” out there.”

As I write, MG’s post has generated 125 comments, some of which are very insightful. Take a look.

As for Dreadnoughts, The British battleship HMS Dreadnought had such an impact when launched in 1906 that battleships built after her were referred to as 'dreadnoughts'. The arrival of the dreadnoughts sparked a technology-based arms race, principally between Britain and Germany but reflected worldwide, as the new class of warships became a crucial symbol of national power.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What is a Smart Phone?

I wish to post some thoughts on smart cards as payment devices: possible replacements for credit cards or even a possible electronic wallet. To do so, I feel I have to write about Smart Phones, about NFC (Near Field Communication), and about the two in combination. Rather than prepare one long multi-topic post, I’m dividing this topic into three parts to make it more reader friendly. The three parts will be:

What is a Smart Phone?
What is Near Field Communications?
My Quest for a Smart Phone with NFC

Here is the easy part. By my definition, a “Smart Phone” contains at least the following elements:

· Powerful hand-held computer, with integrated keyboard and display,
· User programmable, with a large library of applications available,
· Allows attachment of a wide variety of input and output devices (e.g. Bluetooth),
· Attaches to multiple high-speed networks selecting the best for the job (e.g. GSM, 3G, WiFi),
· Can sense its location,
· Battery powered,
· Can back-up data or synch data with a computer,
· Can be linked to a computer for data and program downloads.

I recognize that some of these terms are subjective. For example, “powerful” and “high speed” are clearly defined by the alternatives available today. Kevin Short from UNH helped me with this definition.

Another view can be found here in the Wikipedia. This is my blog, we’ll use my view. Comments encouraged.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Silver Lining in the Cloud

A standing room only crowd approaching 400 crammed the auditorium of MIT’s silliest looking building last night for the Innovation Series program on Cloud Computing featuring Amazon’s Adam Selipsky, VP Product Management and Developer Relations, Amazon Web Services.

The full title of the event was “Sunny Days Ahead for the Cloud Environment: What’s Real for You,” and Amazon certainly appears to have found the silver lining in the “cloud ecosystem.”

Rather than a standard sales presentation, wherein the speaker provides a self serving definition of cloud computing, to which his products compare favorably, Adam Selipsky very credibly built his case from the bottom up.

At Amazon, they felt they were very good at developing loosely coupled systems and applications, using low-cost hardware, and were clearly very experienced at eCommerce applications. Building on that base, they set the following design principles for their cloud offering:

· Reliable
· Elastic
· Low-Latency
· Secure
· Easy-to-Use
· Pay-as-you-Go

Adam cited the two major advantages the Amazon cloud offers are speed of development and low cost. Speed of development comes because Amazon provides self-service interfaces to their modules that are both simple and intuitive. As for cost and pricing, Adam points out that buying services rather than hardware allows a young company to turn potential capital expenditure into variable expenditure. And pay-as-you-go allows users to start small, confident that capacity will be there when needed.

Even today, Adam feels that his cloud can provide capacity, such as disk storage, at very favorable rates compared to the industry at large. From what I have seen, I agree. But to continue to provide competitively low prices, Amazon will have to become a low cost provider of cloud services and capacity.

I recall once seeing a framework, based on Michal Porter’s writings on competitive advantage, mapping the growth of a company through four stages:

· Technology Leader
· Market Leadership
· Financial Leader
· Low Cost Producer

Were I a financial analyst, I would wonder if Amazon can truly become and maintain a position of low cost producer. As an entrepreneur, I worry that the low cost producer is seldom much of an innovator. But perhaps the Amazon cloud and its 540,000 developer accounts is an innovation engine not seen before in industry. And the developer number grows by 50,000 every quarter.
Local companies, speakers, and panelists included:

Chair: Sim Simeonov, Polaris Venture Partners
Fumi Matsumota, CTO, Allurent
Spike Washburn, CEO, Stax Networks
Frank Gillett, VP, Forrester Research
Roman Stanek, CEO, GoodData
Richard Reiner, CEO, Enomaly
Josh Fraser, VP, RightScale

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It’s 9PM, do You know where YOU are?

Today, 1500 iPhone apps use Skyhook’s XPS for location-finding service. Ted Morgan, CEO of Skyhook Wireless, described the rapid growth of his company to the recent Xconomy Forum on Mobile Innovation.

XPS is the world's first true hybrid positioning system. By combining the unique benefits of GPS, Cell Tower triangulation, and Wi-Fi Positioning, XPS delivers the same level of location quality whether indoors or outdoors, in the country or downtown.

The key advantages of XPS are that it is:

Fast:1 second location lookups,

Accurate:Ranges of 10m - 20m, indoors and outdoors,

Dependable:Everywhere you live, work and play.

To build its location data base, Skyhook today employs 500 contract drivers roaming the planet mapping Wi-Fi access points. Their location base has grown from 50 thousand to over 100 million points.

Skyhook had been struggling along on a combination of bootstrapping and angel financing until the day that Ted Morgan received a call from Steve Jobs. Actually, Ted was out of the office, so what he received was a phone message, which he was convinced was a prank. At the urging of his employees, Ted returned the call several hours later. Skyhook had a deal with Apple in six weeks and XPS was running on the iPhone in a few months. Today, XPS can run on most smart phones, but Apple still provides ninety per cent of Skyhook’s business.

Monday, April 13, 2009

iPhone: a billion application downloads!!

The Apple APP Store is rushing toward one billion downloads; you can watch the countdown here.

My mind boggles at the thought. My imagination staggers. Congratulations to all involved.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Mafia Wars" now available on iPhone

I spend very little time playing games on my computer or my iPhone, but the blogs were flying this week about iPhone availability for “Mafia Wars.”

Social gaming developer Zynga released “Mafia Wars” on Apple’s App Store, bringing the company’s incredibly popular game, which has over 9 million monthly users on Facebook alone, to the iPhone. You can grab the free game here (iTunes Link).

The game revolves around building up a virtual mafia family with other members, earning virtual cash to buy weapons, and performing ‘jobs’ to earn more. While the game play is primarily text based, Mafia Wars has an impressive interface and array of graphics that make it feel very polished.

Should I apologize to my grandson, Nicolai Innocenzia Agosta, for blatant ethnic stereotyping? Or should I just lie back, play the Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra channel on Pandora, and celebrate diversity?

More if you need it on TechCrunch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Report from the Mobile Innovation Forum

Yesterday’s Forum on the Future of Mobile Innovation in New England attracted an enthusiastic standing room only crowd. Organizer Wade Rush describes the program in his post, Exciting but Tricky Times for Mobile Entrepreneurs.

Some personal observations:

First, I had no idea that the New England Region was so prominent in the emerging Smart Phone applications industry. Although the cell phone was invented in the US, leadership quickly passed overseas. When Kevin Short founded Groove Mobile to download music, he signed up half a dozen European carriers before Sprint followed along. Not so with Smart Phone applications. The US is the leader, with New England a top regional contender.

Second, Harvey Tuch from VMware both announced and demonstrated MVP, the Mobilization Virtual Platform, a virtual machine implementation running on a Smart Phone. Harvey was able to load two operating systems and run two applications simultaneously. My prediction: this may be an extremely significant advantage for Enterprise Applications, a segment that was much praised but little discussed at the Forum.

Third, not one speaker mentioned Near Field Communication as the technology that may propel the cell phone and the smart phone into the commercial marketplace. NFC is an adaptation of contactless smart card technology to the cell phone, allowing applications such as transit payments, credit card transactions, building access, and numerous others to reside on the phone. The MIT Media Lab recently produced a white paper and a video on potential NFC applications.

I’ll post more on these topics in the future.

Monday, April 6, 2009

SecureID on the iPhone, and it's Free!

For a quarter century now, the security standard for logon access control has been the SecurID card from RSA Security. The card generates a random number, which when combined with your password, provides what is called two-factor authentication: the password being something you know, and the random number proving you have the SecurID card in your possession. This random number, sometimes called a passcode, changes every minute so even a man-in-the-middle attack is likely to fail.

You can get make your iPhone into a security card by downloading a free application, VIP Access, developed by VeriSign. And VeriSign has already signed up AOL, PayPal, and eBay as sites that will verify both your password and passcode when you log in.

When I read about this new application in the NY Times I immediately called Ken Weiss, the inventor of the SecurID card, and we both downloaded it. The installations went flawlessly. I also checked the comments on the iTunes site, and almost every reviewer gave it five stars.

VeriSign’s strategy is to provide the iPhone software for free. They intend to sell the server-side software to banks and other consumer oriented sites that demand extra identity verification. If you are developing your own application with both a server and smart phone component, you could do the same thing.

When introduced, the SecurID cards cost $50 each; the price has come down, but still far exceeds zero. How can VeriSign support this price breakthrough? Easily, because the SecurID cards are provided by RSA Security, a division of EMC Corp. But the original patents have expired, so VeriSign is now free to exploit the technology.

Incidentally, as the mathematically trained know, no machine-generated number is truly random, but it can be truly unpredictable, which the passcode is. Another application would be for you to start your own lottery, with a payoff every sixty seconds. Give it a try.

Dr. Kenneth Weiss was the inventor of the SecurID card and developed the framework of one, two and three factor authentication which is almost universally used today. Ken was the founder of Security Dynamics; I was the original CEO. Security Dynamics later purchased RSA Corp., the inventor of Public Key Encryption. The resulting Company was renamed RSA Security, which became the first computer security company to have a public stock offering.

iPhone: "Stop Me Before I Kill Again"

Everyone seemed to have so much fun with my earlier post, “The iPhone as a murder suspect,“ that I thought I’d give more scrutiny to this topic. The death of the phone booth pales in significance compared to the possible death of the PC industry.

Based on its success with the iPhone, AT&T now wants to sell “netbook” computers on a subsidized basis, bundled with a service plan, similar to the way it sells iPhones and dumb phones.

And, as is obvious, these netbooks could easily be extended to notebook and even desktop computers.

Were AT&T and other carriers to succeed in this approach, it would kill the personal computer industry as it exists today. Say goodbye Dell, Lenovo, HP, and others.

One Blogger, Faultline, questions whether or not Apple itself will bother with a netbook. “(Steve Jobs has said the iPhone does everything a netbook does anyway, and was reported as saying ‘We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk’), the issue really is whether or not you belong to the school of thought which says every network needs to have specialist operator supplied equipment or whether instead, you are a believer in open networks.” You can find Faultline’s entire post here.

Meanwhile, AT&T is rushing to rollout a major upgrade to its 3G mobile data service in anticipation of a tenfold increase in network traffic from new iPhone hardware expected to go on sale in June, as reported here by appleinsider.

Last month, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega said in an interview that "we have the infrastructure capability to go to 7.2 [Mbit/s], and we'll have the capability to go 14.4 and 20 in the next couple of years, so I think there's coverage we're going to improve, there's quality we're going to improve, and there's speed that's also going to get improved."

The current iPhone 3G only supports a maximum of 3.6 Mbit/s, so these plans would require you to purchase a new iPhone.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Learn iPhone Programmng

If you agree with my comments regarding the importance of iPhone software, you might want to consider taking a free Stanford course on developing iPhone software.

From Dan Stober of the Stanford News Service:

“Want to know how to write programs for the iPhone and iPod touch? Beginning this week, a Stanford computer science class on that buzzworthy topic will be available online to the general public for free.

“The 10-week course, iPhone Application Programming, is a hot ticket. It begins today and videos of the classes will be posted at Stanford on iTunes U two days after each class meeting ( Copies of the slides shown in class will be available there as well.

“The proliferation of third-party applications for Apple's iPhone has changed the device from a popular cell phone to a miniature computer. The Apple App Store offers more than 25,000 titles, dealing with everything from maps to business tools, games, photography, fishing and restaurant recommendations based on your location.”

For more, click on the link above.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

You can do more with Steve Jobs and $100 million than you can without either

One of the most amazing aspects of the iPhone is its ability to attract developers and applications. For perspective, Apple sold 11,000,000 3G iPhones in 2008, while 500,000,000 applications were downloaded.

Since smart phones are really powerful and compact hand-held computers, it should come as no surprise that users wish to develop or install new applications. Why did things seem so different before the iPhone?

In 2001, Kevin Short of UNH founded one of the first companies to build a successful business downloading and playing music on cell phones. Preparing software for the cell phones was very difficult. “There was a standard for the Java phones” recalls Short, “but there was enough wiggle room in the standard that no two phones were alike. We had to develop a new app for every phone. This was a bankrupt yourself situation. “

Short remains proud of his company’s technical achievements, starting with his propriety compression and transmission scheme. “We had the first touch screen phones, but the carriers wouldn’t even acknowledge it as a phone unless it had a keyboard. We also developed the capability in the software to select the best available network, but the management brought in by the V.C.'s made us drop that approach.”

Kevin’s company, originally named “Chaoticom,” later “Groove Mobile,” received its seed funding from the eCoast Angels and Kodiak Venture Partners. Groove Mobile was sold in 2008 and operates today as LiveWire Mobile.

As the original Chairman of Chaoticom, I take my hat off to Steve Jobs for taking a proprietary transmission scheme, touch screens, and network selection software and transforming the IT and communications industries, if not the world.

Office on your iPhone?

Blogging from the Web 2.0 Expo keynote, Jason Kincaid reports that Stephen Elop, President of Microsoft Business Division, hinted that we may be seeing Microsoft Office make its way to the iPhone sometime soon. After his interviewer Tim O’Reilly caught him on the comment, Elop backtracked a bit, stating “not yet, keep watching”. But it’s clear that an iPhone version of Office is on his mind.
Rumors of an Office client for the iPhone have been circulating as users clamor for a way to edit their Word and Excel files on the go (the iPhone allows them to view them, but doesn’t include any editing functionality).
I found Jason’s post on TechCrunch this morning; you should check it out for the comments, which were mostly unfavorable to Office. For more levity, you should check out this flickr mock up proposing what Office might look like on your iPhone.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The iPhone as a Murder Suspect

Ever since my sister Joyce and her friend, Steve, gave me an iPhone 3G for my birthday last July, I’ve been searching for ways to explain to my more conservative peers, particularly members of the eCoast Angels, why I think the iPhone is such a revolutionary device. Here is a fine explanation.

“You may not realize it, but your mobile phone is a cold-blooded killer,” writes Dan Shapiro.

“The first victim, the phone booth, wasn’t particularly well-loved, and nobody was expecting a complete extermination.

“The next victims were just “accidents.” Seen anyone whip out a paper address book lately? And who would have thought that a little thing like the clock on the phone’s home screen could cause so many business professionals to stop wearing watches? Just who, exactly, is next?”

Dan proposes the following framework for evaluation.

1. Every phone’s got it. Until a feature is a part of every phone, mainstream, non-tech-savvy America won’t notice that it’s there—camera phones only penetrated everyone’s consciousness when they were everywhere.
2. The user experience really works on a phone. Mobile TV is coming. SMS remains the definitive mobile success story, but don’t wait for the end of email.
3. It crosses the Good Enough Threshold. The “GET” is the point where the best phone experience exceeds the minimum consumer bar for the feature.

You can read Dan directly and see his list of likely murder victims by linking directly to his post. And thanks again, Joyce and Steve.

Mobile Computing Forum on April 7 in Cambridge

On April 7, Xconomy will hold its first-ever Forum on the Future of Mobile Innovation in New England. CEOs, engineers, analysts, and investors from more than 15 local companies and venture firms will be on hand at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center to share their insights and predictions and to tackle the audience’s questions.

For more details on the Forum, for registration, and to see a list of companies wanting to show off their technologies, go to Xconomy by clicking here.