Windows Azure and the Information Worker

A while back (QUITE a while back, actually), Microsoft coined the term “Information Worker” .. a quick Bing search reveals:

The short version: an Information Worker (IW) is a non-developer person who works with the information exposed by applications and application activity by users.

That said, how would an IW benefit from Windows Azure? Reminding us all that Microsoft Excel is the tool of choice for those who want to slice-and-dice-data, that said, there are many ways IWs could benefit from information collected by applications and stored in Windows Azure:

    There are many more (there always are) ways to journey to the cloud.
    I’ll see you there.

Motorola LapDock 100

A few purposes for this post:

Lapdock™ for  MOTOROLA ATRIX™ 4GWrite a post on the My Shiny New Toy (the Motorola Atrix 2 4G) using the the LapDock.

Talk about the WordPress for Android application on the LapDock.

Talk about some of the other applications on the LapDock.

Talk about the LapDock.

Pretty clever device, overall. A nice keyboard (even though small, it’s bigger than the one on the device) and a 10.1" screen. Very handy. The device feels a lot like my Acer and Dell 10.1" notebooks; a tiny bit lighter as no hard drive.

Things that rock:

  • Having a screen
  • Having a keyboard
  • The battery (the battery charges the phone to capacity while connected)
  • Some applications, most notably, Firefox and QuickOffice
  • Other applications: The Email client, the WordPress
  • Keyboard navigation between applications is decent .. once you figure out the Function-row keys (hint: hold F1 to get back to the phone Home screen .. that was a seminal moment for me in application navigation).
  • Speaking of function row keys: the other icons on this row let you dim the screen, navigate media, audio volume and so on. Very nice.
  • The sync feature between the LapDock, WordPress and Windows Live Writer on my PC. While not perfect, the content flows between the applications rather nicely.
  • The Print Screen button works nicely.
  • The USB port (there are two) recognized my wireless mouse. Very nice.

Not so much:

  • Alt-Tab doesn’t work as expected when working with phone applications. The LapDock sees the phone as a single application.
  • To the point above, there are some inconsistencies as how to switch between applications .. in some cases, the Escape button takes you to the home page, in others, it acts as a ‘back’ button in the current application.
  • To that point, the Escape key may exit the current application.
  • Holding the F1 (Home) screen is manna to switch between applications. It’s reliable, and brings you up a list of currently-running applications.
  • I’d like to have more control over the battery; I can carry a spare phone battery, or charge my phone on my laptop .. I’d rather have more time on the LapDock and a dead phone battery than less time on the LapDock with a full one.
  • Speaking of battery, why doesn’t the LapDock charge from a micro-USB like the phone? I’m carrying yet another power brick.
  • The Delete key functions just like the Backspace key, removing the character to the left (instead of the character at the cursor). Ick.
  • Control-keys on the keyboard don’t quite behave as expected; Control-right arrow doesn’t leap from word to word.
  • Function keys on the keyboard don’t quite behave as expected; Function-page down, doesn’t. Function-Home takes you to the phone home screen; a bit annoying whist typing until you get used to it.
  • The Firefox browser is ‘seen’ by many applications as a mobile browser, and while powerful enough to function fully (including Adobe Flash), there doesn’t seem to be a way to override this perception on certain sites (Microsoft: I’m talking to you).
  • The USB port didn’t recognize my USB headset; while I get this, some device recognition (so I could search for a driver) would be nice.
  • The battery meter on the LapDock is a press-and-hold of the power button .. seems like there should be an app with a UI for that.
  • NO clue as to firmware updates for the LapDock on the Motorola site.

The LapDock is a new application platform and as such, is lacking in applications at the moment. The home page points you to a YouTube application and several others, but not as many as I’d like. The LapDock can run applications installed on the phone, but it does so in a stretched-screen view; usable, but not optimal, as the text is LARGE, and only allows for about a dozen lines. Let’s hope that the platform catches on, or that it is easy enough to write for the platform by managing the form factor.

On to WordPress. It’s great to have a keyboard and a full screen. It’s also great that WordPress saves drafts to my account when online .. this makes it handy to stub a post from the LapDock, save it to draft and then tidy it up in Windows Live Writer when back on the PC. I need to play a bit with this; for an archival post, I’d probably run it through WLW before posting .. for something of a more whimsical nature, this client would work just fine. Note: this is an archival post .. so I will pass through WLW.

I’m not as impressed with the editing experience of the WordPress application served into the Lapdock on the phone. As above, it runs well enough, but it lacks a number of features that would make it world-class. While Bold, Italic, Underline, Strikethrough, Links and Quoted content is supported, bullets aren’t. What the heck?

A bit more annoying: there doesn’t seem to be a way to double-click on a word to select it; instead, it’s a right-click and ‘select word’, but then, no way to click one of the buttons to modify the formatting. The only way seems to hold the shift key while arrowing over the word to select it, then pressing the button. It’s a shame that Control-B (bold), Control-I (Italic), Control-U (underline) and Control-K (link) aren’t supported.

My gut tells me:

  • 60% of the Atrix-bearing population could use this device and be very, very happy with it. With a bit of workload adjustment and some laptop sync magic, it will far surpass trying to do any serious work on the mobile device by itself.
  • The other 40% will find they cannot do required things like write code, work on complex spreadsheets and play Facebook games with any performance. To this group (I’m one of them), the LapDock is a way to lighten my load while running errands, save some laptop battery on a long flight, and so on.

All in all, it’s an interesting device, and if you make the effort to work with it, you may find it meets your needs as a very portable option for light workloads.

Flash? Who needs Flash?

Not Apple, and now, not Microsoft.

For background, Adobe Flash is a browser plug-in that enables rich media and rich user interfaces. Over time, we’ve all used it for YouTube videos, spiffy re-sizing menus and games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars.

In fact, Flash has been the de facto standard for rich UI over the past decade, eclipsing all others (including Silverlight .. the Microsoft entry in the space).

Ahh .. Silverlight. I barely knew ye.

That’s a lie: While at Microsoft, I worked diligently launching Silverlight 1.0, engaging worldwide partner adoption for early efforts. Painful, but we had some exciting, .NET-driven, browser-based applications adopting the plug-in playbook. The advantage: one code line .. developers could write code with known conventions, extending their .NET experience into a new, plug-in world.

I digress, therefore, I am.

For more background, here are a few, well-known fun facts (at least, in the developer community):

So. Mobile issues aside. The answer? HTML5.

HTML5 boasts a number of syntactical features (features and functionality that confirm to a language .. provided as part of a platform) .. which eliminates the need for a plug-in.

  • Want videos? Embed a <video"> tag .. built into HTML5, which includes position, height, width, codec, etc., etc. and etc.
  • Want absolute positioning? It’s there, built into HTML5.
  • Want SEO (Search Engine Optimization?). it’s built into HTML5.

If the operative term in all cases is: “built into ..”, suffice to say: it is.

Why do I bring this up? Well, TechCrunch (and a host of others) report: “The company announced today Microsoft Excises Flash And Plugins From Metro Internet Explorer In Windows 8”. The title of the article says it all: The shipping browser atop Windows 8 will not support (or need) vendor plug-ins.

This is significant .. remove the platform initiative, and you remove the need for developers to write to the platform.

Hey HTML5 developers: Start here, and here, and here.

“Sunrise” Phase for the .XXX Top-Level Domain

I posted “Your Brand in Triple-X (and I don’t mean “times three”)” upon hearing the .XXX (Adult Industry Domain Extension) TLD discussion was alive and well. Quite well, in fact .. looks like the TLD is moving into an early operational phase, called “Sunrise” by Network Solutions.

The “Sunrise” phase comes in three flavors, each requiring validation to proceed:

  • Sunrise AT – Adult Trademark Holders: Companies who hold trademarks for adult products and services and want first crack at the .XXX domain extension for their business. This group must plan to host a live web site and be able to prove product and service trademarks.
  • Sunrise B – Block for Trademark Holders: A block for companies who hold trademarks for products and services and want to protect their Trademark from getting a .XXX treatment. Think Microsoft.xxx or Google.xxx (wouldn’t sit well with the companies, I’m sure). This group is NOT intending to host a live web site using the .XXX TLD and must prove product and service trademarks.
  • Sunrise AD – Adult Domain Holders (Grandfathering): Companies who have current .com, .net, .etc., domains and want to claim the .XXX for their current site. This group must plan to host a live web site and be able to prove product and service trademarks.

I suspect the rub will be between the AT and AD groups .. I’m certain there are some product crossovers. Maybe we’ll even get WhiteHouse.com back!

Will be fun to watch. For more details, see the .XXX Pre-Registration page on Network Solutions.

Google + Motorola = Pre-Apple?

Possibly.

By now, you’ve heard that Google plunked down US$12.5 billion to purchase handset maker Motorola Mobility .. both boards have approved the purchase, and regulatory bodies aren’t far behind.

Now that this story has been echoed and re-echoed, one must ask: what does it mean?

  • Better Android devices? Sure. A deeper level of cooperation / collaboration across mobile and tablet devices just spells feature goodness for the consumer.
  • A Motorola-only (like Apple) manufacturing monopoly? No. Google claims Android will remain open; current manufacturers (including my favorite, HTC) can still build for the platform.
  • Better price competition? Don’t bet on it. Here in The States, pricing tends to land in the mobile carrier’s domain.

So, except for service, the consumer should do well: better devices, better features .. I doubt we’ll get much love from the carriers .. remains to be seen.

Despite a public altruistic sheen, Google didn’t make the buy for the consumer. While the hardware and feature opportunity will likely make for a better device, Google had all the device manufacturers clamoring to provide devices, at ever-shrinking margins. What were they thinking?

In a word: patents. The purchase brings a portfolio of an additional 17,000 patents under the control of Google, significantly diversifying their IP and creating myriad opportunities for them to capitalize on others’ efforts.

The best article I found supporting this story was one of the first to be released. ExtremeTech: “Google buys Motorola Mobility, begins transformation into Apple” .. well worth a read.

HP: PCs and Tablets, Services, Autonomy and the IBM Playbook

Just last week, HP announced their departure from the consumer PC and tablet business. Note that HP is the biggest-selling PC maker in the world, outselling second-place Dell by about 40% (based on 84 million units sold during the second quarter of 2011, per research firm Gartner).

Why would HP just want to abandon their #1 place in this business, you might ask?

Economics. Big numbers don’t equate to big profits .. the phrase “.. yes, but we’ll make up in volume” is SO 2001 .. where it didn’t make sense when applied to early dot-COM company sales strategies. Suffice to say: the numbers speak volumes .. but of a different sort.

Hardware margins are tiny. Ever since IBM started producing PCs based on commodity hardware components, PC makers are increasing speed, power and value .. all while decreasing prices and profit margins.

IBM abandoned the PC market in the dark ages of 1994, turning instead to services and value-added business strategies. This gets their business model further away from the metal, and into higher-margin territory.

HP took a page from the IBM playbook by ceding this market to Dell, Lenovo, Apple, Acer and a number of smaller PC makers .. and by purchasing the largest software vendor in the UK, Autonomy, rather than building their own.

On Autonomy. They specialize (among other things) in “Meaning Based Computing”, sort of a fancy term for contextual-keyword results, based on the actual meaning of the keyword (hint: autonomy can also mean “stand-alone”, which would certainly skew results). I’m keen on this: discovering the intended meaning of a word and coupling this with user intent will yield significantly better search results. I discussed an early version of this paradigm back in 2005 (this was during the MSN / pre-Bing and Google search wars) in: “Search: MSN and Google, et. al”.

On services? Autonomy has a worldwide services business, with lots and lots of kudos from customers. I won’t dig into that here, but I do see similarities from the IBM playbook  .. except with the addition of a pragmatic ‘buy versus build’ approach.

In the news:

Your Brand in Triple-X (and I don’t mean “times three”)

Back in 2005, I posted “Delay for the .XXX Domain?” .. and then I promptly forgot about it. My primary concern at the time was better filtering for routers and the Web at large .. perhaps even giving us back some ‘expected-to-be-safe’ domain names like WhiteHouse.com and Craigslist.com (don’t navigate to either of those).

In reality, there is an important branding question at hand .. with proposed changes to Top-Level Domains (.TLDs .. the .com, .net, .org, etc.), and despite assurances from ICANN (the organization that manages TLDs), it’s possible that your brand could be hijacked. Microsoft.xxx, or Google.xxx perhaps?

Not likely, of course. Powerhouse names are going to be immediately recognized .. likely, for a price. Case in point: do you recall the kerfuffle over superbowl.com? I do (but cannot find a reference; if you have one, please forward to me). Seems a fan registered the domain name and the NFL sued to get it back. I wonder what would have happened if they had just asked nicely.

Reasonable? Actually, it is. There are a lot of cases of this; pages and pages and pages of them, in fact (any of those are an interesting read), where names and variations are purchased and turned to unintended purposes.

Others aren’t so nice, and deserve some legal action .. cybersquatting is the act where someone buys a domain name and then negotiates with another to arrange a purchase. I get the ‘buy low, sell high’, and in the case of non-brand names, I see a business model .. BUT, let’s be reasonable kids .. you can presume that the deeper the pockets of the buyer, the longer the squatter is going to try to hold out, and we’re off to the courts.

Another viewpoint: in the .xxx case .. do you really want your brand registered on the web with a .xxx TLD? Probably not. Tongue-in-cheek intended here, but we have a local business called Tacoma Screw. Can you imagine the possibilities? I’m willing to bet the squatters can.

Anyhow .. I don’t think this is over yet. AdAge posts some help: “Video: How to Keep Your Brand Off of .XXX”. If you have a brand that’s worth protecting, it’s worth a watch.

PayPal as Service, versus Method

I put this in my Leap Frogs Category as it’s new to me (although it may not be to you).

image

Way back when, a few folks (including me) thought that the PayPal infrastructure could be elevated to be used as a payment method .. just like Visa, Mastercard, Discover, etc. In fact, there was a significant evangelism effort going on at the time, providing the necessary HTML code to include the PayPal image, secure interaction with nascent web services and the like.

From the image above, you’ll see that PayPal has up-leveled their game to provide a complete payment service, not only for their own payment method, but as agent to the other services who are ready to collect funds across the web. I’d be curious (and will poke about) to see if this was primarily a defensive move (to ensure they’d be a payment method), or a well-conceived (and decently executed) new business for the company.

Either way, nicely done.

Newsweek is on Fire!

I am going to keep this issue forever! dsk-maid-nafissatou-diallo-FE01-wide

It has everything:

  • The debt looms
  • Both parties flop
  • Dogma wreaks havoc
  • The Maid speaks
  • Anne Sinclair repairs
  • Oslo rebuilds
  • Juan Williams Muzzles
  • The US melts
  • The UK boils over
  • Arab Spring sears
  • Rebekah resigns
  • Mr. Murdoch melts down
  • Mrs. Murdoch strikes
  • Obama turns 50
  • Mr Cameron turns dazzler

What a week!

This issue is so hot, I’ll be lighting my barbeque with it for the next ten years.

Why is it ‘share’ rather than ‘post’?

Well .. we’re more inclined to share with our selected audience than post to the world at large.

IF .. we control our selected audiences, that is. Right, wrong or gray .. let’s look at a proto-social map:

  • I have close friends and family
  • I have friends with whom I have personally interacted on projects, or through connections
  • I have people I ‘know’, due to a mutual introduction or reference
  • I have people of whom I am aware, because of a mutual interest.

These audiences have different attributes. While some overlap, there are items I’d share (or avoid sharing) because of mutual .. or lack of interest.

Is this a privacy issue, or something else? Quick tangent: ‘Social Networking: The “Third Wave” Explained’ tells an interesting (and relevant) tale.

Back to topic .. it’s both .. and more:

  • Privacy dictates content (location and status .. what and how I might word something to a particular audience).
  • Context dictates a “who cares” attribute. My non-game playing friends aren’t too keen on my Mafia Wars posts, so I send these updates to a special list of MW players.
  • Timing dictates when I’ll share a particular item .. I might hold a business blog post for the wee hours to ensure it’s above the fold when the business audience logs on.
    Whoops .. did I just introduce a temporal aspect?

Why yes, yes, I did. A significant component of ‘Information Snacking’ is when you are where and what you seek to do:

  • During the day, I’m in work mode .. I don’t want to be disturbed with notifications from the Gap that my jeans are on sale.
  • From Friday at 6pm to Midnight and Saturday from 6pm to Midnight, I’m in ‘party’ (such as it is) mode .. where I want to hear about special deals in my vicinity.
  • I’m in church (or should be) from 6am to Noon on Sunday, so don’t bug me.

Yah; there’s not much granularity for the general public here .. deal with it. I’m trying to prove a point. The ‘ideal’ system is expected to provide you with a level of control over what you will share; on what you will be alerted as you go about your day .. regardless of the daypart in which you find yourself.

The ‘ideal’ system will also apply the context of your location and your ‘mode’ (as defined above):

  • where you are dictates what you want to see / do
  • when you are dictates in what you might take an interest
  • what you seek (selecting ‘mode’ carefully) helps a system tailor results to your current (temporal and location-based) interests.

Food for thought. Let’s discuss.

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