Good, Better, Best
The official newsletter of Best Technology Strategy LLC, northeast Ohio’s I.T. Leadership Company. (For more information about Best Technology Strategy, click here.)
In this edition:
- Windows 7 and Snow Leopard: Big software updates expected in 2009
by Best Technology’s Relationship Manager, Katie Knight
- Saying Goodbye to Mediocrity
by tech industry insider Om Malik
- Heartburn Chuckle: Understanding the meltdown in unified communications
by Best Technology’s founder, Ted Wallingford
- In case you were wondering: All the WiFi hotspots in Lorain County
by Chronicle-Telegram Chief Photographer Bruce Bishop
Windows 7 and Snow Leopard: Big Software Updates Expected in 2009
Katie Knight, January 2, 2009
It’s 2009. We always have high hopes for a new year. It has to be better than the last, of course. Resolutions. Making new habits, and kicking old ones. Adopting a new budget…
…and installing a new operating system?
Microsoft is working on Windows 7, the newest version on their popular operating system. A majority of businesses still have rolled out its predecessor, Vista. Instead, most opted to stick with Windows XP.
So could Windows 7 be the answer to all of your Vista frustrations? Microsoft has circulated an early test version for some to try. 7 doesn’t give a very different first impression than Vista, as it looks nearly identical. But some reviewers say Microsoft has eliminated the annoyances of Vista, making version 7 more reliable, faster, and easier to work with syncing devices like cell phones. What else do we know about 7?
Only that it works on any PC that Vista can work on, and is compatible with all the same software. So does this mean goodbye to Vista? We think Microsoft has admitted defeat with Vista, and, with version 7, is signaling most business customers to skip Vista altogether.
Meanwhile, Apple is cooking up an operating system update of its own. Snow Leopard is the 6th version of Apple’s Mac OS X. The new Mac OS offers out of the box support for Microsoft Exchange 07 in Apple’s mail, address, and calendaring programs. We’re looking to evaluate Apple’s compatibility with Exchange when Snow Leopard arrives.
As We Say Good-bye to 2008, Let’s Say Good-bye to Mediocrity
Om Malik, Dec 31, 2008
As 2008 takes its final breaths, I am sitting in my apartment, which is enveloped in a thick fog that’s hiding both the ugly high-rises and the beauty that is the San Francisco Bay. The fog is also muting the sounds of the city — a good enough reason as any to ponder the year that was.
Many of us who obsess about the minutiae of Silicon Valley were slow to respond (at our own peril) to the credit crunch and the financial tsunami that it unleashed. After all, who could have imagined that within a few short months around the world, banks would be quasi-nationalized, capitalist governments would have to adopt socialist principles to save failing enterprises and seemingly astute soothsayers would turn out to be worse than than highway con men.
Whether or not the bailouts were needed remains up for debate. I will let others scream and holler in outrage about the immorality of the actions taken by our completely biased politicians. I will let those who are suffering tell their tragic stories on national media. All I am going to say is this: In 2008, U.S. society — from the very top (our political leaders) to the very bottom (our bankers) — came to embrace mediocrity.
In offering money to bailout failed bankers who couldn’t bank, car makers who couldn’t make good cars and chipmakers who have seemingly no business acumen, we stood on the top of the roofs and said: Mediocrity is OK. In the meantime, not one person has been held accountable for bringing fiscal, moral and social Armageddon to our doorstep.
Think of it this way: If a waiter spilled hot soup and scalded you, you would have him fired. A cab driver who had the nerve to take a longer route wouldn’t get his tip. And yet the bankers who turned out to buffoons are being paid to save institutions that in a free market should be left to die. Fox Business’s Cody Willard put it best here:
The liars and crooks who run the investment banks that are now the largest welfare institutions on the planet took out almost $2 billion of money JUST THIS YEAR that they should have been saving for the rainy day that’s now here and handed it to the 600 people they thought were most important to their companies’ well-being. And now they’re still driving around in corporate jets even after becoming welfare institutions?
We spent tens of billions of dollars to save a car company (Chrysler) that not only makes cars that are of questionable quality but also is owned by Cerberus, a vulture fund that has proven itself to be bad at its job — after all, only an idiot would buy something that’s already broken. Cerebrus also owns a big portion of GMAC, the financial arm of General Motors, that is anything but savvy about money. Never mind the fact that losing their money is a risk that goes with investing in distressed assets. They got a bailout from Treasury, too. (The Bush administration’s Treasury secretary before Henry Paulson, John Snow, is a big guy at Cerebrus).
Rewarding mediocrity by bailing out these companies is incredibly short-sighted. As my buddy Pip Coburn, a long-time technology investor, often says, companies that are in survival mode don’t do anything that would make them go from being mediocre to being great — because they are too busy just surviving.
Let us not wash off our hands as well. It is our acquiescence that has led to the spread of this culture of mediocrity. We accept dropped phone calls on our wireless networks, computers that constantly crash, broadband networks that are best effort.
Our acceptance of mediocrity is the reason why Apple’s iPhone hasn’t had a credible competitor. Today, RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, in a chat with CNET Asia, compared the BlackBerry Storm — an iPhone rival — to a netbook. I recently had a chance to use the touchscreen Storm and within an hour of using the device, it was more like a Touch Scream Storm. It is beyond bad! Any self-respecting company should think twice before putting that device into the market, but as I said, in 2008 we came to learn and reward mediocrity.
But why pick on RIM? After all they have made some great devices, among them the Pearl and the Bold. Let’s look instead at Dell, which today announced it’s rearranging its management to do something — I don’t know what! Dell embarked on a turnaround effort two years ago, but HP is still the No. 1 PC seller, Dell’s shares are down 60 percent on the year, and the company has slashed and burned its work force. It’s fighting a slowdown in demand for PCs with a product line that seems to be utterly forgettable. The company should heeds the words of Warren Buffet: “Turnarounds seldom turn.“
If Dell hopes to make a comeback, it needs to shed this mediocre mindset and instead strive for greatness. And why just Dell or RIM or our politicians — why not set that goal for ourselves? Let’s do that in 2009.
Happy New Year!
(Reprinted with permission of the author. The original article is from GigaOm.)
Heartburn Chuckle: Understanding the Meltdown in Unified Communications
Ted Wallingford, Dec 14, 2008
As the blogosphere buzzes this weekend about the layoff woes at Alcatel-Lucent and the delisting danger at Nortel, many of us in the industry are experiencing what I like to call “the Heartburn Chuckle”. Or, as I try to put an ironic spin on Jeff Pulver’s famous Purple Minutes expression by calling negative achievements in the telecom industry “Brown Minutes”, I can’t help but laugh at how empty the promise of unified communications has turned out to be.
Note: Unified Communications, or “UC”, is a family of technologies that merge telephone systems, social networks, and desktop software in order to put you, the user, in command of all the communicating you do.
This is Brown Minutes and the Heartburn Chuckle all wrapped together. But I can tell you why this telecom crash is occuring. Remember, once an industry is scaled to its max, like the telecom industry, the only way to succeed is to generate profit through new innovations. Merely recycling established ideas with different pricing and bundles may be good for short-term cash grabs but has little to do with the sustainability of long-term profit. Just ask Yahoo. They’re dying because of that axiom right now.
Companies like Cisco and Nortel have done too little to move the VoIP (voice over IP) revolution beyond the customer’s demarc, while tradeshow talks about SIP trunking (a standardized way to connect companies’ phone systems together without using long distance service) and a spirit of cooperation in using the Internet to replace the public telephone network have all been hollow talk designed to please the audience of the day.
True VoIP still isn’t reality unless you’re willing to sit in front of your PC and run Skype. To say Skype carried out the VoIP vision more successfully than Cisco and Nortel ought to be greatly humbing to those companies, but it’s really true. Skype got it. Cisco, Nortel, and Avaya didn’t. Yet, it’s ironic that all of the profits Skype arguably deserves went to those guys instead.
The big manufacturers continue to be the only powers with enough leverage to move the carrier giants away from old-fashioned circuit-switched technology, yet the manufacturer’s own uncertainties about recooping licensing fees and retaining customer-base (through lock-in rather than innovation) have scared them away from issuing the carriers a real challenge: build an all-IP global voice network to replace today’s telephone system… or we will.
The carriers are firms like AT&T, Windstream, Verizon, British Telecom, and so on. Their obsession with the billing unit (the almighty minute) has made them helpless to see the possibilities of a software-rich, application-based global ecosystem where YOU, the customer, are in charge of all your calls, contacts, and identities. But the big carriers don’t think consumers are interested in that. Problem is, most consumer don’t realize they can control their own caller ID… until you tell them they can. Then, consumers suddenly say, “yeah, sign me up for that!”
Since the big carriers never offered such coolness, the most successful unified communications apps overwhelmingly have one purpose: to steal billable minutes from the carriers. The innovation disappeared and the scrappy new players in the market, the ones with the power to transform the public’s thinking about telecom, instead got stuck doing the same old thing the big telecoms do to put bread on the table: bill minutes.
In the United States, deregulation under President Clinton in the Telecom Act of 1996 went in all the wrong directions and didn’t do enough to create entrepreneurial freedom in telecom. It failed to recognize that the Internet was going to eclipse the PSTN in terms of consumer participation, and as a result, it positioned the carriers to remain in their highly subsidized comfort zone.
Further mistakes were made when the FCC became distracted by lobbying for Network Neutrality legislation. As with many things, the passage of time revealed that Netnoot was a solution in search of a problem, more often than not. Apparently nobody at the FCC realized that the free market would provide for the needs of consumers who didn’t want to participate in a 93-octane Internet. So the FCC spent a lot of time looking at issues that were overstated and geared to bolster the chances of a few admittedly excellent Silicon Valley content startups who didn’t want to get choked out by the carriers.
Shame on us for not recognizing that the carriers are too inept to succeed in the content business anyway. And shame on the FCC for wasting all that energy when they should’ve been looking at ways to encourage greater adoption of end-to-end IP technology.
So, when you have three willing participants in a massacre, you get a massacre. The three power players in our industry–boxmakers, regulators, and networkers–are playing the same tune: protect revenue by doing nothing. The fruits of that labor are now obvious. Like the automotive industry, which has a frighteningly similar situation on its hands, the answer now is the same as ten years ago: innovation. Put on those thinking caps, MIT grads and garage tinkerers. We’ve got an even bigger hole to think our way out of now.
All the WiFi Hotspots in Lorain County
We spend a lot of time in Lorain County, and we know you do, too. Here’s a list of many of the open wireless access points in the county, put together by the Chronicle-Telegram’s chief photographer, Bruce Bishop. Read more.