Wednesday, March 31, 2010

KPCB Doubles iPhone Fund, Steve Jobs Happy, But Boston Developers Prefer Android

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) just announced the doubling of its venture capital iFund to $200 million for companies developing applications for Apple's iPhone OS family of products, including iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

"Kleiner Perkins has done a terrific job at finding, funding and supporting great iPhone app developers," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "We are thrilled that they are doubling the size of their fund, along with expanding it to now include iPad developers too."

Established in 2008 as a $100 million investment pool, fourteen iFund backed companies have been supported by an additional $330 million from follow-on investors.

KPCB also announced iFund-supported companies have more than 20 applications in development for the soon-to-be-released iPad, with 11 available at first ship on April 3. KPCB noted the iPhone has created an inflection in mobile content consumption and the iPad will lead the next wave of innovation in mobile computing. The iFund is increasing its investment dollars to back entrepreneurs and build companies that focus on these areas. Particular areas of interest on iPad include entertainment, communication, social networking, commerce, health care, and education.

"Welcome to the brave new post-PC era where a swoosh of fluidity replaces the traditional mouse-bound GUI. A new, truly revolutionary platform is rare, and a prize for entrepreneurs," said John Doerr, KPCB Partner. "We expect all ventures to have an iPad strategy. We will fund many more ventures for iPad, and the iFund will accelerate their success."

In Boston, developers prefer Android. As Erin Kutz wrote in Xconomy last month, “So the iPhone may be the prettiest, the Blackberry may boast the biggest smartphone market share, and the Windows Mobile platform is, um, around, but it’s Android that’s best for developing apps. Or at least it was the Android developers who best defended their platform at the smartphone smackdown during our Mobile Madness event.”

Of course, many new applications under development will likely be available on both platforms.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

IBM offers cloud for developers, not yet for mainframe developers, PayPal using it

Tuesday, IBM announced the availability of Smart Business Development and Test Cloud on the IBM Cloud, the commercial version of cloud services for software development and testing. These new services allow clients to do test and development on the shared IBM Cloud. Beta clients of these services include the Computer Software Initiative and PayPal.

At first, I found this announcement confusing. The reason for my befuddlement was that IBM previously delivered the similarly named Smart Business Development and Test Cloud, a private cloud. In this previous version, the cloud is built and managed by IBM, but located on the client premises and behind the client’s firewall.

Jennifer Knecht from IBM was nice enough to help me with a few questions.

Q. Are these cloud services available to entrepreneurs and new companies?

A. IBM is focused on delivering enterprise-class cloud services that are highly secure, flexible and reliable, and built for use with development teams. Small companies can certainly take advantage of these new services, and you'll see that we've announced partnerships with a number of small organizations and venture-backed companies today. Since the IBM cloud services are delivered in a flexible, consumption-based model, it gives smaller organizations a more predictable view into the costs they incur.

Q. Can these services be used for mainframe development?

A. George -- the initial version of Smart Business Development and Test Cloud on the IBM Cloud doesn't yet include support for mainframe development, but we're still in early stages. We'll share details about additional partners and technology support in the coming weeks and months. Let me know if you have any questions in the mean time.

From what I know today, the IBM Cloud with all of the Rational development tools available sounds like an excellent product. To me, the mainframe issue remains relevant. On the LinkedIn Mainframe Experts discussion group, this topic is arises repeatedly.

For example, just a month ago I read this post which generated 32 replies: “Being out of the work force for two and half years, is there a site where I can practice COBOL, DB2, CICS, JCL ?”

One suggestion was to download a copy of Hercules, an open source implementation of System/370, ESA/390 architectures that runs on Windows, Linux, and even Mac OS X platforms. A better solution would be to buy time in the cloud. As far as I know, no cloud available today supports mainframe development, still a superior technology for transaction processing and for massive data operations. For IBM, the opportunity should be obvious.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day using a free Irish translator on your smart phone

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Seachtain na Gaeilge, Maithu, a small Irish company, has launched two FREE Irish language applications for the iPhone and Google Android App stores.

The 'Get the Focal Irish Translator' is a two way Irish-English, English-Irish Translator with a database of over 13,000 words and terms which live in your pocket. It is quick and accurate, can be used for completing that Irish assignment, reading articles as Gaeilge, or filling in a ‘cúpla focal’ here and there. If you're looking for help with speaking Irish, Muithu also offers a full version which contains pronunciations for all translations.

According to Kerrill Thornhill, “We launched the free version of the 'Get the Focal' app for the iPhone and Android app stores about 6 days ago, there have been over 350 downloads of the free app to date: 280 on the iPhone, over 70 on Android. The paid version of the 'Get the Focal' app was launched in September last year. There have been several hundred downloads of the paid app to date, generating reports from iTunes account is not very user friendly so that's about as accurate as I can be at the moment.”

Kerrill tells me you can download the iPhone version here. I tried it, it is indeed very easy to use.

You might try it for your next speech at South Boston’s Saint Patrick’s Day pre-parade political roast. The best received speaker on Sunday was Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein president, who spoke of the long struggle for peace in Northern Ireland, opening and closing his remarks in Irish.

“We want equality. We want peace, we would not have progress, which we’re making in the process back home, if it wasn’t for the encouragement, assistance, and support of people here,’’ said Adams, who received two standing ovations.

Go raibh míle maith agat, (Thanks a mil), to Kerrill for this free app.

Bad joke: Back when the Irish Tiger was growling loudly, some wits suggested that Ireland was indeed becoming bilingual: English and Polish. Now that the recession has reduced immigration; we might need a new joke.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mobile Monday Boston 2009 Investment Report

I’m rushing off to the event, but here is a preview of a new report that Kate Imbach, of Skyhook Wireless, plans to present today at Xconomy ‘s Mobile Madness.

Kate, one of the organizers of Mobile Monday Boston, first unveiled the investment data at Monday night’s meeting of the group.

This report evaluates the 100 Massachusetts mobile and wireless companies that saw  venture capital funding and acquisition activity  in 2009. The data reveals that mobile has now been a billion-dollar a year sector in Massachusetts for the last two years, despite recent drops in venture funding fueled by the current economic climate. Read the report here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ride the Red Line, Reap the Whirlwind

It would be impossible to overstate the significance of MIT’s Whirlwind Computer on the history of technology, computer engineering, software and programming, venture capital, the development of 128 as “America’s Technology Highway”, and America’s success in the ”Cold War.”

Consequently, when Scott Kirsner asked for suggestions for “The Red Line Tour of Innovation in Boston,” I tried to reap the Whirlwind.

Eons ago, when IBM and DEC were the world’s largest computer companies, you could trace their technological successes directly back to Whirlwind.

In 1954, IBM won a contract to implement SAGE (air defense) for the United States Air Force using technology developed for Whirlwind, the world’s first real-time digital computer. IBM built fifty-six SAGE computers at the price of US$30 million each, and at the peak of the project devoted more than 7,000 employees (20% of its then workforce) to the project. This gave IBM insight and experience with computer technology advancements such as magnetic core memory, a large real-time operating system, an integrated video display, light guns, the first effective algebraic computer language, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion techniques, digital data transmission over telephone lines, duplexing, multiprocessing, and geographically distributed networks). By 1960, IBM was clearly the technological leader of the computer industry.

DEC’s connection was even more direct. DEC was founded in 1957 by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson, two Whirlwind engineers who wished to make small, transistorized computers (Whirlwind and SAGE used vacuum tubes). Harlan Anderson’s recently published autobiography provides substantial insight into these events: Learn, Earn, & Return, My Life as a Computer Pioneer. I very much enjoyed this book.

Venture capital of $70,000 was invested in DEC by Georges Doriot of American Research and Development Corporation. AR&D later sold its investment in Digital for approximately $450 million, certainly the best VC return ever to that point, which is why the DEC investment is considered the birth of the modern VC industry. Olsen, of course, stayed on at DEC, but Anderson moved on, investing on his own in new companies. Two people he helped get started were Bill Wolfson, who advised me when I left IBM to found Spartacus, and Dick Morely, who as co-founder of the Breakfast Club made a vast number of early stage investments and helped pave the way for today’s Angel Investors.

So Whirlwind led both to inventions and to capital to commercialize them. Programming as a profession started with SAGE, located in Lincoln MA, boosting “Americas Technology Highway.” SAGE continued in service until 1984.

MIT's Barta Building (now building N42) which housed Whirlwind during the project's lifetime is now home to MIT's campus-wide IT department, Information Services & Technology. Built in 1904, the building was restored to its original brick exterior with its distinctive gargoyles in 1997-8, It can be found at 211 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, directly across Windsor Street from the MIT Museum, which is on Kirsner’s Red Line Tour.

The information above comes courtesy of Jessica Holmes in the MIT News Office. Unfortunately, there is no public access to building N42 and I have been told that the interior has been so modified that it would no longer be recognizable.

So photograph the gargoyles with your iPhone, send us a copy, then cross the street to the MIT Museum, where Kate Porter says “We have a small display about Whirlwind here in our Mind & Hand gallery. These items will be on display through mid-June. Whirlwind will be featured in our MIT150 exhibit slated to open in January of 2011. Our archives here at MIT have plenty of materials on Whirlwind and you can access them online.”

If you would like to see more, you can find a YouTube video of Whirlwind here, and a SAGE video there.

Next stop: Where we invented time sharing and virtual machines.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Twitter Postings Up, Up, Up…..

Twitter postings appear to be growing through the roof, and some days I feel like I am receiving them all. Not so, says Kevin Weil, writing in the twitter blog.

All y’all were tweeting 5,000 times a day in 2007. By 2008, that number was 300,000, and by 2009 it had grown to 2.5 million per day. Tweets grew 1,400% last year to 35 million per day. Today, Weil is seeing 50 million tweets per day—that's an average of 600 tweets per second.

Deliveries are a much higher number because once created, tweets must be delivered to multiple followers. Weil has a nice chart that won’t copy into this blog, so take a look at his original post.

Can you make money writing Smart Phone Apps for Android?

Apparently so, says Edward Kim, who released his “car locator” application five months ago and now has sales of $13,000 a month.

“I was a really happy camper because what started as a little side-project while I was vacationing with my family, turned into a few extra bucks for lunch money every day. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say the app has continued its upward trend and is now beyond my wildest fantasy of what could have been possible.” says Kim

Kim's Numbers:

• About 70,000 downloads of the free version

• 6,590 downloads of the paid version

• Price of the app was raised from $1.99 to $3.99

• The app steadily climbed the charts, briefly reaching a peak of #4 in the Travel category for paid apps.

So the gold rush isn’t over yet, in fact, it may be just beginning. My thanks to Kim for sharing his numbers with us. For more detail, check his post.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Developing iPhone Apps, a Virtual Workshop

Scanning the list of events for MassMobile Month, I found one that might appeal to you even if you are not convenient to the Boston area.

It’s a two hour virtual workshop covering the business of developing iPhone applications. The presenter will be Gregory Raiz, the founder of Raizlabs, who has worked on over 20 iPhone projects. It takes place on March 8. You can sign up and attend online.

The target audience for this talk includes individuals or businesses considering building an iPhone, iPad or mobile application or planning on having a product developed. No technical expertise is required; however, a familiarity with the iPhone and the app store is recommended.

I myself signed up, even though I normally dislike online tutorials.

You can sign up here on eventbrite, where the workshop is described as follows:

This workshop will cover the business of building iPhone applications. It will address the risks and the potential rewards of producing an application and having it for sale in the iTunes App Store. The workshop will cover the following aspects of the business including:

 • How to pick an application concept

• What makes an application successful

• Building a business vs. building an app

• The highs and lows of success

• Getting noticed in a sea of 180,000 apps

• Apps that compliment your core business

• Pricing your application and App Store business models

• Designing and developing - what to expect

• Is your app social? (Email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

• Costs of building applications

• Marketing app basics

• Application Rejections

• Resources and Tools

• Beyond the iPhone (Android, Blackberry, Web)