Fortune: As the devices mature and the market grows, do you think the idea of what a "book" is will shift?
Bezos: I think the definition of a book is changing. It's getting more convenient. Now you can get a book in less than 60 seconds.
But in some ways, books are also staying exactly the same. The whole narrative isn't changing. The book is not really the container for the book. The book itself is the narrative. It's the thing that people create.
There's another way that it's not changing, and that's that the book -- the physical book -- is designed to disappear and get out of the way so you can enter the author's world. So when you're reading a physical paper book, you're not thinking about the ink and the glue and the stitching. All of those things vanish so you can focus on the author's words. The Kindle's designed to be the same so when you're reading, the whole device vanishes, so that you're left with the author's world.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
A time for big decisions – see the full post for more James Fallows insights
On Google's side, the question is: if it comes to an all or nothing choice about operating in the Chinese market -- "all" meaning genuine compliance with Chinese censorship laws, "nothing" meaning pulling out altogether -- are they prepared, really, to close down all their operations? All 500+ engineers in the mainland? All of the advertising, mobile, and other business operations that have little directly to do with search? When Google first announced this decision, it appeared they could have it both ways: international acclaim for taking a stand for free expression, but still a significant premise in the fastest-growing information market on earth. If they have to choose, which way will they go?
File under “Future collectors’ item,” imho; see this Cisco page (the source of the images below) for more details
The company announced plans for the new tablet, called the Cisco Cius, during its annual customer conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday. The device, which will only weigh about 1.15 pounds, will sport Cisco's collaboration software that integrates virtual desktop applications with high-definition video.
Specifically, the new device will have front- and rear-facing cameras that record in high definition for video conferencing and a 7-inch high-resolution screen. The device will be integrated with Cisco's TelePresence video conferencing system to provide one-click access to video conferences. It will also be integrated with the WebEx meeting products. It can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi or through a 3G cellular network.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out
Now one element of Google Editions is coming into sharper focus. Google is on the verge of completing a deal with the American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independent bookstores, to make Google Editions the primary source of e-books on the Web sites of hundreds of independent booksellers around the country, according to representatives of Google and the association.
The partnership could help beloved bookstores like Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore.; Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, Calif.; and St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York. To court the growing audience of people who prefer reading on screens rather than paper, these small stores have until now been forced to compete against the likes of Amazon, Apple and Sony.
This should help rebalance Elon Musk’s bank account
Investors snapped up Tesla’s shares even as the broader markets took a beating. The stock soared $6.89, or 40.5 percent from its offering price, to close at $23.89 — marking the second-biggest first-day gain among initial public offerings this year. Tesla’s performance was a feat in a sour market that has forced many companies looking to raise funds through IPOs to accept lower prices to get deals done.
The IPO also came on a day when most US stocks tumbled.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Amazon has rolled out an updated version of the Kindle software for Apple’s mobile devices. The new app adds support for eBooks with audio and video content. This opens up the doors to all sorts of multimedia content.
For instance, the latest Kindle edition of Knitting for Dummies comes with 6 videos that can actually demonstrate how to perform different knitting techniques. And the new version of Rick Steves’: London 2010 includes 5 audio tours that you can use while navigating historic landmarks in the city.
A Facebook financial snapshot
Elevation Partners, the private equity firm, has acquired an additional 5m shares of Facebook for $120m, bringing its stake in the social network to about 1.5 per cent, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. In November, Elevation bought 2.5m shares for $90m.
Elevation, which counts U2 front man Bono among its partners, did not purchase the shares directly from Facebook or its employees, but bought them on the secondary market, where former employees and investors can command lucrative prices for their stakes in one of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies.
Facebook stock is trading at prices that value the company at as much as $24bn. The stake in Facebook is a rare bit of good news for Elevation, a high-profile firm known for ill-conceived investments in Forbes and Palm.
Another Kindle milestone
This new announcement puts Amazon farther ahead of its competitors in offering a read-everywhere experience. For those who do not want to buy a Kindle reading device or don’t want to carry it everywhere, there are Kindle applications for all versions of the Apple iPhone, the iPad, PC and Mac computers, BlackBerry cellphones and now a range of Android-powered phones.
By way of comparison, books purchased from the Apple iBookstore can only be read on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
In an Amazon press release, Dorothy Nicholls, who is responsible for the Kindle business, said, “Our customers tell us they love the convenience of having their Kindle library with them everywhere and their reading synchronized across multiple devices.”
More Google adventures in China
Mr. Drummond wrote that in an effort to continue to serve Google’s Chinese users while placating the government, the company is proposing a compromise. In the next few days, it will stop automatically redirecting users to its Hong Kong site.
Instead, Chinese users will see a page at google.cn, which offers a single link to the Hong Kong site, where they can conduct searches or use other Google services, like translation and music, that require no filtering.
The company said it had resubmitted its content provider license based on this approach and hopes the Chinese government will find it more palatable. If the government continues to object, Google would lose its ability to operate a Web site in China altogether.
Another iPhone reality check
If the iPhone 4 has become "the most successful product launch in Apple's history," as the company says, one wouldn't want to imagine the worst.
Apple's statement overlooked the fact that its fourth-generation phone has an antenna design that may require consumers either to buy a case or learn to hold the phone in a particular way to ensure reception. Usually the idea is to produce phones that get clearly better, not worse, with each new version.
The real question has to be whether concerns about the antenna, combined with carrier congestion issues, will slow uptake of the iPhone among customers not yet converted to Apple worship. Not only are they likely to be less patient with any product failings, they can now choose from an ever-widening array of alternative smartphones.
That creates quite a market opportunity for the $29 rubber bumpers that help to make the phones actually work…
Apple sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s in its first three days, a record for the newest version of its top-selling product featuring video calling and an updated body.
The iPhone 4 made its debut in the United States, Britain, Japan, France, and Germany last Thursday. Many stores sold out. The previous 3GS model sold 1 million during its first weekend.
Some interesting speculation/rumors
Adam D’Angelo, involved in Facebook early on
Here is what I’ve pieced together from some reliable sources:
• This is not a rumor. This is a real project. There are a large number of people working on it. I am completely confident about this.
• They realized that Buzz wasn’t enough and that they need to build out a full, first-class social network. They are modeling it off of Facebook.
• Unlike previous attempts (before Buzz at least), this is a high-priority project within Google.
• They had assumed that Facebook’s growth would slow as it grew, and that Facebook wouldn’t be able to have too much leverage over them, but then it just didn’t stop, and now they are really scared.
Monday, June 28, 2010
An extensive snapshot of a stark cyber scene
Schools these days are confronted with complex questions on whether and how to deal with cyberbullying, an imprecise label for online activities ranging from barrages of teasing texts to sexually harassing group sites. The extent of the phenomenon is hard to quantify. But one 2010 study by the Cyberbullying Research Center, an organization founded by two criminologist who defined bullying as "willful and repeated harm” inflicted through phones and computers, said one in five middle-school students had been affected.
Affronted by cyberspace’s escalation of adolescent viciousness, many parents are looking to schools for justice, protection, even revenge. But many educators feel unprepared or unwilling to be prosecutors and judges.
A timely reality check for a work in process
Listening to marketing messages from companies such as Apple and Google, one might think HTML5, the next-generation Web page standard, is ready to take the Net by storm.
But the words of those producing the specification show an HTML governance process that can be stormy, fractious, and far from settled down. The World Wide Web Consortium's return to HTML standardization after years of absence has produced tensions with the more informal Web Hypertext Application Working Group (WHATWG) that shouldered the HTML burden during that absence.
See the full post for more details
Thankfully, Congress is considering the bill before a major cyber-terrorism attack has been carried out successfully against the United States. This should allow senators to consider the bill unclouded by the inevitable panic an attack would trigger. While much of the bill would move the nation’s cyber security in the right direction, the Senate should nonetheless reconsider some of the legislation’s vague language and unclear measures.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
As expected, it is indeed a user error, as far as Apple is concerned; see the full post for other Steve Jobs email insights
MacRumors forum user samcraig emailed Steve Jobs about the low signal issue while holding the new iPhone 4 in a specific way. The potential issue has been generating a lot of discussion. Samcraig emailed Steve Jobs:
Question - What's going to be done about the signal dropping issue. Is it software or hardware?
To which, Jobs replied with a typically short response:
Non issue. Just avoid holding it in that way.
Another sign of the advertising times
It saw 86m “impressions” or views of the ads in 24 hours, said Carol Kruse, vice-president for global interactive marketing at Coca-Cola, which is an official sponsor of the football tournament.
Coke also saw an “engagement rate” of 6 per cent, compared with the approximately 0.02 per cent of people who click on a regular online advertisement.
Such enthusiasm from a large advertiser will come as a boost to Twitter’s nascent attempts to generate revenues from its 190m monthly visitors.
Maybe Apple should hire Leonard Nimoy for an infomercial
But while engineers and designers agree that the new design makes the iPhone more susceptible to antenna reception problems, Spencer Webb, president of AntennaSys, which designs antennas says that all handheld device have this problem, and people just need to learn how to hold their devices properly to avoid it.
According to Mr. Webb, that means thumb on the left side, middle finger on the right side, and index finger on the top back to hold it in place. “Everybody needs to learn how to do the Vulcan iPhone pinch,” he said, adding that the way Apple CEO Steve Jobs holds the iPhone makes a lot of sense.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Read the full post; this is another classic truth-is-stranger-than-fiction Apple scenario
So everybody is up in arms now after it turns out that iPhone 4 can’t pick up signals when you’re holding it in your hand, because the band around the phone is the antenna and if you’re touching the antenna it screws everything up.
First of all, this is not a big issue. If you’re experiencing this, most likely it’s not the phone at all — most likely you’re just living in a place where there’s bad reception, in which case the solution is simple: you need to move.
Or maybe you’re living in a place with good reception but you just need to buy a bumper for your phone and/or wear latex gloves while holding the phone.
Or you can try going bare-handed and just learn how to hold your goddamn phone properly. Either way, it’s no big deal.
More David Kirkpatrick commentary
Zuckerberg has another looming problem his older doppelganger has experienced. "I believe it will become subject to serious government regulation and push back," Kirkpatrick says. That's not surprising, he says, given that some of the company's aspirations-- for example to become an established database for identity verification-- are to do things traditionally in the realm of governments not private companies. "Zuckerberg worries about this, it's coming and it's already started."
See the full article for more on P&G’s Facebook experience
P&G, the company with the highest global ad spend according to Advertising Age, was a relatively early adopter of Facebook as a promotional platform. Mr Pritchard remains enthusiastic about the site, which has almost 500m members.
“We are with Facebook in a big way,” he said: “We want to go wherever Facebook is going as well.”
P&G is two years into a three-year plan to increase its digital engagement, with the percentage of its budget spent online climbing into the double digits for the first time. Until recently, consumer goods companies have invested far less in online advertising than other industries, such as cars or financial services.
Apparently another HP bet on WebOS; no doubt Apple will find a way to legally challenge the usage scenario…
Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but an anonymous source told TechCrunch that the price was around $30 million. The acquisition vaults HP into the battle for mobile music services.
Nutsie (the name is an anagram of iTunes) runs on several mobile platforms, and gives users a way to get music from the iTunes library on their computer to a mobile device over the air.
A timely snapshot
For decades, computer scientists have been pursuing artificial intelligence — the use of computers to simulate human thinking. But in recent years, rapid progress has been made in machines that can listen, speak, see, reason and learn, in their way. The prospect, according to scientists and economists, is not only that artificial intelligence will transform the way humans and machines communicate and collaborate, but will also eliminate millions of jobs, create many others and change the nature of work and daily routines.
“It’s not human intelligence, but it’s getting to be very good machine intelligence,” said Andries van Dam, a professor of computer science at Brown University. “There are going to be all sorts of errors and problems, and you need human checks and balances, but having artificial intelligence is way better than not having it.”
In a sign that its tango with regulators isn’t ending anytime soon, Facebook on Thursday announced it had hired Marne Levine as a new vice president of global public policy.
Levine has plenty of connections in Washington: She currently serves as the chief of staff at the White House’s National Economic Council, and also worked as chief of staff for Larry Summers when he was the president of Harvard.
Per David Kirkpatrick:
On my current round of talks on my book tour (last two days in SF) I have said repeatedly that perhaps Facebook's biggest upcoming challenge will be dealing with regulators and governments around the world as it plays a role unlike any one a company has ever played. Today the company hired someone specifically to deal ...with that set of issues. I predict she will need a large staff. Levine is a longtime friend and former colleague of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, from her days working with Larry Summers.
Obviously these people are simply not holding their iPhones correctly… On a serious note, I suspect Apple’s decision to offer a $29 iPhone 4 “bumper” (rubber edge case, available in six colors…) is a tacit acknowledgement that the antenna design is flawed
The reader reports included suggestions for how to fix the problem — Update 19: use nail polish to insulate the antenna; Update 21: enclose the phone in a rubber case — and appeared to show some wisdom in this crowd. Late Thursday, an Apple spokesman, Steve Dowling, acknowledged that the issues experienced by users were real but he played down their importance.
“Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, depending on the placement of the antennas,” he said. “This is a fact of life for every wireless phone.”
Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry has long been the standard-issue smartphone for businesses, largely because RIM made it easy for corporate technology departments to manage and secure its devices. Information-technology professionals dismissed the iPhone as a toy, and many banned it from their companies outright.
But while BlackBerrys are still the most popular corporate device, with 70% of IT departments currently supporting the gadget, about 29% of businesses now support the iPhone, up from 17% last year and none in 2007 when the iPhone first launched, according to Forrester Research.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
So … Twitter can resume misleading people on privacy again in 2030? There’s a simple solution in this context: assume everything you share on Twitter (and also on Facebook, assuming you have something other than a tiny and totally trusted collection of friends) will be public and preserved forever.
For the last 11 months, the F.T.C. has been looking into two security breaches at Twitter in 2009 in which a hacker accessed the accounts of several high-profile members, including then President-elect Barack Obama, and was able to read their private Twitter messages and send out fake messages from their accounts.
As part of the settlement, Twitter, based in San Francisco, agreed to set up a security program that will be audited by an outside company, and, according to the F.T.C.’s news release on the case, “will be barred for 20 years from misleading consumers about the extent to which it maintains and protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information.”
More Facebook snapshots
"In the United States, we have a hubristic desire to bring down the powerful, and Mark is the biggest target," Kirkpatrick said. "There is a rabid culture of gotcha journalism and blogging and punditry, particularly in tech. The bigger Facebook got, the more people wanted to think he stole the idea. I don't think it's entirely unjustified, but far more has been made of it than necessary."
Without setting himself up as a pundit, given his "poking" of the general tech press, Kirkpatrick did slam Facebook's handling of the privacy crisis and other changes, calling the communications "egregiously abysmal". But he said Facebook would be wrong to listen to its users, as it would have been bullied into rolling back core functionality, including some of its most popular features. He said, instead, that Facebook knows best, that it is both people-centric and data centric, and that the data is continuously studied. He predicted Zuckerberg plans to lead the company for the next decade, and that it will hit a billion users by the end of 2011 - an incredible number, with Mark in control.
LinkedIn, the business-oriented social network, is planning acquisitions to help it take advantage of growth in the mobile market, CEO Jeff Weiner told Bloomberg News, and has also had expressions of interest from bankers who want to finance the company or take it public. The company also plans to boost its staffing levels by 50 percent by the end of the year — which would give it close to 900 employees — in order to handle growth in Brazil, India and China. Meanwhile, the network continues to add new social features that mimic those offered by Twitter and Facebook.
A potentially hopeful sign for information literacy, albeit in a stark context (see the full post)
In a AAAS presentation this year, William R. Freudenburg of UC Santa Barbara discussed his research on “the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge”:
New scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected.”
The anti-science crowd, however, is stuck pushing its disinformation, that this is all a hoax or a wild exaggeration. That limits the studies they can write about and/or forces them to repeat the same limited number of well-debunked arguments again and again and again, like attacking the uber-vindicated Hockey Stick for the umpteenth nauseating time.
It’s kind of like peak oil. We’re not making any more oil so eventually production has to peak. They’re not really making any new disinformation, and it just gets harder and harder to recycle the same old BS.
Excerpts from an update overview post
Working with key groups inside Microsoft that have deep entertainment heritage, we’ve made significant investments in four key areas: Music, Gaming, Movies and TV. Our focus was on making it easy – if you can type in a search box, you can have a great entertainment experience on Bing. Or, if you prefer a browsing, discovery oriented experience, also make that easy to, just visit http://www.bing.com/entertainment.
We didn’t stop at lyrics. In addition to the full Bing answers experience where you can get photos, videos, and even tour dates for your favorite acts, we partnered with our friends at Zune, and are now able to offer full-length streaming for more than 5 million songs. You get a single play of every song in this 5 million song catalog, and after that 30 second previews. So you can really get into the music you love. When it’s time to buy, we’ll offer you the ability to purchase and download songs from Zune, iTunes and Amazon.com MP3.
An example screen shot:
An interesting phone value proposition…
Although none of the executives on the stage at the event directly referred to the newest version of the iPhone, which will feature a front-facing camera and a higher-resolution display, they made subtle remarks at some of the differences between the two devices.
“We have the network to deliver the device,” Mr. Jha said. “The reason people carry devices with them is that they like to make and receive calls.”
Perhaps not over yet
But Viacom, the owner of Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, said it would appeal the ruling, which it said was fundamentally flawed.
“Copyright protection is essential to the survival of creative industry,” Michael Fricklas, Viacom’s general counsel, wrote in a blog post. Mr. Fricklas said that before YouTube put in place a filtering mechanism to more easily detect copyright infringement, the company had built itself on pirated material and sold itself to Google for $1.65 billion.
“YouTube and Google stole hundreds of thousands of video clips from artists and content creators, including Viacom, building a substantial business that was sold for billions of dollars,” Mr. Fricklas said. Legal experts said that the ruling blessed YouTube’s practices for dealing with copyrighted material, as well as those of many other sites that handle user-generated content in a similar fashion.
A major Windows Live update; see this page for more details
The Live Essentials update focuses on making Windows more Web-friendly, without leaving users on the hook for uninstalling programs they don't want their computer to come with. The new betas of Windows Live Messenger, Writer, Mail, Movie Maker, and Photo Gallery will all connect to multiple cloud-based services. For social networking, they will hook into Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace; for media-sharing, they will connect to Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, SmugMug, and SkyDrive; there will be Web mail sharing via Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail. There will also be connections between the Live Essentials tools and the new Office Web Apps, and blogging hooks for Blogger, WordPress, and Spaces.
The new betas will debut more than just cloud-based enhancements. Windows Live Sync will now come with a remote desktop feature, placing it in direct competition with popular tools like GoToMyPC, TeamViewer, and LogMeIn. Windows Live Photo Gallery is going to come with retouching features, as well as a stitching tool for creating panoramas and an option called "PhotoFuse" for merging multiple photos.
See the full article for more details (once again via David Kirkpatrick’s Facebook page)
British newspaper the Guardian reported that Zuckerberg said there was “no chance” of hitting the one billion mark this year, but “it is almost a guarantee that it will happen.”
Despite the widespread complaining about Facebook’s personal privacy controls, the social network is still growing. The rate of new user signups has slowed, Zuckberg told Inside Facebook in a separate interview. “It still does at a super-linear rate, though not quite 3% a week anymore.”
For Mitchell Kapor, who invests in technology start-ups including developers of mobile phone applications, it brings back memories of confronting Microsoft while running the Lotus Development Corporation in the 1980s.
“The amount of resentment is very, very large,” he said, “and reminiscent of the kind of resentment there was toward Microsoft when it was the platform an app developer had to be on.”
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Exclusive: Discussing the Future of Facebook and the Facebook Ecosystem with CEO Mark Zuckerberg [Inside Facebook]
Excerpt (via David Kirkpatrick’s Facebook feed):
At this point in the company’s evolution, I don’t see a huge need for the company to be throwing off a huge amount of profit. What’s the point? If we believe that we can build a lot more value for users, developers, and advertisers by taking any excess money we can make and investing it back in, then we’re just going to grow those communities and markets faster, and we’re going to end up with greater potential in the long run. If you prematurely optimize, you might get a bigger piece of a smaller thing. I feel like we’re really early on in the start of this movement toward everything being social.
More bold statements from Marc Benioff:
Benioff also took playful shots at competitors, especially software giant Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), which he implied has missed the boat on cloud computing.
"Microsoft wants this cloud thing stopped," Benioff said. He was referring to people handing out flyers for Microsoft outside the convention center where he was speaking.
Microsoft's cloud platform, Azure, competes with VMforce, a joint product being developed by Salesforce and VMware Inc. (VMW).
… but the words are difficult to reconcile with objective assessments such as the following, from Forrester (see this page for more context-setting and a link to the full Forrester report):
File under “Future collectors’ item",” imho
Before it even launches its e-book store, Borders is offering an e-reader discount.
After Amazon and Barnes & Noble slashed their e-reader prices on Monday, Borders responded Tuesday by offering a $20 gift card with the purchase of the $149 Kobo, which is backed by Borders.
- The Kobo
The Kobo is lightweight and doesn’t offer features such as a Wi-Fi connection; Borders had positioned it as an inexpensive alternative to e-readers that were then priced at about $250. On Monday, Barnes & Noble dropped the price of its Nook e-reader to $199 and introduced a version without 3G cellphone-network capabilities for $149; Amazon cut the price of the Kindle to $189.
An excerpt from an extensive Walt Mossberg review. I believe it would be preferable to make the multitasking mode a user option; some users would probably prefer true multitasking to optimized battery life.
After years of complaints, Apple finally has brought multitasking to the iPhone. But it has done so in a limited way that won't please everyone. On the iPhone 4, multitasking doesn't mean every app can work fully in the background. To prevent a disastrous drain on battery life, Apple has allowed only certain apps to fully multitask. These include streaming audio services like Pandora, which keep playing music from the Web while you do other things, and voice-prompted navigation apps, which keep working while you're on a call. Others that fully work in the background include Internet calling apps, and those that perform long downloads.
But some logical candidates, such as Twitter and Facebook, merely pause in place when you switch away from them. You can get back to them quickly, and they update more rapidly than before, but they don't constantly update in the background. They only wake up in the background if you have set them to notify you of an update, and then only for a limited time. Apple says constant fetching of hundreds of social-networking updates in the background would kill the battery too quickly.
Both companies say they’re willing to refund customers who bought their e-reading devices recently. You just have to ask for it.
Amazon says it will give the $70 price difference between an old and new Kindle as a credit to customers whose devices were shipped in the last 30 days.
Barnes & Noble says it will give customers a $10 refund and $50 gift card to Nook customers who are still within their 14-day return policy period. You can contact customer service, or just find the store manager at your local Barnes & Noble branch.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Hmm – with OneNote 2010, this could have some Courier-like potential. See this Toshiba product page (also the source of the picture below) for more details, and the CRN article for details on pricing etc.
The Libretto W100 is an ultraportable PC that doubles as an electronic reader. It has two 7-inch, multitouch displays with 1,024 x 600 resolution, one that can serve as a virtual keyboard. The device runs on a 1.2GHz Intel (NSDQ:INTC) Pentium U5400 processor and has up to 2 GB of memory.
A reader in China wrote just now to ask: Do Americans even think about the connection? Relentless price pressure on Chinese suppliers, all the more so now that, largely in response to U.S. government demands, the RMB is rising again? Relentless expectation of falling prices in U.S. stores? The Foxconn-suicide story is ambiguous, with many hypotheses about the cause. But the price pressure on these suppliers is unmistakable.
Barnes and Noble and Amazon each have an incentive to lower prices --- in hopes of attracting customers and establishing their rival e-reader formats as the standard. This makes sense, but is worth remembering when you read the next story about the unbearable pressures of Chinese factory life. Today is a day when the connections, and contradictions, of the global economy become unusually clear.
GigaOm insights – check the full post
Others are musing about Amazon’s fate. All this hand-wringing is old hat for our community, because Kindle hardware or not, Amazon is expected to make a billion dollars from its digital book-related business this year. From where I stand, Amazon has nothing to worry about, as long as it pays attention to a few details. (And no, that doesn’t mean sharing a bigger cut of revenues with publishers.) Regardless, there are three technological reasons why the online retail giant can and will win the e-book war.
It was quite a revelation, one that laid bare an uncomfortable truth in the world of venture capital: high-tech entrepreneurs who look rich are often relatively cash-poor, at least next to their glittering images. Mark Zuckerberg may be a billionaire when, or if, Facebook goes public. Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, lives like a king. But most of his wealth is tied up in Oracle stock. Mr. Ellison lives in part off loans.
People like Mr. Musk may have redefined what it means to be rich, particularly young and rich. But somehow, many of these seemingly successful people live on the financial edge, waiting, hoping for the next deal to unlock their next fortune.
More e-reader market dynamics
"Booksellers are actually making money off of e-books now. That was not the case when they built their business plans and set their original prices for these devices," said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research.
"Now they can go to the old razor-world model of giving away the razor for free and selling the blades. They are starting to give away the e-reader," he said.
Taking another run at human expertise/answering, this time with Facebook and Twitter as the underlying identity and social networking services
One of the hopefuls, Quora Inc., made its public launch Monday after months of private testing. The Palo Alto, Calif., company, co-founded by two early Facebook Inc. engineers, wants to collect and organize information people have in their heads but that may not be available online, such as background on the inner workings of a company and advice on how to get a reservation at an exclusive restaurant.
The service allows people to pose or answer questions—working behind the scenes to route questions to the users who can best answer them. People must use their real name on the site, and register by connecting their Quora accounts with a Facebook or Twitter account, which helps Quora connect them to people they know using the service.
Amazing e-reader market dynamics
Yesterday, Amazon.com Inc. slashed the price of the Kindle by $70 to $189, just a few hours after Barnes & Noble Inc. reduced the price of the Nook by $60 to $199 and said it would also start selling a new Nook with Wi-Fi access for $149.
Both the Kindle and the original Nook can wirelessly download books over high-speed data networks; the Nook also has Wi-Fi access. Amazon has lowered the Kindle’s price several times since it debuted in 2007 at $399. The Nook was released last year for $259.
Monday, June 21, 2010
… who posted comments on my blog last week (on my initial “Leaving Notes” post, to be specific) – I didn't mean to ignore you; Blogger failed to notify me there were pending comments. Blogger’s comment notification doesn’t work consistently; sometimes I receive email notifications, sometimes I don’t, and, most of the time, the pending comment count on the Blogger dashboard page has been wrong (I have routinely ignored it, and relied on email notifications of pending comments, as often, in the past, when I’ve clicked to see the n messages the dashboard system asserted I have pending, there weren’t any…). Maybe I should more seriously consider switching blogging service providers, as some people suggested over the last week…
To belatedly respond to the comments I’d missed:
1. I should have been clearer in my comments about the XPages architecture, as I acknowledged in another related blog post comment thread-based discussion; I continue to believe there is an embedded DBMS in the Notes client for use with off-line-able activities, but AFAIK there is no DBMS requirement for XPages, and I apologize for conflating/confusing the contexts.
2. On the second comment I'd missed: I appreciate your insights and I agree with your question about "[…] if IBM doesn't consider Notes to be strategic for its existing non-Notes customers, does IBM consider it to be strategic at all?"
Again, apologies for the delayed posting/responses, and thanks for the feedback.
Check the full post for some NoSQL insights from Mark Logic CEO Dave Kellogg. This will probably surprise him, but I agree with all of his insights; my main complaint about “NoSQL” is the name: since most information management work should be done in a mix of SQL and XQuery, it’s counterproductive to imply that SQL is somehow irrevocably broken just because it’s associated with traditional RDBMS products. I also found the earlier extended-relational-DBMSs-are-junk meme associated with the NoSQL “movement” frustrating, but that meme seems to have been quietly deemphasized lately, and replaced with a more diplomatic and constructive positioning model, as exemplified by Dave’s post.
We are in the middle of one of our periodic analyst tours at MarkLogic, where we meet about 50 top software industry analysts focused in areas like enterprise search, enterprise content management, and database management systems. The NoSQL movement was one of four key topics we are covering, and while I’d expected some lively discussions about it, most of the time we have found ourselves educating people about NoSQL.
In this post, I’ll share the six key points we’re making about NoSQL on the tour.
It’s going to be a challenging year for Mark Zuckerberg – having read both The Facebook Effect and The Accidental Billionaires, I don’t doubt that the latter, and the movie based on it, should be at least selectively categorized as fiction (the quote below is from David Kirkpatrick’s Facebook page, fittingly)
Here's the first promotion to emerge for The Social Network, the movie about Facebook based on Ben Mezrich's partly-made-up book Accidental Billionaires, which was published last summer, about Facebook's first year. The book and screenplay (the one I read) portrays Zuckerberg as venal, selfish, and sex-obsessed. This does not appear to be a fair portrayal according to the numerous sources I interviewed for The Facebook Effect.
Columbia Pictures has just released its first poster for this fall's The Social Network, otherwise known as the Facebook movie. The poster features
Sign of the times
Media reports from Pakistan today are saying that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could face the death penalty in the nation, for allowing users of his site to run a "Draw the Prophet Muhammad" contest last month.
Pakistani penal code allows for the death penalty in certain cases of blasphemy.
The popular social networking site was banned in Pakistan when the contest started, but access was later restored, with all "offensive contents" removed.
Interesting times for Facebook
Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, will make a rare on-stage appearance before the world’s advertising community this week as the social network strives to generate revenues that match its huge reach.
Mr Zuckerberg, who is usually more at home among software developers than ad men, will receive the “media person of the year” award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival on Wednesday, after being interviewed in front of its audience of agency bosses and marketing chiefs.
Amazing numbers, but what’s the real information value-add?
People typically write about 65 million Twitter posts a day, according to the company, and about 750 messages per second. But in the 30 seconds after Japan scored against Cameroon on Monday, soccer fans wrote a record 2,940 posts per second. Basketball fans quickly broke that record with 3,085 posts per second after the Lakers’ victory.
In the last few months, the growth in visitors to Twitter’s site has slowed, prompting people to wonder whether the Twitter trend was plateauing.
In fact, people were still using Twitter in increasing numbers, but doing it more from mobile devices and other Twitter apps than from Twitter’s own site.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The problem with Mr. Carr’s model is its unquestioned reverence for the slow contemplation of deep reading. For society to advance as it has since Gutenberg, he argues, we need the quiet, solitary space of the book. Yet many great ideas that have advanced culture over the past centuries have emerged from a more connective space, in the collision of different worldviews and sensibilities, different metaphors and fields of expertise. (Gutenberg himself borrowed his printing press from the screw presses of Rhineland vintners, as Mr. Carr notes.)
It’s no accident that most of the great scientific and technological innovation over the last millennium has taken place in crowded, distracting urban centers. The printed page itself encouraged those manifold connections, by allowing ideas to be stored and shared and circulated more efficiently. One can make the case that the Enlightenment depended more on the exchange of ideas than it did on solitary, deep-focus reading.
Another aspect of the Microsoft/Facebook story (i.e., beyond the potential return-on-investment dimension below): check out Docs, a free service, currently in beta testing, that makes Office Web App-based collaboration and content sharing, hosted on Windows Azure, freely available via the Facebook identity service.
Then three months ago, our colleagues at the Digits blog reported that “investors currently buying or looking to buy Facebook shares anticipate the company will go public in 2011 with a market capitalization of between $35 billion to $40 billion, according to people familiar with their thinking.”
Investors valuing Facebook at $35 billion to $40 billion also estimate its revenue this year at $1.2 billion to $2 billion.
The revenue figures reported today support such estimates. If Facebook was to go public at such a valuation, Microsoft stands to earn a tidy profit on its investment if it cashes out–something it may well not want to do. At the very least Microsoft’s investment in Facebook, at less than 15 times projected 2010 revenue, now doesn’t look as outlandish today.
The concluding paragraphs of an extensive Boston Globe essay on anonymity follow below. One potentially surprising twist: Facebook is actually a planetary and self-authenticating (as in people actually being who they say they are) identity system in some respects; as such, Facebook is conducive to people being accountable for their on-line activities (a topic covered in The Facebook Effect). Beyond the superficial celebrity pages and sometimes challenging etiquette dimensions, Facebook has the potential to significantly improve the quality and value of on-line communication and collaboration.
While news organizations debate scrapping anonymity, the ground may be shifting beneath them. With all of our identifying information getting sliced, diced, and sold, by everyone from credit card companies to Facebook, is there really such a thing as the anonymous Web anymore? Consider this demonstration from the late ’90s by Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Latanya Sweeney. She took three commonly available data points: sex (male), ZIP code (02138), and date of birth (July 31, 1945). Those seemingly anonymous attributes could have described lots of people, right? Actually, no. She proved they could belong to just one person: former governor William Weld. She tells me that 87 percent of Americans can now be identified with just these three data points.
Maybe the best approach to getting people to behave better online is just reminding them how easy it is to figure out who they really are.
Earlier in the Globe article:
That gets to the heart of the problem. The comments sections on many general-interest news sites lack both the carrot and the stick for encouraging responsible behavior. The carrot is the cohesion of a group you don’t want to disappoint, like Yoshimi25’s Front Burner community. The stick is the shame associated with having your real name publicly attached to embarrassing behavior. Without these two levers, the social contract breaks down.
An excerpt from a lengthy essay about the possibility that broadband Internet access should be a civil right
A substantial fraction of Americans now lack access to this modern necessity. In October 2009, a Department of Commerce survey found that a little over one-third of households did not use a broadband service. Sometimes this is by choice, but often it’s because of cost. In one survey, people told the FCC they paid an average of almost $41 per month for broadband, but that can vary widely; as a rule, broadband is more expensive in rural areas, some of which don’t have the relevant infrastructure at all. Usage figures correlate strongly with income, the Department of Commerce found: Households with family incomes above $50,000 overwhelmingly have broadband, but it’s far less common for lower-income people. The numbers also differ by race. Only about 45 percent of African-Americans, and an even lower percentage of Hispanics, use broadband at home.
Given how important the online world is to so many aspects of 21st-century life, when many observers look at Americans without broadband, they see a group of people who are slowly being excluded from society. Without it, says Benjamin Lennett, a policy analyst at the Wireless Futures program at the New American Foundation, “You’re simply not going to be able to have equal standing in society. You’re simply going to be left out.”
Sign of the times
Two years ago, Padrini developed the iBreviary, an application that brought the book of daily prayers used by priests onto iPhones. To date, some 200,000 people have downloaded the application, he said.
The iPad application is similar but also contains the complete missal — containing all that is said and sung during Mass throughout the liturgical year. Upgrades are expected to feature audio as well as commentaries and suggestions for homilies as well as musical accompaniment, he said.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
The final paragraph of a post from always-insightful Volker Weber follows below. What I read this week, in the “long goodbye” posts and related extensive discussion threads, was as much about commiseration as community; I didn’t see anything in the exchanges this week that suggests the current market dynamics (e.g., the Notes/Domino ecosystem in decline) are going to change. I agree with John Head; constructively sharing real-world data about migration and coexistence among multiple collaboration-focused vendors will be a productive next step, as will helping people in the Notes/Domino community understand how the collaborative application development skills they’ve mastered over the years are exceptionally valuable outside the Notes/Domino community.
I think the Lotus community, person by person, has gained more this week than any other week before. The german saying goes like this: Einsicht ist der erste Schritt zur Besserung. The value of this community lays in how they help each other, not how they try to help IBM.
John D. Head: The Notes/Lotus Bubble: Why “community” and “change” invoke such wide emotional responses
An excerpt from a very thoughtful post on the “long goodbye” themes.
I am not sure if there is anything we can specifically do to make people like jonvon feel welcome no matter where their professional career take them. I don't think a call to arms is necessary or needed, but we all need to keep this in the back of our mind. As long as someone participates and doesn't try to spoon feed us marketing and sales crap (I write that to remind myself of that as much as anyone ...) then we should be open and support of any direction. Personally, I want to hear about the real world experiences of people like Duffbert and jonvon as they go thru the transitions in their workplace. I want to hear real world data on what it is like to migrate and coexist in a world of Lotus and Microsoft (or Lotus and Google or Lotus and something else). I want to see community members at conferences presenting on how to integration Notes applications with SharePoint. Or super advanced .NET applications using Domino data thru the COM API. Or any other topic that shows how the real world exists - which is a combination of the platforms.
A Slate summary of a recent CNN article (see the source for the CNN link)
In a recent press conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg observed that more Facebook users are concerned about the site charging for use than about the privacy of the content they post there. There are hundreds of groups calling for Facebook to remain free of charge or warning that the site will begin charging for access. Facebook employees repeatedly quash these fears by saying they would never charge for content because "putting up a paywall runs counter to the company's mission to make the world more open and connected." Whether you believe that explanation or not, the company also has a financial incentive to keep the site free. Facebook can attract more members without charging for access, and more participants in the network means more eyeballs to attract lucrative advertisers.
See the full post for more on net neutrality
The Internet can be the ultimate democratic tool, where anyone can roam to acquire knowledge previously unavailable and/or inaccessible, with the potential to make something useful of that information. It can also be a hangout for those who seek things considered trivial, unproductive, immoral, malicious, even dangerous. Yet the concept that all Web traffic should be treated equally — net neutrality — applies to people who fall in either category. The problem is, some people fall into both categories. Gray areas abound. That is the nature of the free Internet, and continued unfettered access to it is now a vital part of our lives.
There is no overstating the value of a free Internet. Leaving the ISPs — and their inherent corporate mindset of profit over public interest (See Comcast ruling is a shift from neutral into reverse) — to their own devices risks a scenario in which Web surfing might someday be equivalent to channel surfing on our TVs. We don’t want to type in a URL only to be met with “you have not subscribed to this channel.”
Before we get into the details, here are a few factoids to give you an idea of the scaling challenge that Facebook has to deal with:
- Facebook serves 570 billion page views per month (according to Google Ad Planner).
- There are more photos on Facebook than all other photo sites combined (including sites like Flickr).
- More than 3 billion photos are uploaded every month.
- Facebook’s systems serve 1.2 million photos per second. This doesn’t include the images served by Facebook’s CDN.
- More than 25 billion pieces of content (status updates, comments, etc) are shared every month.
- Facebook has more than 30,000 servers (and this number is from last year!)
Still aiming high
Mr. Kurzweil argued that the existing e-readers and tablets had limitations in the text formats they support and the way they handle the original images and layouts in printed texts. Blio preserves the original formatting, making it particularly attractive to publishers of things like cookbooks, how-to guides, schoolbooks, travel guides and children’s books.
“The publishers will not give things with complex formats to these e-reader makers,” Mr. Kurzweil said. “They destroy the format.”
At 4 a.m. on Thursday, at the end of an all-night session, Iceland’s Parliament, the Althing, voted unanimously in favor of a package of legislation aimed at making the country a haven for freedom of expression by offering legal protection to whistle-blower Web sites like WikiLeaks, which helped to craft the proposal.
One of the sponsors of the proposal in the Althing, Birgitta Jonsdottir, told my colleague Noam Cohen in February that Iceland hoped to become “the inverse of a tax haven,” by offering journalists and publishers some of the most aggressive protections for free speech and investigative journalism in the world. “They are trying to make everything opaque,” she said. “We are trying to make it transparent.”
Friday, June 18, 2010
Leaving Notes, hypertext, resources and relations, etc.: “… but before I can tell you *that* story, I have to tell you *this* story…”
Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants book series is a great resource, if you have a young child whom you want to engage in reading, and/or simply want to laugh a bit (warning: the content can be a bit crude…).
I used to greatly enjoy reading the books to my kids, many years ago, and a creative line/narrative construction stuck with me: Pilkey often introduces background/context-setting story shifts with a first-person “… but before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story”. Simple but delightfully effective, for his purposes.
With that in mind, I’m going to start a series of blog posts that will establish more background/context-setting to explain the reasons why I believe there has never been a more compelling, productive, and important time to be involved in software at the intersection of communication, collaboration, and information management.
A couple very productive blog-based discussion threads over the last few days (as well as reading/pondering The Facebook Effect, and some recent real-world/in-person conversations) have combined to produce a personal reality check in this context: I realized I need to engage in open conversation more often, and to strive to openly, constructively, and purposefully share and discuss my views – i.e., to collaborate more broadly and effectively ...
My primary purpose in this is not to promote Microsoft software and services, although I also won’t be shy about explaining, at times, why I believe Microsoft is helping to advance the industry comm/collab/info mgmt agenda in many important ways, and why I believe Microsoft’s value proposition is stronger than those from Google, IBM, and Oracle.
Instead, my overall goal is to help foster constructive conversation about the vendor/product-independent market dynamics that are, collectively, helping to rapidly evolve related technologies, tools, services, and user conceptual models and expectations.
"If we humans don't learn how to be collectively smarter as fast as we can, there's going to be a better and better chance that the human race is just going to crash. That's what keeps us going."
Anyways, now that I have set reader expectations at an impossibly high level, I need to block some time to formulate a plan for structuring and serializing the topics/memes/etc. I want to share – i.e., I need to determine the flow for “… but before I can tell you that story, I need to tell you this story [these stories"]”. It’s going to take me a while, and I may create a new, more general-purpose hypertext site for the longer content pieces, rather than flooding this/my current news filter-oriented blog with long posts; if I opt to go that route, I’ll post summaries and links (to the extended-play resources on the new site) here.
In the meantime, you might want to check out a Dav Pilkey book or two (or maybe The Facebook Effect, if you don’t have young kids).
More to follow…
p.s. lest any of my IBM connections think this is all some sort of duplicitous sales/marketing scheme, rest assured that my Microsoft colleagues are probably as apprehensive about this as you are – it is my personal blog, and, as the disclaimer at the bottom of the page states, “The contents of this site are my personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s views in any way.”
This is a somewhat scary reflection of the social scene at large (with the exception of #5 on the top-25 list, imho, and the fact that Sarah Palin isn’t on the list, although it’s disconcerting that Pink Floyd fell off the list since 2008…); check the full post and list therein for a timely reality check
The Facebook Pages with the largest number of fans are almost entirely relegated to entertainment — including musicians, actors, television shows and movies. According to Inside Facebook’s tool PageData, which counts how many fans Pages acquire, only seven of the Top 25 Pages on Facebook do not fall into this category.
Looks like AT&T may be trying to top the customer outrage resulting from its iPhone ordering disaster this week (via Mitch Kapor)
As you recall, AT&T’s MicroCell is being marketed as a way to repair bad connectivity in areas with little or no AT&T reception including, but not limited to, basements, attics, Manhattan, and San Francisco. It essentially piggy backs on your own home network to provide data service and voice to your phone.
However, AT&T will still charge data used while in range of the Micro-Cell against your no longer unlimited data cap. This means that you’re essentially allowing AT&T to drop a cell antenna into your house, paying $150 for the privilege, and they get to use your data infrastructure to get voice and data back to their own fiber networks.
More near-term bad news for MySpace, apparently
The departure also comes ahead of a deadline in two weeks when MySpace’s lucrative internet search deal with Google expires. News Corp secured a landmark deal in 2007 to be paid $900m to use Google’s search and advertising services.
Google may be paying $100m less on the original contract as the deal was contingent on meeting minimum traffic requirements, which had fallen short, News Corp executives said late last year. It is not immediately clear if it would be able to replace the deal or with whom.
More on AOL’s latest acquisition debacle
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but reports pegged its value at $10 million or less. AOL paid $850 million to a pair of British entrepreneurs for the company in March 2008.
AOL once had high hopes that Bebo would help it to regain momentum, especially with younger audiences and advertisers, and to catch other fast-growing Internet franchises. At the time, it was popular in Britain.
When it bought Bebo, the chief executive of AOL at the time, Randy Falco, called it a “game-changing acquisition” that would turn AOL into “a social media powerhouse.” AOL also had hopes Bebo would help AOL’s instant messaging service bring in revenue.
Not a good week for Intuit or its customers
"An accidental power failure during that procedure affected both our primary and backup systems, taking a number of Intuit websites and services offline," said Ginny Lee, Intuit's chief information officer. "While power was quickly restored, we're working diligently to validate our systems and bring them back into full operation."
Customers complained about the outage on an online support forum operated by the Mountain View, Calif., company, with some expressing fears about their ability to make payments and deposits. "Listen, if I am not able to process my credit cards before noon tomorrow, checks are going to bounce in my account," wrote one customer. "I can not write checks of any type," wrote another.
Interesting times for MySpace
In the latest executive shift at social-networking site MySpace, Co-President Jason Hirschhorn is leaving the company.
Mr. Hirschhorn became co-president of MySpace– along with Mike Jones – in February, when Owen Van Natta abruptly left as chief executive. Mr. Jones will remain president.
The social-networking site has experienced a revolving door of executives and declining traffic and ad revenues. MySpace attracted 111.2 million unique world-wide visitors in April, down 12% compared to the same period last year, according to comScore Inc.
To live or die by the Droid…
Motorola Inc. is planning to funnel billions of dollars to its money-losing cellphone business when it splits off into a separate company next year.
Under a structure now taking shape, Motorola is planning to buy back most of its debt and give the bulk of its remaining cash—roughly $3 billion to $4 billion—to a new company centered on the cellphone unit, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Schaumburg, Ill., company would also free the cellphone company of pension liabilities and most other obligations, highlighting how hard the Motorola board is pushing to ensure the viability of the business.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
See the full post for more details
When we announced our browser support we heard from many of you that we left out Chrome. A big part of supporting a browser is spending the time to properly test our apps in that browser and then fixing any issues we encounter. We’re pleased to announce that we’ve tested Office Web Apps in Chrome and have fixed several issues. If you love Chrome, we want you to use Office Web Apps in Chrome. If you find issues that we missed, use the feedback links in the web apps to tell us about the issues.
"However, Google obtained a patent this year for a system that would help it identify “inadequate content” on the internet, based on comparisons of what people search for and what they find, executives who have reviewed the filing, said.
The filing said data from the Google system could be sold to online publishers or given away for free, which could complicate the plans of companies such as Demand Media, Associated Content and AOL that are developing systems to generate ideas for internet content using software algorithms."
Magazine Preview - Smarter Than You Think - I.B.M.'s Supercomputer to Challenge 'Jeopardy!' Champions - NYTimes.com
An interesting artificial intelligence snapshot
With Watson, I.B.M. claims it has cracked the problem — and aims to prove as much on national TV. The producers of “Jeopardy!” have agreed to pit Watson against some of the game’s best former players as early as this fall. To test Watson’s capabilities against actual humans, I.B.M.’s scientists began holding live matches last winter. They mocked up a conference room to resemble the actual “Jeopardy!” set, including buzzers and stations for the human contestants, brought in former contestants from the show and even hired a host for the occasion: Todd Alan Crain, who plays a newscaster on the satirical Onion News Network.
Perhaps Intuit was overwhelmed by people rushing to restructure their personal finances in order to buy new iPhones…
Intuit's core Web site and its QuickBooks and Quicken online sites have suffered a major outage, rendering them offline and unavailable since 7 p.m. PDT on Tuesday.
In a statement on its QuickBooks support page, Intuit acknowledged the outage but provided no details on the cause or estimated recovery time.
Amazing if accurate
Mashable reported on Wednesday morning that Bebo had been sold; The Wall Street Journal followed up later in the day by saying that the deal is "close" but not complete and that the buyer is Criterion Capital Partners, a hedge fund based in Studio City, Calif. An AOL representative did not respond to a request for comment; a price isn't yet clear, but the Journal noted that Criterion's buys tend to be in the $3 million to $30 million range.
That's a big drop in valuation. AOL acquired Bebo for $850 million early in 2008, when the social network was still a hot commodity among teenagers in several European countries, and when it was still possible that having a social-media property in-house could help it gain international reach as well as potentially rival Facebook.
Sign of the social times
Nielsen published statistics on Tuesday saying that people spend one in every four and a half minutes of their online time on a social network or blog. In the aggregate, Web users spend a total of 110 billion minutes on social Web sites and blogs each month.
The study says that this is the first time social networks or blogs are “visited by three-quarters of global consumers who go online.” This number has also increased 24 percent since the same time last year. In addition, Web users spent almost six hours during the month of April on social sites, versus 3 hours, 30 minutes during April of last year.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
After revisiting “Lotus Notes: The Long Goodbye” and the extensive and often emotional comments therein, I’d like to share some personal perspectives on the topics.
For those unfamiliar with my background, FYI:
- I worked at Lotus (and then IBM Lotus) during 1988 – 1998, and used to lead the Notes product management team.
- I currently work for Microsoft; I joined Microsoft in January 2009, more than a decade after I left IBM.
- In the interim period, I worked as a communication, collaboration, and information management-focused industry analyst/consultant for the Patricia Seybold Group and Burton Group, and worked in strategy and product planning roles at Groove Networks and Macromedia.
- My current job is primarily focused on helping enterprises migrate from IBM Lotus products to the Microsoft platform.
With that context established, here’s a summary of my high-level perspective on the history of Notes/Domino and related IBM products:
- Ray Ozzie and his team at Iris Associates pioneered the “groupware” market with Lotus Notes, on which they started work in December, 1984 (see this page for a history of Notes, and the recent PLATO 50th anniversary site for some related, longer-term history). Notes was in many ways audaciously ambitious, when it was introduced, considering the limited capabilities of PCs and networking at that time, and it reflected both Ray Ozzie’s inspirational vision and Lotus Development Corp. founder Mitch Kapor’s early and strong support (through a Lotus investment in Iris when he was Lotus CEO).
- Despite the conventional wisdom at the time, Iris (and through it, Lotus) was neither clueless about nor blindsided by the World Wide Web; there was substantive Internet-oriented integration in Notes even before the release of Notes 4.0, in early 1996. IBM acquired Lotus Development Corp. in 1995 because Notes was then a market-leading and robustly useful communication/collaboration platform; Notes was in a nascent product category, but its growth trajectory and customer satisfaction were clearly established. IBM was far more interested in Notes than the other Lotus products of that period (e.g., Lotus 1-2-3), which have now almost completely faded away; if Lotus hadn’t acquired Iris Associates in 1994, I suspect IBM probably would have sought to acquire Iris rather than Lotus.
- After IBM’s acquisition of Lotus, however, many people at IBM – including many people in senior management positions at IBM Lotus – were more enamored with Netscape, Java, and related market dynamics than they were with Notes (e.g., a couple reality checks, to explain my use of “enamored”: the original “write once, run anywhere” Java value proposition has yet to reach fruition, ~15 years after it was first touted, and Netscape is ancient history, when considered in the “Internet time” scale it once exemplified).
- IBM Lotus managers hedged their bets, implicitly relegating Notes (by then Notes/Domino) to something of a “legacy” (an industry euphemism for obsolete but still maintained/supported) role, and placing primary emphasis on WebSphere and related products such as Workplace. This IBM strategy contributed to a large number of employees opting to leave IBM/Lotus/Iris in the first few years after IBM’s hostile acquisition of Lotus Development Corp., in part because it was already readily apparent, to many observers, that what would become Workplace was more marketing wishful-thinking than robust product planning, and that the future of Notes/Domino under IBM’s management was not promising. Many IBM customers saw the same patterns and opted to migrate from Notes/Domino during this period.
- The hedged bet and several product execution failures created big problems for IBM
- If IBM had bet primarily on WebSphere-based services and tools, and had made the difficult decision to proactively migrate its Notes/Domino installed base to the newer architecture (much as was previously done in migrating the cc:Mail user base to Notes), it might have been able to transfer and revitalize the Notes/Domino ecosystem on a new, Java, and Web app server-based foundation. That’s essentially what IBM tried to accomplish, with Workplace, but the Workplace products failed to gain market momentum (and in many respects simply failed to work as promoted/expected), and IBM’s push to Workplace ultimately wasn’t credible (indeed, it deeply damaged several strategic IBM customer relationships).
- IBM also continued to maximize its profit from the Notes/Domino base, although the Notes/Domino engineering team was distracted by the Workplace strategy. When Workplace failed, IBM Lotus tried to shift its (engineering, customer, and partner) focus back to Notes/Domino (starting with “Hannover”), but by that time the product was competitively stale and increasingly out of step with market dynamics, especially
- Modern server operating systems, including, e.g., directory, search, Web, and information rights management services (making the related Domino services redundant)
- The shift to standards-based Internet architecture and the Internet information model, which Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and other vendors (including IBM, with its WebSphere product family) were all helping to accelerate
- Modern and Internet-centric application development tools, frameworks, and programming models. While IBM routinely demos Notes/Domino in conjunction with Java and assorted Web-centric technologies, in reality most Notes/Domino application development is probably still done in the Notes formula language and LotusScript, and most of the enterprise customers I’ve spoken with over the last five years still use the Notes client rather than browser clients when working with Notes/Domino applications.
- IBM also created a strategic problem for itself in that, while its application platform strategy has clearly moved to the WebSphere platform (including related collaboration products such as Connections), it still has an enterprise customer dependency on Notes/Domino for enterprise messaging (e-mail, calendaring/scheduling, contacts, and tasks/to-do personal information management). As a result, IBM’s enterprise customers need to support both Domino and WebSphere platforms (and a third, assembled-from-acquisitions cloud platform in LotusLive, if they’re interested in software as a service), creating a lot of complex and costly customer challenges. Perhaps the most awkward example of this, in terms of product consequences, is the support for XPages in the Notes 8.5.2 client, which entails the cobbling together of Notes, an embedded copy of DB2, facets of IBM’s Web server architecture, XULRunner, and other technologies.
- The overall result is that Lotus Notes, while originally a bold and pioneering software product is, fifteen years after IBM’s acquisition of Lotus Development Corp., significantly out of step with modern market dynamics, and carrying a heavy burden in application compatibility commitments to an architecture that was initially defined more than a quarter-century ago, and that has been on something of a starvation diet, in terms of engineering resources, relative to its competition, for much of the last decade.
- In another inconvenient truth for IBM Lotus, Microsoft has been relentlessly and singularly focused on a consistent, coherent, and meaningfully standards-based product family for communication, collaboration, and information management throughout the entire history of IBM’s control of Notes. Exchange has long since overtaken Notes for enterprise messaging in most regions, SharePoint is on a very steep growth curve, and Microsoft’s developer tools, including Visual Studio, SharePoint Designer, Expression Studio, and many facets of Office, are very accessible, powerful, and successful.
I’ll elaborate and continue my “Leaving Notes” series on related topics in future blog posts, including some reasons why I believe Microsoft OneNote 2010 and OneNote Web App will have major roles in advancing the state-of-the-art in collaboration and information management.
For now, if you work for an organization that’s uncertain about whether to continue investing in IBM Lotus products or to join the large and growing collection of organizations worldwide that are moving from IBM products to the Microsoft platform, leave a comment here, contact me directly (peterok at microsoft dot com), and/or contact your local Microsoft account rep and tell them you want to arrange a meeting to discuss Microsoft’s Enterprise Notes Migration solution. My colleagues and I would welcome an opportunity to constructively and objectively explain our perspectives and Microsoft’s value proposition in more detail.