Microsoft releases coming up

Waiting for Windows 7Good to see some credible rumours about Windows 7 being published. May 5 seems to be the day when Windows 7 RC goes public (and hopefully earlier for MSDN and TechNet subscribers).

A week later on May 11 Windows Mobile 6.5 might be released (or perhaps not).

But before those releases we’ll have Office 2007 SP2 available on 28 April.

And of course the Exchange 2010 Beta was released this past week.

Chief Technology Officer of America

Aneesh ChopraYep, big title. Big job. Everyone will have an opinion of today’s announcement that Aneesh Chopra has agreed to serve as America’s Chief Technology Officer (see also The Washington Post article). TechCrunch for example doesn’t seem too excited with the choice, and there’s been plenty of discussion on FriendFeed (example, example).

Here’s some interesting grabs from the White House press release:

In this role, Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities – from creating jobs and reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure.

and further (italics mine):

Aneesh and Jeffrey [Zients] will work closely with our Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, who is responsible for setting technology policy across the government, and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency, and lower costs.  The goal is to give all Americans a voice in their government and ensure that they know exactly how we’re spending their money – and can hold us accountable for the results.

I don’t know anything about the process, requirements, or candidates that were considered, so what can I possibly offer on the topic? Not much, except to point you to Tim O’Reilly’s excellent post covering the decision. In it he covers the reasons why Aneesh is a great choice.

Why piracy gets more attractive

Computer says No!Yesterday’s news about the clowns at The Pirate Bay being found guilty should come as no surprise. Justice has been done. Sure, many will make hair-splitting arguments about how they didn’t break the law (the letter of the law), but to me it is the spirit of the law that has been upheld (although perhaps not for long if they win their appeal).

What they’ve done is built a service that allows you to take an ‘experience’ (eg watching a movie) that you are legally required to pay for, and get it without paying. In the spirit of the law, that’s wrong. So, The Pirate Bay is wrong.

But here’s the bigger question for me. Should laws be changed to allow prosecution of companies who disrespect their customers? Take media companies who persist in locking down distribution channels as an example.

The frustrations of being disrespected as a customer are common. Here’s a few examples:

  • There’s a TV show or movie I want to watch. I can buy it on Amazon, but only if I live in the US
  • There’s an audio book I want to buy but it is not available outside the US, even though the book is
  • I want to watch Hulu but they can’t stream outside the US
  • There’s a new movie showing in the US but it won’t open here until next month
  • There’s an alternate version of the movie but I can’t get here because they are only selling the theatrical release here
  • There’s a new Xbox or PC game released in the US but not available here until next week

The rise of piracy

Whilst piracy has always thrived as a way of avoiding payment, I suspect much of its surge in the last 3-5 years has been due to the need for instant gratification. Consumers want the content, and they want it now. And they’re usually happy to pay for it as anyone who has experienced the following will attest:

Sucks to be me

Technology is an enabler, and it is now simple to enable access to anything, anytime, anywhere.

Thus, you have consumer demand. And you have technology to meet that demand.

What possible reason could there be for blocking it anymore? Especially considering it is more difficult and requires more complex technology in order to block the access.

It’s understandable then, that when confronted with barriers to accessing content legally, consumers find other means. The easiest path being piracy. Jump on a torrent site and download what you want to watch/listen to/play/etc.

The media companies have their reasons (outdated copyright and distribution deals are the usual patsy), but surely they realise the angst they create.

So why persist? Is it just a case of Old habits die hard, and no amount of trying to convince them they are actually losing revenue will change their minds.

Perhaps.

Taking action?

What if we could take legal action against the media companies for their attitude. What if we could argue that their approach is actually an abuse of technology. What if we could prove that their outdated practices are actually degrading society. What if we could prove that the rise of piracy and the associated illegal practices is a direct result of the media companies and their distribution policies? Should our laws be changed even?

Sadly, I doubt it would make a difference. After all, the claim would be likened to consumers suing a book store just because it was closed at night. It’d never fly.

It’s a shame really. The giant media companies should be embracing technology with vision and initiative, not persecuting the response to their lack thereof. What a wasted opportunity.

The obvious response

So what should consumers do?

Yes, we could perhaps take the attitude that downloading music should be declared legal, and then progress it to other formats, but there little chance that will be happening anytime soon.

I suspect we are left with little choice…

Which is why, for me, piracy keeps getting more attractive.

Exchange 2010 – when will email jump the shark?

Exchange 2010Most of us have a love/hate relationship with email. In spite of all its problems, email is still the main communication mechanism of corporate existence. That’s despite the spam, incessant interruptions and lack of proper tracking functionality.

I wonder if you’ve considered how insidious email is? Have you pondered the limiting effects of email on company collaboration for example.

  • Notifications of updates to company intranets, issue tracking platforms and release procedures are often delivered via email.
  • Reminders of workflow progress, forum responses and blog comments are all email reliant.
  • We even have voicemail delivered to us via email these days.

We take the time and effort to introduce new communication mechanisms into the enterprise, but then repress them with email as the main notifier. That’s really inefficient.

Far from being made irrelevant via new collaboration tools, email use is actually increasing.

Meetings

Speaking of inefficient, let’s consider meetings. In my experience there’s only one thing more unproductive than email, and that’s meetings. We spend so much time (mostly inefficiently) in meetings. But why are there so many meetings? I suggest its because of email. Consider how easy it is to call a meeting nowadays – its a simple email request. I’d like to see the correlation between the number of meetings people attend, and the ease at which meeting organization has been allowed via email requests over the last decade. I’ll wager that the rise of the unproductive meeting is another side effect of email :-).

And is it perhaps fitting that many people now spend time in meetings going through their email…

Microsoft’s Email Strategy

No surprise then that an email ‘platform’ is still a big money maker for Microsoft. Exchange – which granted is much more than just email – is a key strategy for the company, fitting in with its overall Unified Communications initiatives.

So, can Microsoft improve the efficiency of email? The news of Exchange 2010 being released later this year (beta available here) could be the start of an answer.

The feature list includes the support for ‘conversations’ (which I assume is similar to GMail’s much loved feature) and ‘email mute’ functionality to ignore certain email threads. MailTips will help you avoid the ‘Reply to All’ occurrences. All good improvements.

Next Wave

It doesn’t stop there. Exchange 2010 is also providing additional deployment options (you can mix both on-premises and partner capabilities) and archiving tools (as they address growing compliance requirements).

And then there’s the fact that Exchange 2010 is the first in the ‘next wave’. Here’s what the Microsoft PressPass announcement describes:

The next wave, which includes Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Visio 2010 and Microsoft Project 2010, is designed to give people a consistent experience across devices, making it easier to create and edit documents and collaborate from any location.

This is good right? Reduce the barriers to entry with consistent UI**. That should give some gains.

This all sounds good.

But sadly, its missed the main need…

The result

You can see what is happening here right? The next version of Exchange isn’t about improving the efficiency of email and combating all its side-effects. It’s not about reducing email or the time we spend consuming it. Sadly the reverse is true.

The result of all these improvements is that far from being reduced email is now being integrated into more and more of our lives, both business and personal. The inefficiency of email is hardly addressed, whilst its ubiquitousness gets yet another big push.

Corporate existence has been condemned to an even richer integration with inefficiency.

 

When will Email jump the shark? Answer: Never.

 

[**Aside: what about cross-product as well as cross-device UI consistency? This is something Adam Cogan has been lamenting (example) for many years – the fact that many Microsoft products have a completely different UI, so when you use Office it is different to SharePoint which is different to CRM which is different to Visual Studio which is different to the Live Essentials products and so on.]

Microsoft’s Boring-est Catch?

Deadliest CatchMost Australian’s won’t have had the fortune of seeing Deadliest Catch – it’s a show where a bunch of blokes do blokey things on ships that are always caught in The Perfect Storm while trying to catch crabs. No joke. I’ve seen an episode and thought it was the biggest load of drivel I’ve ever seen. Well, perhaps not quite as bad as Australia’s Got Talent, but pretty bad all the same. It’s one of those shows where 13 minutes of footage and content is drawn out over a whole agonising hour. But hey, that’s just me – and what would I know, it’s actually one of the highest rating shows in the US, so it demonstrates yet again you should never trust my judgement. The show even has a blog and wiki as well as video re-runs. They’ve probably got more Web 2.0 stuff going on than most technology companies!

Which all goes to show that Microsoft’s decision to compete for (and worse, win!) the advertising rights to the show might actually be a good thing. Thanks to this post from LiveSide I learned that Microsoft went all out on winning this deal (yes, I’m resisting all fishing related terms) to the point of integrating SMS and video game sweepstakes with web site plastering of ads (on both MSN and Fox Sports pages).

Here’s what the VP of Marketing at Discovery said:

“Microsoft just came in like rock stars on this,” Donna Murphy, the Discovery Channel’s vice president of marketing strategy, said in an interview. “They were the first ones to really blow it out in every direction.”

The interesting thing in all this (besides the spell binding show of course) is that Microsoft is pushing the boundaries of advertising. And perhaps this is where the future opportunities are. Instead of just going head to head on Search advertising with its competitors, Microsoft is leveraging a number of its platforms. This will transform the industry pretty quickly. It won’t be long before a promotion is saturated across all platforms – combining business, personal and leisure activities via desktop, mobile, entertainment (consoles) and online. Prepare to be immersed. And can you think of any company that can really compete with Microsoft across all these channels simultaneously? Google may be entering the mobile market but they don’t have an entertainment console channel.

One of the key points that Microsoft mention is that this ability to work together across their divisions is a relatively new ability. Keith Lorizio (an ad VP at Microsoft) notes that separate teams handled these disparate channels, but they now have the ability to work together efficiently.

This is the start of something big.

Twitter Revolutions and other nonsense

Twitter caused all this right?Stories like this (Activist Charged for Inciting ‘Twitter Revolution’) and this (Inside Moldova’s Twitter Revolution) from Wired are always hard to gauge. Are they deliberately trying to be silly, or are they just reporting the silliness of the world? In this case it is hopefully the latter. Here’s the grab from Wired:

A Moldovan activist faces criminal charges for organizing demonstrations that were enabled by social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, the Russian press reports.

The story revolves around the recent anti-communist demonstrations/protests that turned a little ugly and ended with riots and a bonfire in Chisinau, Moldova. Not pretty by any means, and not what I’m interested in commenting on. My interest is in how social networking tools (Twitter, Facebook and others) are the only thing that makes this a news story. Consider whether you’d be reading about any of this if it were ‘just another protest’ going on. Unlikely.

The difference of course is that communication methods are changing, and they’re getting harder to block no matter what Government censorship might be put in its way. Twitter is just another mechanism, similar to the mobile phone in years gone by. The ability to follow as an audience member is of course a fundamental difference, but it certainly isn’t the cause. Although it may account for some of the spectators who turned up (video was on the Wired post). It’s a little silly really.

This is no Twitter Revolution. At the end of the day if a person or group damages property, or breaks the law, then they will likely be prosecuted. The fact that they’ve used a certain communication mechanism to organise their activities is irrelevant. Although in this case it is probably fundamental to them being caught so easily.

So, really this just comes down to a slow news day. What next? Twitter causing relationship breakups or being used to replace the police.

Virtual Earth 3D Update

Thanks to those wonderful folk at Soul Solutions I was notified of an update to the Virtual Earth 3D control.

You simply head over to Live Search Maps and click on 3D. You’ll be prompted to install the control if you don’t have it already.

Virtual Earth 3D

 

But before we go on, a quick gripe first.

After a seamless install experience, here’s the final dialog. Yes, its one of those ‘let me fuck with your existing settings’ dialogs. I guess I don’t really mind being given the option, but please don’t tick them on by default. Microsoft, it’s just cheap wins and it lowers you into the realm of all those other shitty companies that do this kind of thing. Please stop it.

Final dialog from Virtual Earth 3D install

But once it is installed, it all works very nicely.

Sadly Sydney doesn’t seem to have made the 3D cut yet, so here’s what the Sydney Opera House (or Sydney Opera Center if you’re Hugh Jackman :-) ) looks like:

Sydne Opera House on Virtual Earth 3D 

(The little globe in the bottom left will have a building on (see below) if there are details.)

But other areas are rendering nicely. Here’s Times Square in New York (I thought I’d check if the Virgin Megastore showed :-))

Times Square on Virtual Earth 3D

Oh, and I like how the globe fills up to indicate progress in the rendering:

Virtual Earth progress Virtual Earth 3D progress

The Soul Solutions post has an an impressive image of the Statue of Liberty which renders really nicely, much more so than say this view of the Microsoft campus in Seattle:

Microsoft campus in Virtual Earth 3D 

There’s a few options too, including some terrain view improvements. But be careful with the Options dialog. It can easily fall behind the other windows (eg if you are taking a screen shot) and then you wonder why Live Search won’t respond anymore. You’ll need to minimise windows one by one until you find it. Hopefully the VE team can fix this little quirk in due course.

Virtual Earth 3D options

The control runs in both IE and Firefox, but Chrome wasn’t supported in my experience.

All in all, I like it. Very cool.

See also the Virtual Earth 3D Team Blog.

The problem with FriendFeed

FriendFeed - I Like it FriendFeed has had a lot of coverage this week. But then again so has Windows 7, Twitter, TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop, so there’s a chance you may have missed it.

When the new FriendFeed beta was unveiled on Monday I was certainly intrigued (in fact so much so that I’ve spent most of the week in FriendFeed, and not on Twitter where I usually hang out). Although I’d signed up for FriendFeed when it was first released, I hadn’t actually given it much of a look in until this week.

A few weeks back in my Twitter Popularity Content post I lamented the eroding of community on Twitter, and how the vibe was changing. In that post I jokingly suggested following people simply for the follow-back. Little did I know that some people actually seriously advocate this as a strategy.

I concluded by asking: where all the cool kids are heading? And the answer is now clear: FriendFeed.

Sadly though it seems I’m too late :-). All the cool kids are there alright, but the inevitable rabble of celebrity and marketer have turned up too.

But that won’t put me off for the short term. I love the community discussions that take place on FriendFeed. In many ways it is the replacement for comment systems on blogs. A discussion of topics is easy to promote and comment on. Filters are natural, and friend recommendations are actually relevant. I’m a convert.

(I’ll still be on Twitter though. Twitter’s biggest feature is its simplicity which I still like. In contrast, FriendFeed has taken me a little while to get used to.)

So what’s the problem?

Well, there’s a few problems.

The first is the lack of client tools. Sure, Twhirl and a few others provide FriendFeed support, but it actually detracts from the experience (especially since FriendFeed is now in real time). There’s no killer FriendFeed app.

Second is the ease with which you can pollute your stream, especially if you pull in from numerous sources (Twitter, Facebook, Ping.fm, etc).

Third is the bad layout. The UI is so inefficient that on a 1280 X 1024 screen I’m usually only seeing 6 or 7 messages (I agree with the suggestions on Mashable too).

These can all be overcome of course with time and proper development. Which just leaves the final problem:

How will they ever make any money?

Making money is going to be the priority for all but the best cashed up ventures (eg I think Twitter can hold on for a while), so FriendFeed surely has to be thinking of how to monetize the business at some point soon (they’ve only had $5M in funding so far). I can’t think of anyway they can monetize FriendFeed in its current format.

If the audience is predominantly geek, then they aren’t going to go for an ad supported structure. 

And even if the audience grows to mainstream, they probably still won’t be able to make money from ads. Why? Because if Facebook with all its rich, detailed demographic information can’t turn a profit from ads, then FriendFeed sure as hell doesn’t have a chance either.

Their information is taken predominantly from other sources, so there’s very little unique data-mining that can extracted.

And I don’t think they’ll be encouraging Friendfeed in Uni lectures like they are with Twitter.

So that leaves what?

Perhaps the only chance for FriendFeed will be if it gets acquired.

Finally

FriendFeed is great. I like it. But I think its days are numbered.

Does anyone use email these days?

Controlling your email Sometimes I have to wonder. With the SPAM stats growing all the time (Microsoft recently pegged email as being 97% spam – download the report here – the 97% stat is on p12) and the number of communication mechanisms such as Twitter and IM now considered mainstream, I’m beginning to think that traditional email has lost its place.

And for those of you with nothing better to do than read spam news, you’ll be riveted to know that Symantec releases a monthly State of Spam report (April PDF report here) which outlines the latest spam topics (mortgages, terror alerts are hot this month) and the sources (by far the largest is the US with 28% of spam originating there).

But then you see some little enhancements such as Gmail’s time zone indicator and you realise there’s still life left in the old-school ways yet. Perhaps email will be with us a little longer.

It’s perhaps ironic that most social networks by default will notify you by email when you have new followers, DMs and messages. Far from replacing email, they’re likely a major source of email increase.

(via Ars Technica)

Time for Windows 7 RC?

Windows 7Time to check in on the daily Windows 7 RC rumours and yet again we’re in for a treat.

If much of the Twitter buzz is true then the RC will be released on April 10. What a wonderful way to spend the long weekend (Australia has a 4 day weekend starting Friday), reformatting my machine and loading on the latest. Yes, it’s a sad thing that some of us look forward to these activities. On a side note I’ve been cleaning up an XP machine for my brother this week – ahhh what memories – and I think I’d die if I had to go back to that for any more than a few hours. But I digress, back to Windows 7…

The Hotfix mentions ‘legit and trusted sources’ which was picked up in forums and made its way onto blogs.

There’s all kinds of talk about different builds (7077, 7079, 7100 and even 7105) which I find completely boring, so perhaps I’m not that geeky after all (note to self: need to take some more of my geek pills).

Meanwhile there’s also advice on how to upgrade from the beta to the RC (in short, don’t), assuming it hasn’t been blocked, plus the ability to downgrade to Vista or XP.

Finally, there’s been a dubious report on IT Pro acceptance of Windows 7, and the usual playing-devils-advocate stance from Joe Wilcox (who I happen to totally agree with on this one – I mean how can you take seriously a poll of only 66 people!).

Rumours are rumours, so take them with a grain of salt. But if per chance the RC does make it out this weekend, there’s going to be a lot of happy people.

Link to SQL Server 2008 SP1

SQL Server 2008Just a quick link to the download (approx 900MB) for SQL Server 2008 SP1 which was released earlier this week.

The release is predominantly a bug fix release (you can view the full list of fixes here). There’s nothing really new in the product itself, although install (via slipstreaming) and uninstall (granular rollback via Control Panel) are improved. There’s also a ClickOnce version of Report Builder 2.0.

So, in summary, not very exciting right? Well, no. In my opinion this is another example of Microsoft focussing on quality. I’m pleased to see this practice becoming more of the norm in the last year or so. Instead of pushing in all kinds of new features, they are concentrating on making what is already a very high quality release, even better.

In some ways you could say that SP1 is aimed at improving the IT Pro experience, rather than the Developer experience. Installing Service Packs for SQL Server is one of the scariest procedures for IT Administrators (more so than OS patches in most cases) so it is right that Microsoft is reducing the barriers to upgrade. Back in the SQL Server 2000 days, any Service Pack install was a precarious thing – that’s why so many were caught when the Slammer worm hit. SQL Server 2005 improved the process, but we still saw the service packs introduce brand new functionality.

SQL Server 2008 SP1 with its minimal footprint change, and singular focus on just fixing bugs is a good move. Applying the Service Pack still needs to be a carefully planned exercise of course, but it is much more manageable than in previous releases.

Figures suggest that SQL Server 2008 itself has been downloaded more than 3 millions times since last August. So adoption is high. Keeping quality high will only improve that confidence further.

Microsoft Surface and Health care

Microsoft Surface - the possibilities are endlessMore on Surface, this time with Health Care taking the focus (see also our earlier post on Surface in Education). At the annual HIMSS Health Care conference this week, Microsoft is demonstrating a number of health care scenarios with Microsoft Surface (along with Amalga and HealthVault technologies).

You may be wondering where Microsoft Surface fits in with Health care. Consider for a moment how people normally interact with their doctor. Probably the same way they have for decades. But then consider this (from the HIMSS schedule):

A trend in healthcare that has emerged over the past decade is the evolution of patient-centered medicine. Patient-centered care is the movement to empower individuals to become medical decision makers who take an active role in their own care. New information systems such as patient portals and personal health records facilitate this transformation. We describe the development of a prototype application for the Microsoft Surface platform designed to promote a patient-centered approach within the context of a physician-patient interaction.

Health care is changing.  

Need more convincing that Surface (and technologies like it) will play a significant role in patient interaction? Watch this video (or see below) with Tim Huckaby from January. In it he demonstrates how a doctor and patient can interact using Surface:

And that’s only one of the many scenarios possible. Microsoft plan to present 4 at the conference, including Rehabilitation (using Surface to promote motor control) and Virtual Clinic (giving the patient an overview of the process before consultation) as well as the patient consultation scenarios.

This is just the beginning.

IE8 Web slices in 3 minutes

Michael Kordahi - Delicate GeniusMichael Kordahi may yet turn me back to Internet Explorer (I’ve been living in FireFox and Chrome for the last few months). His ‘3 minute’ series kicks off with how to add a web slice to your page. It’s so easy, even I could do it! (see the Featured section on this site’s home page – my only problem is that the content name will change along with the content, but perhaps that’s a benefit…)

The question that remains in my mind however, is who would actually use web slices? I’ve heard the ebay example enough times and can probably accept that. But other uses? I’m still wondering. In any case, having a slice from my blog probably isn’t high on anyone’s list :-)

The video is available in HD which is always good for code samples. I think these kinds of videos are really useful and 3 minutes is a good length for us time poor attention deficient geeks. See also the Microsoft How Do I sites for more videos along these lines.)

Go check it out here or watch it below: 

(I’m not sure of the etiquette of embedding someone else’s video in your own site, but since it has embedding allowed on YouTube I figure it’s OK. And anyway, it’s all about getting the message out right?)

Thanks for the great vid Michael.

More Windows 7 Rumours

Windows 7 is definately going to be released. Some time. Some day.Its been a good week for rumours with the Google-Twitter discussion generating a lot of interest on the interwebs.

So, it  must be time to re-stoke some other rumours – how about the Windows 7 release date rumours again. This time the suggestion is for a September RTM according to today’s Windows 7 Center post.

Note, this is a little later than the June/July RTM timeframe rumoured in February, but only by a few months.

Remember, there’s a difference between RTM (Release to Manufacturing) and Launch. RTM is when you can download it (ie via MSDN), and the launch usually happens a few months later (although this is not always the case – SQL Server 2008 for example was launched long before actual release).

Personally I can’t wait for the release. I’ve been using the Beta since January and love it. So, for me the sooner the better. But I understand Microsoft has a lot riding on this. The groundswell for Windows 7 has been very positive, so Microsoft won’t want to damage that with a premature release. Rock solid quality and a wonderful user experience are what’s needed. And I think they’ll deliver. Just this week it has been good to see Dell publishing some very positive Windows 7 results on their systems (thanks to Neowin for the link).

From what I’ve seen of Windows 7 so far, coupled with the favourable response it is getting in just about all sectors, I think Microsoft has a winner on their hands. In years to come I suspect analysts will look back at Windows 7 and point to it as the release that saved Microsoft.

Welcome to the end of free

YouTube needs to make some moneyTo be profitable, OR not to be – that is the question.

The latest YouTube expenses news shouldn’t really come as a surprise. The price of enormous popularity is often high, and if the business model isn’t clear, then profits might not be in tandem.

YouTube expense estimations have emerged from Credit Suisse, and they aren’t pretty. YouTube is looking like making $120M – $500M in revenue this year. But the expenses are likely to be north of that in the $700M+ realm. That’s a significant loss.

Note however, that I wouldn’t be placing too much stock in the Credit Suisse numbers, I suspect they are calculated on face-value user numbers, and don’t take into account the different technologies YouTube uses for distribution…

In any case the principle remains: Popularity != Profitability (necessarily)

Facebook has had similar growth problems, with huge infrastructure costs ensuring that it is unlikely to turn a profit any time soon.

But for how long?

Although a distant memory for many, the 2000 dot com crash may repeat itself in some respects. Once that crash was over, the main thing I remember was that all the free stuff disappeared. Only those businesses with a solid monetization model survived. You can expect the same thing for Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in the coming 12-18 months. There’s only so long investor capital can extend (granted Google probably has deeper pockets than most), and soon enough the free stuff will go.

Part of the problem is in trying to ensure you’re the ‘last man standing’. Thus, YouTube will maintain free (probably via yet another ad-on-video overlay strategy) for as long as possible until competitors such as Vimeo, Hulu, Viddler and others are all but gone, and then put the screws on. Facebook will also be trying weird and wacky things in an effort to stem the losses.

In other networks, you can expect photo-sharing sites (Flickr, etc), music sites, career networking sites, etc to be similarly inclined  with the free accounts becoming progressively reduced in functionality, and the premium services featured more prevalently.

But this is a good thing

There’s a number of good things that will come of this.

  • For starters, the number of social networks will be reduced as consolidation takes effect. Currently there are simply far to many social networks. We need some order amongst the chaos.
  • Next, we’ll see the rise of non-ad related functionality, and perhaps more importantly, a change in user behaviour to actually value paid memberships.
  • Finally though, it will mark the end of the fly-by-night marketing types who have started polluting the social media stage due to its low cost of entry.

Bring it on.

Google and the mob

Run for your lives - it's the Google Street View carThis just in from the department of paranoid and illogical: Buckinghamshire village has managed to thwart the evil plans of Google by stopping the Street View car from taking pictures of their streets. Residents joined forces after one of their members got the mob mentality going with gems like the following:

“I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane,” he said. “My immediate reaction was anger; how dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime.”

Yes, apparently the street has had 3 robberies in the past 6 weeks (all before the Google car turned up mind you!) and the villagers think that having images of their homes on the web will increase crime. Lucky they’ve managed to put a stop to it though. Whatever will burglars do now?

And I thought it was only the Asia-Pacific nations that need to be worried about Google.

Note, there are legitimate privacy concerns of course, and Google will remove images upon request. Just use the ‘Report a problem’ link on the bottom of the Street View page.

Removal request from Google Street View

Microsoft Office for Web iPhone Mobile whatever

Office for the Web - I predict Silverlight!It’s not until you get to the end of Mary Jo’s excellent summary of Microsoft Office ‘versions’ that you hit the gold. It’s all about Silverlight. Well, in my mind at least. The Silverlight 3 details announced at MIX last month are exciting in their own right, especially the opportunities for browser apps to effectively work outside the browser. But surely Office is going to be the killer Silverlight app.

For all we know, the passing Office-for-iPhone comment may just be the ravings of a bumbling Microsoft president. Or April Fools gag (given the timing). Or just a reference to Safari support. But me thinks not. My Nostra-craigus prediction is that Mary Jo is on the right path, and Silverlight will be a key component.

I’ll be taking the advice of Stephen Elop (said Microsoft president) to ‘keep watching’ :-)

The Google Twitter Rumour

Google in talks with TwitterIt will be fascinating to see how this latest Twitter-being-acquired rumour plays out. As TechCrunch reports, there’s rumours of Google in late stage (or perhaps early stage depending on which update you read) acquisition talks with Twitter.

The value of Twitter is in using the service as a real time search engine (Michael explains this well in his post from early March), and with Google’s current search dominance, a Twitter acquisition would be an incredible boost. In fact, almost game over for any other player.

That’s why, those other rumours about Government intervention are likely to start heating up again too. With Google controlling so much data there are legitimate fears that it is getting too powerful. It’s no longer about anti-competitive influence either, its about real fear. Governments (especially Asia-Pacific located) wondering what they can possibly do to stop the flow of information. Just what can, if anything, is it possible to keep private any more?

You can probably expect requests for Google to be broken into separate companies before year’s end. A Twitter acquisition would likely hasten it. Am I talking this up? We’ll see.

Todd Bishop over at TechFlash wonders where Microsoft is in all this discussion. I’ll bet they’re wondering too! I’ll also bet that the valuations being thrown around aren’t scaring anyone. Google paying billions for YouTube a few years back was considered rediculous. I wonder if anyone considers that a mistake now. Similar figures for Twitter wouldn’t surprise me.

But keep in mind, this is just a rumour for now.

Browser usage behaviours

According to StatCounter, FireFox 3.0 is now more popular than IE7 in Europe.

Here’s the graph based on usage from weeks 4 to 13 this year (we are currently in week 14 as I write this). The green arrow is where Firefox has just overtaken IE. The red arrow down the bottom is pointing at the uptake of IE8 (only small admittedly, but a lot higher than Chrome for example). As Alan Lee rightly pointed out this morning, combined IE still has the edge over Firefox – but probably not for long when you consider the trend up of FF and the trend down of IE7. It’ll be interesting to see the trend of IE8 uptake over the coming weeks.

Firefox more popular than IE in Europe

Looking at worldwide usage however, its a different story. IE7 is still way out in front. But even worse, IE6 is in a solid third place just below Firefox.

IE most popular world wide

The real question though, is who cares?

In fact, why do the vendors even care? What real competitive advantage is browser share giving Microsoft? What additional revenue streams? In many cases all it provides is a soft target for anti-competitive attacks. There’s little value in controlling the browser these days, surely the value is in controlling what content resides in the browser.

Lately I’ve been a little harsh on Microsoft for their mis-guided (in my opinion) browser strategy. But now I’m starting to understand why. They don’t really care. And nor should they. So whilst the masses are clamouring to add their IE9 wish list items, I suspect Microsoft are just content to get a stable browser bedded in and get back to making money.

IE8 and the perception of speed

Perception is reality. What do you see?Perception is a funny thing. I’ve sometimes said that ‘perception is reality’ – meaning that it doesn’t matter what the reality is, all that matters is what people think the reality is.

Take web browsing speed for example. Someone applies a patch to IE8 that they are informed will speed it up. They think it does. And they ‘experience’ faster browsing. In reality nothing has changed. Only their perception has.

Why mention this? Because it reiterates that perception is often more important than reality.

Vista has a perception of being slow, unstable, insecure, whatever. And people hate it with a passion. But the ‘Mojave’ experiment last year demonstrated (not at all scientifically of course) that perception is often far removed from reality.

Windows 7 to benefit

And now we see the perception shifting in Microsoft’s favour. Windows 7 is being touted as a wonderful operating system – so far the majority of reports are singing its praises. The ‘operating system that Vista should have been’ even.

As the world becomes more crowd driven via social media, the importance of perception becomes paramount.