Posted: November 27th, 2015 | Author: irv | Filed under: android, AT&T, Companies, Google, Tech Help | Tags: AT&T, carriers, Google, Sprint, t-mobile, verizon | No Comments »
I found out about Project Fi early on, when a few of the blogs began talking about it. At the time I was skeptical not about Google’s ability to pull the project off, but more about whether people would be able to accept routing their voice calls and SMS through Google’s data centers. A couple of weeks ago, I did a ton of reading on Fi and decided based on what I had read to go ahead and sign up for the beta. It took a couple of weeks to get my invite, and even then it took me a few days to think through what it would mean to be a Fi customer.
My thought process went through three distinct gating concerns. The first was whether I felt that my calls, SMS, and network traffic would be safe being piped via VPN from anonymous access points through Google’s data centers and to their ultimate destination. If I could get through the first gate, I felt that it was time to think through the second.
The next gating concern for me was if there was enough value over T-Mobile for me to make the jump. I was already frustrated with T-Mobile’s default opt-in “binge on” promotion, so I felt it was a good time to move. My experience with T-Mobile for the past two years has been nothing but good, and I’m going to keep the rest of my family lines with them, but I use very little data so I figured that I could save a good amount of money by using Project Fi, and I haven’t been wrong.
The final gating factor was whether Google’s customer service would be adequate for my needs. On this I had some of my largest concerns. Google isn’t known for their legendary service and while I don’t typically need a lot of help, with wireless service, you never know. On this front, I haven’t had to use their service yet, so the jury is still out. Their self-help has been excellent so I decided to give it a shot.
I was able to get over the first hurdle, surprisingly easily. I do not believe it is in Google’s interest to do anything untoward with their users’ data as it would destroy their business, so I’m actually not that worried about Google doing anything nefarious with my calls or texts ( if they can even access them ). As far as turning my data over to the government, that wasn’t really a worry as T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon will all turn over the same data on demand, so that was a push even if Google cooperates. Finally, VPN technology has been around for quite a while, and it is well regarded as secure. So going through a VPN to Google’s data center is much safer as far as I’m concerned than going through some coffee shop network, or Comcast back end. In addition, the quality of service over Wi-Fi would probably exceed most of the spotty coverage I’ve had in some areas with T-Mobile so … gate opened…
After looking through my records for the past few months, I found that I typically use far less than 3 GB of data per month since I am typically in solid Wi-Fi coverage. I was a little worried about how many hotspots there were around me in general and how well the Nexus 5x would traverse the networks, but this, so far, hasn’t been an issue, there are a number of affiliated Wi-Fi hotspots around the bay area, even more in San Francisco, so where I roam there are a number of options that will not cost my precious gigabytes.
I chose the 2 GB of data, bringing me to a total of $40 a month plus tax. So far I have used .19 gigabytes and I’m about forty percent of the way through my plan period, so I’ll be getting a refund at the end. This brings up one of the better things about Fi, which is that they will refund you for any data that you did not use. They also will charge no overage for months in which you surpass your estimated limit. That means that if I need to tether for work one month, I won’t be stuck paying extra during all of the other months. On my line alone, after buying a Nexus 5x and selling my Galaxy S6 Edge, I was out about $45 up front, and I will save about $60 / month on my line alone. So it is definitely a value for me, however YMMV as for some heavy mobile data users, Fi will end up costing you more.
Overall, I have been extremely happy with Fi and would heartily recommend it. It has been stable and with great quality. Using the Nexus 5x has been pretty good, the phone is laggy occasionally, however I think that is owing more to lacking a few optimizations than any inherent limitation in the hardware. Other phones with the same specs running Android 5.x are smoother so I believe that things will get better on that front. The Nexus 5x has had outstanding battery life for me on M and on Fi. Granted I’m always in a good service area, and I am not a “heavy” user. I tend to get around 48 hours of battery life from it.
Posted: March 5th, 2014 | Author: irv | Filed under: Companies, Facebook, Google | Tags: ads, facebook, Google, marketing, network, social | No Comments »
While the current group of social networks are extremely popular and appear wildly unassailable, it is my assertion that they are eminently fallable. Over the past year, it has become obvious that they are having difficulty attracting users. Facebook needs to grow by purchasing smaller companies for ever increasing amounts of money. Google can’t really build a critical mass of users around it’s offering even though it is technically excellent. Even with Twitter, the most non-social of the social networks, there is trouble attracting new users while implementing features to increase their revenue streams.
Arguably, one could claim that as everyone joins the network, there aren’t additional people to add, this is the theory of saturation. While Facebook tries to assert that their daily active users is huge, and people are spending more time than ever logged in to facebook, how many of those actives are just people checking their messages? Or have facebook set up on their mobile and are technically logged in all day. This is a fantasy, people aren’t really using these services as much as they would have you believe.
Originally the promise of social networking was that people who we knew, and even more compelling, people that we don’t really know would create excellent and relevant content, thereby attracting even more people who would create great content. This would create the virtuous cycle of content creation and given the user growth would make the platform lucrative in it’s advertising reach. This is all known, what I believe everyone is currently ignoring in bubble, unicorn herd fashion, is that the cycle has been severely weakened, and their revenue models are broken.
What is ironic is that it has been weakened by the very thing that has made such scale on the internet viable: The desire of advertisers to pay for access to the social users.
It is a scenario that plays out in every market everywhere. Initially someone produces something of value, and the market forms around that. As the product evolves, the producer can easily see what works, as far as encouraging margin and price growth, and what doesn’t work, what causes price and margin decrease.
Most recently we have seen this occur in the PC market. We are now to the point where vendors are completely optimizing on a single dimension, price. Computer buyers ( obviously except those who purchase macs ) have spoken with their dollars, and their dollars want the best value for money. Hence, netbooks, and $300 laptops loaded to the gills with shizware. While it is shocking that people will accept this, this is what the consumer has chosen.
The social space works the same way. The users of the social product, gmail, facebook, google search, etc… are the product, and the advertisers are the customer. At first, users were drawn to the utility and functionality of the services. In Facebook’s case, interestingly, the initial value proposition was that one could have a private relationship out of the view of the internet with their friends. There was originally no danger that their content would appear to anyone for whom they had decided it shouldn’t.
As time has continued and these services have attained what they believe is a critical mass of users, the impetus for them to improve the service and protect their users’ privacy or to provide real value to the users diminished. The incremental income for each new user was less than could be made by increasing the amount that the advertisers were willing to pay. This has been accomplished either increasing, or inventing new areas in which to deliver ads, I.E. the facebook feed, paper, etc… In effect allowing the service to sell more inventory and spam their internal user base. Or taking content that was originally private, but could be used to deliver ads, and making it public. I won’t even start on the morality of the latter, but they have no choice, a free product at internet scale can not serve two masters, but it has to.
As anecdotal evidence, try to remember the last time you saw something interesting in the facebook feed, something that really grabbed you in a meaningful way. If you are like me, you can’t really ever remember anything really valuable that you’ve seen in the feed.
In actuality, the feed is built, designed, and optimized to deliver ads, not to deliver content of the highest quality to it’s users. In fact, the deeper the quality content is buried, the more ads you have to wade through to find it, thereby increasing the services’ revenue.
What all of this has resulted in, is a number of once useful services, that have thoroughly optimized themselves to deliver ads, and have intrinsically lost their original value to the users. This is what killed myspace, friendster, etc… This will ultimately kill Google ( albeit more slowly ), Facebook, and probably ultimately Twitter.
The reason the current model of social networks is untenable is that they are all designed around ads. None of them, at least the “big successful” ones are designed around users paying, and optimizing around value for the paying user. This will cause the end of the great social free ad-subsidized internet bubble at some point.
The reason I suggest that it will kill Google more slowly, if at all, is that Google obviously realizes that it’s current revenue model is untenable. They are aggressively seeking out real value for money products to which they can transition when the ad revenue model dries up and the users flee their free online services. People are just bored with these sites, there is nothing on them.
The same thing has happened to television. The reason people are “cord cutting” is because bundling is designed to deliver advertising, not value to the TV services’ customers. People aren’t stupid forever, eventually they realize they are being hornswaggled, basically paying twice. Once in their monthly bill, the second time with their time. It is just a matter of when.
Posted: October 10th, 2012 | Author: irv | Filed under: Amazon, android, Apple, artificial intelligence, Companies, Google, iPhone, Lifestyle | Tags: amazon, Electeonics, Google, Retail, Shopping, Stores | 1 Comment »
Montgomery ward closed down
Looking at Google’s new maps inside view, it brings to mind a general problem with physical shopping vs online shopping. With online shopping, I know exactly who has the item that I wish to buy, and I know what the price of that item is. I can instantly perform comparison shopping without leaving the comfort of my home. This convenience has a down side as well, when I do not know exactly what I want to buy and am just shopping for entertainment the online experience lacks substance. It is much more fun to peruse best buy than it is to scroll down a page of picture of gadgets. This is where Google can help.
One of the things that Google has done that has no clear immediate value to the company is to map the world in extreme detail, this has come to include the inside of stores. Amazon does not have this capability. In addition, Google has its hangout technology which, when leveraged with this inside indexing gives Google both a search index of the real world, and the ability to have a high-fidelity experience with an actual salesperson.
Imagine, Google indexes all of the shops in the world, coffee shops, hot dog stands, I mean everything along with real-time inventory of the items in search results. Then they index those images using OpenCV or some other image recognition technology. Alongside that, every retailer in the world assigns one or more salespeople inside of the shop to carry a tablet capable of performing a hangout. Again this represents a giant biz-dev nightmare, but keep bearing with me.
Now comes the beautiful part, I, at home am surfing the web on my tablet when I get the itch to go shopping. Instead of hopping into my car, I allow Google to suggest stuff that I might be interested in ( Amazon has a huge lead here, but Google will likely catch up due to their having more signals ). While I’m looking through the suggestions, I see a watch that I am very interested in, so I click into it and it shows me a map of all of the places around me that have that watch. I click again and ask for a horizontally swipable, inside view of the top 5 locations that have the watch.
I can actually browse the inside of the store, see the display with the watch in high resolution. There will be a little place that I can click inside the store if I need help as in the watch is not on display, or the shop keeper will be notified that I am browsing. At this point, the shop keeper can signal that they want to have a hangout with me in g+, or I can swipe to the next place at any time and browse that place. If I do want to discuss the item in a hangout, I can either initiate or respond to an invitation from the shop keeper. While on the hangout, the salesperson can express their craft, showing me alternate items, asking me to send data over, such as measurements, we could exchange documents, etc…
This future would be tremendous, and it is something that only Google can do. But wait, there’s more! Imagine that at this point with my Google Glasses, now I can have a full AR view with the details of each item coming up in my heads up display along with other shops’ more aggressive deals ( read ads ). It would be ridiculously awesome!
Ultimately this will level the playing field with online as well as brick-and-mortar retailers, with the brick-and-mortar guys having a slight advantage until the online retailers start hiring sales reps for g+ hangouts or an equivalent technology. I believe that this will bring a pretty large increase in the number of sales people employed and reverse the current employment drain that retail is experiencing. It makes perfect sense as to why Amazon is trying to build out its mapping technology as quickly as possible. It will be interesting to see who wins.
Posted: June 15th, 2012 | Author: irv | Filed under: Apple, Companies, Google, Microsoft | Tags: android, Apple, Google, iOS, Microsoft, windows phone | 1 Comment »
The surprises everyone was waiting for from the Apple’s WWDC keynote never arrived. Instead, we got a handful of evolutionary features added to generally excellent software, and an amazing piece of hardware. I was actually yawning while following the liveblog. That fact should have the entire tech industry shaking and quaking. That boring keynote just put everyone on notice, but they may not realize it yet.
Apple has done this before. A few years before the launch of the iPhone, the iPod, iMac, and Mac OS X went through a period of minor updates, feature and spec bumps. All of these products never became any less incredible, but Apple wasn’t doing anything exciting.
We know now that Apple had a light guard working on continuing to bump aspects of their main product lines, while the majority of the engineers were toiling deep into the night to build iOS and all of the apps that we all know and love that launched on that device, namely mobile Safari.
It took them several years, while they were consolidating their dominance of the PMP market to completely disrupt everything we consider true about mobile computing. That is not to say that the products they launched in the interregnum weren’t great. The iPod nano launched among other things, but I remember thinking along similar lines as others, is this all you’ve got Apple?
The answer today was obviously, No. They had much more, and knew it.
We are seeing the same general stagnation today. It makes you wonder, what the hell are they doing in there? There is really no way to know, but when it is ready I would expect no less disruption than we saw when the iPhone came out. Apple has maybe 14,000 engineers, do you really think that all of them are working on iOS 6, Mountain Lion, or trying to make the MacBook Pro thinner?
Apple takes their time, so it could be six months, or it could be three years. If I were a competitor of Apples, I’d be getting ready to be disrupted.
I’d think bigger than a television set Apple has already made personal content consumption more prevalent than group consumption.
Sitting around the TV and watching a movie rarely happens anymore. Everyone in the family, each watches whatever they want on their phone, iPad, or laptop. Apple’s next great breakthrough doesn’t even have to be strictly media or tech. Perhaps it will be the iCar, some sort of iAutomation for your house, the iHome, who knows. Perhaps their plan is to start building luxury apartment buildings in San Francisco. Making spartan, but delightfully, designed homes built out of glass and aluminium.
Posted: May 30th, 2012 | Author: irv | Filed under: android, Apple, Companies, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon | Tags: android, Apple, Google, iOS, Microsoft, mobile, windows phone | No Comments »
This weekend I switched back, once again, to Windows Phone from my ICS packing Galaxy Nexus. Previously, I had switched to Windows Phone from my Froyo ( can you believe this phone was launched in the US with Froyo? ) Infuse 4G. I seem to always switch away from Android eventually, and I haven’t been sure why, until now. This is not meant to be an Android hate fest, I don’t want to say I hate iOS, and I don’t hate any OS. I am a huge fan of iOS and Android, nor am I a fanboy of any camp ( any more ).
I think that Android is an excellent implementation of the vision for which it was designed. iOS was the first and is still the leader in its category. Both of which are largely cut from the same cloth. Who copied whom, I’ll leave for history to decide. For the my purposes, however I am happier with Windows Phone, and I have finally figured out why.
Windows Phone is Designed Around Use Cases
As I was transitioning between my various Android handsets, my iPad, and my new Lumia 900, I kept thinking about what it was in Windows Phone that kept causing me to want to use it. The browser is merely sufficient, the hardware is technically behind the curve ( while the phone hardware as a package is superlative, hats off Nokia ), and the OS is, well… different. One of the core things, which was immediately apparent, was that it didn’t take long for me to get to what I wanted to do with the Lumia from the live tile home screen.
I don’t subscribe to the “Smoked by Windows Phone” campaign, I think that was stupid and wrong. Android is typically faster in specific areas, like time to app launch, etc… iOS smokes both of them in scrolling and touch screen responsiveness as well as time to app readiness on the newer iPad2/3 and iPhone 4S. Windows Phone’s speech to text is great, but not comprehensive; Android’s speech to text is better than Windows Phones, Siri’s voice recognition is marginally better than Androids, if only because of her witty retorts.
Despite all of the shortcomings I have just described, I still prefer Windows Phone. For a few months, after I started with Windows Phone 7 on my Focus S, I started to think something was wrong with me for liking it. Maybe I was a “feature phone” kind of guy after all. The tech media kept telling me that Android and iOS are better because of their broader app selection, more sophisticated chips, hardware, etc… I could readily agree with this assessment, after all, Windows Phone doesn’t have NBA Jam, or Angry Birds Space. The more I thought about it however, as far as I am concerned, I prefer to use my phone for communication first, and apps second. Being presented with a grid of apps, or strange widgets, or the wrong panel of the launcher were all in the way of simple communication.
When I use Windows Phone, it is clear, I press people for communication, me for updating my social networks, phone for calls. This simplicity, and clarity; that is what keeps drawing me back. It isn’t that Windows Phone is faster in any way than Android and iOS, not that it is slow. It is that each specific task that I want to do with the phone has a well defined path, is clearly encapsulated, and is a complete end-to-end experience with no cruft. It isn’t chaotic like the Android intent system, leading me all over the place from app-to-app, it isn’t ridiculously siloed like iOS. Things that should be combined, like Facebook and twitter are grouped together. Games are all in the same place, and share a coherent experience that is clearly differentiated from the other flows for when I want to play games. Music, podcasts, and audio are all together, unified in their Zune experience, which also is differentiated from the game flow, and the social flow.
Android and iOS are Designed Like Desktop/Tablet OS’s
Once I began to think about use-cases, I started to see how ill fitted Android and iOS were for the phone. I started to put devices into categories based on these use cases, to try to figure out where they go wrong.
When using my desktop / laptop, I am consciously sitting down to perform some fairly complicated task, I expect to have to make lots of decisions to perform that task, and I do not mind the complexity of the windowing system.
When using my tablet, I am typically settling down to enjoy some content, a game, a book, a fun diversionary app, or I am attempting to use a productivity app, for which I could perhaps perform the task on my desktop / laptop. I don’t mind actions taking a little extra time on my Tablet, I am expecting to explore and engage in an experience.
My phone is different. I am not typically trying to explore. I am trying to find a restaurant to eat at right now, or I am looking for my friends house and I am wandering around trying to read street numbers. I am buying something and need to compare prices. I am trying to call someone to have a conversation. In short, most of what I am doing with my phone is immediate I don’t want to browse.
The grid of apps, is really nice for presenting an experience, it is an invitation to browse, to wade into an entire universe of possibilities. A bunch of apps is great for when I want to spend time looking around, like window shopping. I don’t necessarily know what I want to do, I just want to be entertained.
I don’t really need apps on my phone, I need the workflows that are in those apps. I need the restaurant information inside of the Zagat application, I need the directions and augmented reality that is inside of google/bing maps. I need the social graph that is inside of Facebook to find out if my friends are busy this weekend. I need the content of the twitter app to find out what is going on right now. As far as exposing that, some apps for Windows Phone can do this with their live tile, for other, well designed Windows Phone apps, there is a clear use case for the application, and it brings as much content to me as it can to assist me with doing something right now.
Windows phone isn’t perfect, there are still quite a few missing use cases that I would like to see fleshed out, like the augmented reality directions, or a better workflow around photo sharing.
When you think about things in use cases, you actually start to see that the multitasking system that Windows Phone employes is correct. It is only broken if you are looking at it as you would look at Android or iOS, or if you are comparing your mobile computing environment to one that is less mobile. Windows Phone is better thought out than its competitors. Once you let go of the fact that you believe you want your smart phone to be just like your desktop/laptop/tablet, then everything will be fine.
So what if Windows Phone doesn’t have many quality apps, for most of the things I want to do, I am covered. As they add apps, so much the better, I only hope that the developers think about how their users will accomplish tasks in real-time with the applications they provide, and don’t fall back on the Android and iOS way of sticking a bunch of data into a silo and expecting the user to poke around to find it.
Windows 8, in its current incarnation is half-mistake, in my opinion. For the designers to take UI and a set of interactions that are successful for phone use cases, and apply them to a desktop OS is to turn something useful into a chaotic chimera. I believe that Microsoft is not allowing for as much richness and complexity as the interaction patterns of a stationary computing experience should provide by implementing the Metro interface on the desktop.
In the legacy interface, they are just screwing up what was working. It makes sense for them to take the same approach as they allowed the Windows Mobile team to take. Think about the use cases that people are likely to encounter when they are attempting to accomplish something with their desktop/tablets. You may not be able to unify the interfaces, it is OK. Apple is falling into the same trap, it is leaving a massive opening for someone to do something awesome with the desktop computer…. Canonical are you listening?
Let it go, the desktop paradigm is dead. Stop worrying about how things used to be and learn to experience Windows Phone for what it is. A beautiful breath of fresh-air, a new way of thinking about mobile interaction. Hopefully Microsoft doesn’t screw it up. If their marketing is any indication, I am worried about the future. If they leave the Windows Phone team alone, and allow them to keep doing what they are doing, things will be great.
Posted: January 21st, 2012 | Author: irv | Filed under: AT&T, Companies, Facebook, Google, Management, Microsoft, Twitter | Tags: anti-trust, doj, facebook, Google, ibm, Media, Microsoft, social, twitter | No Comments »
When Google added world plus social, at first I didn’t think there was much of a problem. I understood that since Twitter and Facebook limit the ways in which Google interacted with them, it wasn’t really possible for Google to offer truly social search. This cabal between Facebook and Twitter is quite obviously hugely damaging to Google’s future interests as a company. So I also supported the need for Google Plus.
However, as I have been thinking about it, most companies in the past have gotten into trouble, become anti-competitive, or foes of the free market under the banner of simply looking out for their business interests in responding to a threat. Inside most potential monopolies, the issue that crops up after smashing a formidable challenge is when to stop.
Google is promoting G+ as the bulk of its social search, G+ is completely unavoidable as you are using the search engine. This puts Facebook and Twitter at something of a disadvantage. They also promote YouTube in a similar in-your-face manner, putting Vimeo and other web video companies at a disadvantage.
It isn’t hard to imagine a world in which startups don’t even look at web video because YouTube is un-assailable. Similarly one could imagine, though it is more of a stretch, that eventually Facebook and Twitter would whither and die at the hands of Google Plus since there is really only one search engine, and the entire world uses it. That world would be ridiculously anti-competitive, and no one, including Google really wants to see that.
I believe that if Google had had its just desserts, Facebook and twitter would have given it unfettered access to their data, and Google Plus would have been unnecessary. But since they didn’t G+ is more than beneficial for Google’s survival, it is essential. The same thing could be said about YouTube and Google Music in the face of iTunes.
One could argue as well that Google hasn’t been very effective of late at controlling what is going on within the company. Clearly there is a massive amount of resource contention, and a general challenge in keeping everyone on the same page, and playing for the same team. In addition, there is the kind of limited thinking that prevents the company from disrupting its own business units. Microsoft had(has) this problem, so did IBM, and so did AT&T.
AT&T, however operated like a well oiled machine, they had no problem crushing all competition and effectively responding to all challengers. Google is just as innovative as AT&T used to be, they will similarly get through their management issues, in fact I think they are very near this point. Google getting through their effectiveness issues however, is exactly what bothers me; Once they become as effective as AT&T used to be, isn’t that where the government steps in?
So what I propose instead is that Google break itself into separate businesses voluntarily. One of the main rules of business today is never to let a competitor, or government, disrupt you. It is better, and more profitable to disrupt yourself. I would suggest to Google, for this reason, that now is a good time to do it.
I would imagine that Google would become 5 corporations, split along the lines of social, media, search, mobile, and advertising. This would see Google Plus, Reader, Gmail, Google Talk and Google Docs become the Google Social business. Google docs may initially seem like a strange product to call social, but the purpose of Google Docs is to collaborate on work. That is pretty social as far as I’m concerned, in fact, it is probably the most social that people are in general.
The media business would consist of YouTube, Google Music, Google TV, and the nascent Google Games. The search business is self explanatory. Mobile would be Android, but also Motorola with the new purchase. And Google advertising would be their display, print, and television advertising business. Each company could retain a small portion of ownership of the other company that it was dependent upon. For example, Google media might maintain a 5% to 10% stake in Google social such that they can be sure that their requests are heard and honored. All of the business would have a small share of the advertising business, but the total should not add up to more than 40% so that the advertising business could remain autonomous.
The resulting companies would end up becoming far more competitive and profitable than their corresponding business units, due primarily to the need for providing open APIs to the other businesses that need their services. In the process, these businesses would make these APIs available to other startups who could build off of Google’s services as a platform, driving further profitability and end user lock in.
This would in turn surround their competitors, who are still just a simple silo, and who would begin to run into anti-trust concerns themselves. The now ridiculously nimble Google, which could be known as the Googles, would have them surrounded.
As a single entity Google is vulnerable to the same diseases which have, in the past, felled their erstwhile competitors. As multiple independent profitable companies, the Googles could remain dominant for decades. This would be better for the industry as a whole because each Google business with public APIs would provide a platform for numerous job creating profitable startups. C’mon Google, do what is right for the market, and for your business. Don’t wait for the DOJ to hold a gun to your head like AT&T. Even with the government forcing the issue with AT&T, being broken into the baby bells seems to have worked out pretty well for them.
Posted: January 8th, 2011 | Author: irv | Filed under: Companies, Google, Lifestyle | Tags: Apple, cloud, Cr-48, future, Google, greedy, kids, personal, Web | No Comments »
On a drive from Colorado to Las Vegas this past week my daughter and my son were in the back seat of our car using my daughter’s netbook, she has recently turned 7 years old so I bought her a netbook and I am starting to teach her how to code. My son wanted my daughter to change the video that they were watching and she began to explain how the internet works to him.
She told him that all of her stuff was on the internet ( emphasis mine ) and that the movie that they were watching was the only one that was on her netbook, she explained how her computer was barely useful without the internet, that the internet came from the sky and her computer needed to have a clear view of the sky to receive the internet. In addition she said that since we were in the car and the roof was obscuring said view that they couldn’t get the internet, and couldn’t change the movie.
Listening to this conversation gave me a bit of pause as I realized that to my children, the internet is an etherial cloud that is always around them. To me it is a mess of wires, switches and routers with an endpoint that has limited wireless capabilities. When I thought through it, however, I realized that my kids had never seen a time when someone had to plug in their computer to get to the web. Plugging in an ethernet cable is as old school as dial-up.
Once that sunk in, I understood that the Cr-48, Google’s Chrome OS netbook is a step in the right direction, and while I am very enthusiastic about several aspects of Google, and in all fairness others’ vision of a web based future, I do not feel that the current approach will work.
A centralized system where all of users’ data lives, and all communications go through is not an architecturally sound approach. As the number of devices that each user has goes up, the amount, size and types of connections is going to stress the servers exponentially.
It is already incredibly difficult to keep servers running at internet scale, we need entire redundant data centers to keep even small and simple web scale endeavors running. When you take a step back you realize that a system like Facebook is barely working, it takes constant vigilance and touching to keep it running. It isn’t like a body where each additional bit adds structural soundness to the overall system, instead each additional bit makes the system more unwieldy and pushes it closer to breaking.
Google is another example of a system that is near the breaking point, obviously they are struggling to keep their physical plant serving their users, and like Facebook they are so clever that they have always been able to meet each challenge and keep it running to date, but looking at the economics of it, the only reason this approach has been endorsed is because of how wildly lucrative mining usage patterns and the data generated by users has been.
I don’t think this will continue to be the case as the web reaches ever larger and larger groups of people. I don’t think any particular centralized infrastructure can scale to every person on the globe, with each individual generating and sharing petabytes of data each year, which is where we are going.
From a security and annoyance perspective, spam, malware, and spyware is going to be an ever increasing, and more dangerous threat. With so much data centralized in so few companies with such targeted reach, it is pretty easy to send viruses to specific people, or to gain access to specific individuals’ data. If an advertising company can use a platform to show an ad to you, why can’t a hacker or virus writer?
The other problem that is currently affecting Google severely, with Facebook next is content spam. It is those parking pages that you come across when you mistype something in Google. Google should have removed these pages ages ago, but their policy allows for them to exist. Look at all of the stack overflow clones out there, they add no real value for themselves except for delivering Google adsense off of creative commons content. What is annoying is that because of the ads, they take forever to load. Using a search engine like Duck Duck Go things are better, but this is likely only because it is still small. DDG also says that it will not track its users, that is awesome, but how long will that last?
It is possible for a singly altruistic person to algorithmically remove the crap from the web in their search engine, but eventually it seems that everyone bows to commercial pressure and lets it in in one fashion or another.
Concentrating all of the advertising, content aggregation, and the content in a couple of places seems nearsighted as well. The best way to make data robust is to distribute it, making Facebook the only place where you keep your pictures, or Google, or Apple for that matter is probably a bad idea, maybe it makes sense to use all three, but that is a nuisance, and these companies are not likely to ever really cooperate.
It seems to me that something more akin to diaspora, with a little bit of Google wave, XMPP, the iTunes App Store, and BitTorrent is a better approach. Simply, content needs to be pushed out to the edges with small private clouds that are federated.
This destroys most of the value concentrated by the incumbents based on advertising, but creates the opportunity for the free market to bring its forces to bear on the web. If a particular user has content that is valuable, they can make it available for a fee, as long as a directory service can be created that allows people to find that content, and the ACLs for that content exist on, and are under the control of the creator, that individual’s creation can not be stolen.
Once the web is truly pervasive then this sort of system can be built, it will, however, require new runtimes, new languages, protocols, and operating systems. This approach is so disruptive that none of the existing large internet companies are likely to pursue it. I intend to work on it, but I’m so busy that it is difficult. Fortunately, however my current endeavor is has aspects that are helping me build skills that will be useful for this later, such as the Beam/Erlang/OTP VM.
The benefit is to individuals more than it is to companies, it is similar to the concept of a decentralized power grid. Each node is a generator and self sufficient and the system is nearly impossible to destroy as long as there is more than one node.
Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: irv | Filed under: android, Apple, Companies, Google, iPhone, Microsoft, Programming | Tags: Apple, appliances, geeks, Google, non-geeks, regular users | No Comments »
This weekend, on a bike ride, I was thinking through the Apple vs Google situation, as well as the paid vs non-paid, and this whole concept of open systems vs closed and I came to the conclusion that it is really just about geeks vs non-geeks.
For about the past 20 years or so, computer stuff, anything digital really, has been produced primarily by the geeks at Microsoft, and later by various open source geeks around the world. It was reflecting their world view, that everyone ought to be able to tinker, and that they might want to. This caused the severe amounts of confusion that people have had for years.
It would appear that now that consumers have a clear and viable choice in Apple and the iPhone that they are choosing, in droves, really, the closed app store based system. It would appear that consumers would prefer an app store to the open web, an individual coherent vision to multiple pieces of different developer’s visions of the optimal way to do x. As Apple likes to put it, they want an appliance, in which applications are just another type of content, and all methods of doing anything are consistent.
I would say that consumers have chosen that, but not because Apple always provides a superior method, or that they like being closed an limited, I would say that it is because Us, as geeks, have not done a good job of providing clear and usable alternatives. For developers and geeks, configuration and making tons of choices are just table stakes for getting our devices and software working exactly the way we want them to work. We have a difficult time creating things that violate the ability to choose a different way. Part of that is that most of us never have the hubris to think that we can decide for others how to do a given thing, or which thing to choose. But that is exactly what makes Apple more powerful than Google to the consumer. Google is catching on, but in a way, at the same time they just don’t get it.
I, personally, understand and prefer many choices. I like Mac OS X and Linux, particularly because there are so many different ways to set things up, the 3rd party developer community, around the Mac especially, have done an amazing job of filling in the usability gaps that Apple has left. Should users choose these productivity enhancers, Apple has wisely seen fit to let the 3rd party devs keep doing their thing. The problem with Android, and the internet in general is that most people are not like us. They don’t want to seek out and try 5 different text editors and window managers, and text expanding solutions before finding the right one. They want to just use it most of the time, and they would prefer if the base implementation didn’t suck.
Geeks, and Google, we would prefer to just let the base interfaces and systems suck, since our partners are either going to replace them, or augment them. That is exactly what shouldn’t happen. Technical solutions should be like European Socialism… The government provides a generally acceptable set of services that everyone pays for, but it is possible to get better solutions. This provides something of a floor for service providers. Likewise, if you are developing a music solution for example, provide a playback solution that works with it first, then give the ability to plug into other services if the user prefers. That way, they aren’t left hanging initially.
Where I get frustrated with Apple, and where I continue to choose Google’s services, even they are less usable, are that they do not give me the latter solution. They provide a kick-ass initial implementation, but when I want to go and replace or augment it, particularly around the iPhone ecosystem, there are no options, in fact, they go out of the way to defeat any other option. If I wanted to use Apple’s music purchasing service, but I didn’t want to use the iTunes application, I am SOL. Apple feels that they make the best music playback solution as well as the best service. For some they may, but for me, I would much rather use AMAROK or something else to manage my music, inferior or no. If I chose the other way, I might want to use Amazon’s MP3 service for buying, but iTunes for managing. Apple should make that easy for me.
At some point, geeky companies like Google, and to their credit, they are starting to, need to create good baseline solutions that run up to, but stop short of competing with other products and services that are auxiliary to their primary product. Apple needs to accept that people may occasionally choose to do their own thing and allow them to.
I do not buy the assertion that in order to provide a cohesive solution you have to block all others. I feel that a system can be aesthetically pleasing and useful, as well as permissive. Karmic Koala I think gets really close to being there, but there are still too many places that I can get into with the OS where regular users would go WTF?!!?
This is why I am continually working on a new OS that as an ambition would combine the completeness and ease of use of the Mac OS, but honor the internet, as well as user choice. They are not mutually exclusive, and the only way to prove it is to build something that shows it. It is a huge amount of work, which is why the only way to do it is open source, but since you have to make clear choices for the user, at least in the initial state, some stuff just couldn’t be committed.
Basically, end-users won’t realize the cost of the choices they are making until they are gone. In a balkanized, app-store-ized internet, choices will be limited, prices will be high, and satisfaction will be generally low. That is where we are going, that is the choice that users are making because they can’t wrap their heads around the internet. It is our fault as geeks, and we are the only ones who can fix it. The average user is going to pick the shiniest and easiest widget. There is no reason we can’t make that.
Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: irv | Filed under: android, Apple, Companies, Google, iPhone, Palm | Tags: acquisition, Apple, Google, html5, Palm | No Comments »
I hear a lot of prognostication about who will buy Palm now that they are officially up for grabs. People are suggesting that HTC, Lenovo, or even Apple would be the most likely to buy them, however I don’t think any of them will get Palm. I think that Google will get Palm for around 1 billion dollars, and here is why.
Primarily, the main reason is that Palm’s WebOS falls directly in line with Google’s philosophy of web first, native second. That with the Google Native Client could make for a compelling addition to Android. One could argue that Android is lacking only in UI, and WebOS has a UI second only to the iPhone. Secondarily, buying Palm would give Google patent ammunition to use in assisting HTC in their legal battle with Apple, especially since it is Google’s Android OS that is causing the issue.
It doesn’t make sense for Apple to get Palm, even if they are in the bidding, because Google has shown in the past that it is willing to go way above a company’s valuation to snag them. This makes just too much sense so it has to happen, that is my prediction, it is sort of hopeful because I like WebOS and Palm, and would like to see it continue, albeit in a more pure HTML 5 sense.
Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: irv | Filed under: Companies, Google, Microsoft | Tags: email, facebook, Google, Microsoft, social networking, twitter, wave, yahoo | No Comments »
I have had a wave account for some time, but I never really got it. I understood it as a communication platform and all of that, but I didn’t really understand what was in it for google. Then I thought a bit more about it and I remember something that Yahoo! said a long time ago, “email is the social network.” That didn’t make sense to me at all, until now.
Most people use email for a large chunk of their interaction with other people. By Yahoo! saying that email is the social network, they were indicating that most of what Facebook does is overglorified email. People typically, pre – facebook would share photos, music, and videos over email. The biggest complaint was that email didn’t allow them to have large enough attachments. Enter youtube and flickr. They allowed people to embed links to larger content and then email them.
Enter Facebook. Facebook allowed people to be able to control who could see what. It allowed for semi-private posting, plus all of the features of youtube and flicker with email. It became the ultimate communication platform. Once apps was created, it was over, runaway success.
Google initially tried to build a social network with Orcut, but that really wasn’t going to have the traction that Facebook had obtained. Google wisely stopped pushing that. When wave was announced, I thought that it was aimed specifically at outlook in the enterprise, and maybe some minor aspects of personal communication, but nothing significant. However, with their plugin system, and its federated nature, it starts to pretty much become a better facebook than facebook.
The first aspect of Google’s attack on Facebook with Wave is that it is private by default. Waves are only available to specific people or groups that you explicitly choose. You have a wave status that you can update, you can attach pretty large files or URIs, or even embed some content into the wave… There is commenting. It really feels like a social network, and the plugins are just genius. This will eventually challenge facebook since anyone can run a wave server. It also tackles Ning, and pretty much any other social network out there. All it takes is for Google to flip a switch to give users the option to produce a public wave, or a wave that all your contacts can see, and it starts seriously eyeing content management systems.
It attacks Twitter in that it is immediate, and it is optional. I can follow or unfollow waves as I wish, so I can jump in and out of conversations. Something that I have desperately wanted for some time, this is what makes Twitter and Yammer awesome. That I don’t always have to pay attention to them, email is too immediate, and there is always important stuff mixed up with unimportant stuff. Wave lets me discriminate. Wave will always scale better, and have more history, therefore more data mining value than Twitter. It is federated, and peered from what I understand of the spec, and therefore should be more resilient than anything a single company, save Google could build. Also since it is an open standard, more people should get behind it. If I were Twitter, I would be looking at how I could merge my service with the standard.
Wave destroys Yahoo mail, period. I would imagine that Yahoo has something up their sleeve since they killed 360, but they are hurting so badly for cash right now that I’m not sure. I think that a federated wave could hurt a lot of web email providers.
Finally, Microsoft. Exchange has hammered everyone for a decade with its expensive licensing and limited feature set. Wave easily destroys it on features and usability. Hopefully Google will unleash Wave into Google Docs, and the enterprise Google Docs. I think that savvy IT managers and most of the engineers will jump nearly immediately. This will be mostly the end of Yammer if it happens. Although I think Twitter and Yammer have features that wave is missing, the standards body could just add them, everyone could implement their UI for the features and be done with it. Microsoft exchange and outlook never really understood why anyone would need additional features and media types, so I don’t expect for it to live long past the wave proper launch with enterprise wave server and client providers. The costs would be so cheap that it would be difficult for them not to look at it. Especially since most enterprises are still running very old version of Exchange.
Microsoft has such a tarnished reputation in enterprise now that most people have to seriously look at whether to upgrade to the latest Microsoft thing or not. Mostly they trial it for extremely long periods before committing the updates to the masses. Since waves can persist, this can even replace sharepoint, and it does it with a metaphor that people are very comfortable with… email.