Buying a Cell Phone is Worse Than Buying a Car!

These days it seems that all I ever talk about is Cloud computing and Cell Phone operating systems.  As a contract-free AT&T customer, I should relish in my freedom to choose a new carrier or smartphone, yet instead I revel in cell phone indecision.

While Apple makes a wonderful and polished operating system (iOS), their ecosystem is both closed and proprietary.  After all, these are the same guys that won’t let me change a simple battery!  Another problem with the iPhone 4S is that the form factor.  It just isn’t very pleasing, especially when compared to its alternatives.  How about all those cracked screens out there?  Of course, iTunes is awesome and iCloud has some exciting possibilities.

Meanwhile, Android has come a long way in a short time.  It’s not nearly as polished as Apple’s iOS, but has many innovative features and is open source (kind of).  However, Android is experiencing tremendous fragmentation and is at the mercy of the Cell phone makers themselves.  While Samsung makes great phones, they have been slow to upgrade to the latest Android versions.  Also, what will they do now that Google is purchasing Motorola?  Speaking of Motorola, they seem like a safe bet since Google is purchasing them, but their less than stellar earnings results don’t instill confidence in a purchaser.

Finally, Windows Phone 7 Mango is lurking around.  It’s a blend of Apple’s polish with Android’s innovation, but has suffered from lackluster hardware and non-existent applications.  However, with Nokia’s recent announcement of 2 new Windows Phone 7 phones, there is some excitement that this may change.  What Microsoft needs to do is focus on the development community.  I’m not just talking about porting over existing applications, as they need some originals too. Of course, Microsoft has a really nice integration with iTunes, Office, and a slick SkyDrive offering.

Some would say I need to add Verizon vs. AT&T vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint to this discussion, but I’m not really dissatisfied with AT&T.  In fact, the ability to use both data and voice is something I wouldn’t want to live without.  For now, I’ll leave this for a later discussion.

So, do you buy a new Samsung Galaxy S II, Nexus II, or Motorola Droid Razr or wait for the iPhone5, Nokia 800, or whatever else is yet to be announced?  Of course, in technology you can keep waiting and waiting and waiting because what you buy today is obsolete tomorrow.  Any thoughts?

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Yahoo: Goodbye Bartz Hello Baidu or Apple

In yet another mystifying move, Yahoo’s board fired Carol Bartz and ended her three year tenure as CEO.  Over the last three years, Bartz has had to clean up after the less than stellar leadership of both Jerry Yang and Terry Semel led to revenue slowdowns, management bloat, product missteps, and who knows what else.

While I’m saddened to see Bartz go, I’m more aggravated by the ridiculous articles and blogs regarding Yahoo’s past, present, and future.  Note to the mainstream press…Yahoo IS NOT Google.  Yahoo is NOT Facebook.

Yahoo IS an Internet icon, a portal destination, an information and communications hub, and is chalk full of popular services and offerings.  Often seen as less innovative than Google, Yahoo has made meaningful contributions to Hadoop and has recently open sourced Traffic Server which was acquired as part of the Inktomi acquisition.

I see two paths for Yahoo; Baidu and Apple.

Baidu has grown into a formidable challenger to Google.  For Baidu to take the next step they must enter the Western marketplace and Yahoo would be the perfect vehicle to make this a reality.  A cash and talent infusion by Baidu would reinvigorate Yahoo giving it new life to innovate and disrupt its way to revenue growth.  It would also mean an end to Yahoo’s partnership with Microsoft (or would it) as well as new competitive efforts across traditional and mobile solutions.

Apple is a dominant force within the mobile/tablet community and Yahoo would make the perfect destination for their users.  With one brush of the pen, Yahoo would be folded under the Apple brand and would change the perception of Yahoo from old/dying to new/exciting.  Apple could use Yahoo as a platform for iCloud services and revamp Yahoo’s offerings to work seamlessly within iOS and OSX.  Additionally, Apple could use Yahoo to offer new and innovative Cloud services and accelerate the adoption of HTML5.

In the end, Bartz will come-up a winner in this mess as her honesty and toughness is refreshing.  However, the future for Yahoo may be bright as long as the Board realizes it’s time to turn the reigns over and sell the company.  Let’s hope they don’t turn down an offer like they had from Microsoft again and Yahoo finds a new home!

Is Social Networking Really Social?

This last week I attended the GigaOM Structure conference in San Francisco, California.  I was fortunate to be invited to a VIP reception where I had the opportunity to meet and discuss Cloud computing challenges with people who are both technically gifted and passionate about Cloud computing.

However, while attending the Opening Day 1 Keynotes, I realized that “one of these things is not like the other” and I was a dinosaur in the room.  Flanked by iPads, Android Tablets, iPhones, and Laptops, I was sitting in the auditorium with an ordinary pen and notepad.

In fact, I felt like I was one of the few people who were actually listening to the presenters.  Most people had TweetDeck open with 10 or more Twitter feeds or were furiously posting away in Facebook.  Sure some were taking notes within Evernote, OneNote, or Google Documents, but a large number of people were simply preoccupied within their own social networks.

Does anyone listen anymore?  Are we all simply consumers of information rather than content providers?  Do you really have to Tweet every word or idea that is presented to you?

My goal was to learn from the presenters and disseminate information within the context of professional life.  My attention and focus was on understanding what the presenters were trying to convey to the audience while looking for deeper meaning or context.  Rather than feverishly try to capture every word the presenters were saying, a simple abstract recorded within my notepad was all I needed to find meaning while enjoying their presentations.

In fact, half of the fun was watching the interactions between the presenters and the audience.  The subtle jabs at the competitors or industry leaders with a simple grin or non-verbal action.  Did my fellow Tweeters notice these subtleties as well?

In the end, I worry that social networking is not social at all and is taking away the very essence of what makes us human.  Tweeting, SMS messaging, Facebooking, etc. has its place, but nothing replaces a real conversation, handshake, hug, or smile.

MicroNokiaSoft For Broke In The Cloud

It is quite amazing how much bad press Microsoft and Nokia generate.  If you didn’t know any better, then you’d think Microsoft was broke and Nokia had been left for dead.  While Google and Apple are the darlings of the industry, Microsoft and Nokia are abhorred.  Why?  Do we always need to create winners and losers or heroes and villains?

Amazingly, the haters love Apple; a company destined to repeat the mistakes of their past.  While iOS is a wonderful and polished operating system, it as closed and controlled as anything Microsoft could ever dream up.  From iOS to iTunes to the App Store, you only get what Apple wants you to have.  For goodness sakes, they even try to lock you out of the hardware that you purchased with their crazy pentalobe screws.

Of course, you have Android an operating system only Google could create.  On the surface it’s open, but in reality it shares many of the same characteristics of its archrival.  Devoid of any real challenge by Microsoft, Google was the only company that could stop Apple.  By diversifying their hardware, Android quickly gained on Apple and created a vibrant development community.  However, Android’s tragic flaw is its reliance on Google and their appetite for advertising dollars.  While Apple innovates and focuses, Google follows and is schizophrenic as their core business is under attack.

Alas, here comes Microsoft the old man of the crowd as Microsoft was founded in 1975 while Apple was founded in 1976.  Microsoft has been remarkably quiet in the mobile / Smartphone market.  Perhaps Microsoft took their eye off the ball, as they too had to defend their core business from new and disruptive technologies.  Microsoft responded, as a dominant software application provider should, by creating new and innovative applications and operating systems while investing in cloud technologies.

Fresh off the release of Windows 7, a pretty nice operating system, Microsoft has its eyes set on the mobile business it surely wants to dominate.  Windows Phone 7 is a decent first attempt by Microsoft to reinvent the Smartphone.  It has some disruptive features and some product weaknesses; I’d put it somewhere in-between iOS and Android.  While they don’t have the developer community of Apple or Google, they have applications (Exchange, Office, etc.) and now they have Nokia.

Remember Nokia?  They were the company that had beautiful designed phones with the easy to use operating system.  Somewhere along the line, they became the company with the so-so designed phones with the “ I don’t want to use operating systems”.  Nokia, like Microsoft, lost focus and tried to buy their way out of their mess with Symbian in 2008.  Dubbed the “open-source Android killer”, the operating system was lacking polish and failed to cultivate a developer community, not to mention the woefully underpowered phones.

Faced with the reality that the market has rejected Symbian in favor of Apple and Google, Nokia was faced with an unthinkable choice; create a new OS or become an Android drone.  However, like a perfect storm, a third choice emerged as Microsoft’s lagging Windows Phone 7 sales created an opportunity for a new partnership.

At last, Nokia has the opportunity to concentrate on their core competency and get back to building world-class phones.  These new designs will be powered not only by Microsoft’s software but also their desire to trump both Apple and Google.  Nokia gains access to Microsoft’s best and brightest doing what they do best, creating software and applications that are polished, user friendly, and innovative.

Will this partnership work?  In reality, it may be both companies last chance.  Think about it, if Nokia can create new high-powered phones that are beautifully designed and Microsoft can continue to polish Windows Phone 7 while adding deep integrations with Microsoft Office, Exchange, Live, and Azure then this may work.

Finally, don’t count out a 4th operating system from entering this mix as HP is making some noise with webOS.  Amazingly, they’ve escaped a tongue lashing by the press for not going Android but that’s another topic for another time.

For now, its MicroNokiaSoft for broke in the Cloud.

When The Cloud Goes Down

Has everyone seen the ‘Slip Slidin’ Away’ Bridgestone Blizzak television commercial? It brilliantly depicts what it’s like to lose control of an automobile on a snowy or icy road.  Anyone who lives in a winter wonderland or visits one can easily relate to that terrifying feeing of having no control and helplessness of something you depend on.

Imagine having a similar feeling of helplessness when your Cloud provider has a major outage that affects your entire business.   Perhaps it’s your email system, Intranet, documents, CRM site, or another key application.  Worse, what if it’s your IAAS provider that houses development or customer facing systems?

Naturally, you quickly turn to your Cloud provider for help.  Suddenly, your love of instant messaging, web forms, status pages, and social media turns into shear panic as you realize you’ll never get to speak to a human being.  You are greeted with a message saying, “We’re sorry.  Our services are temporarily down.  Our technicians and engineers are hard at work to resolve the problem. Please check back or follow us on the myriad of social networking outlets we support.  We’ll be updating this site every 15 minutes.  We appreciate your business and your patience.”

Don’t worry; the next 15 minutes will pass faster than a quantum torpedo detonating against a Borg cube, as you’ll be spending it fielding calls from people of all levels in the organization.  After hitting the refresh button on the browser you’re greeted with another message saying, “We are in the process of restoring our services.  The approximate time to completion is 5 to 6 hours.  We apologize for the outage but remember we haven’t had one in 2 years.  We appreciate your business and your patience.”

Far fetched?   I thought so too until I had the pleasure of experiencing it first hand.  In the aftermath, no guaranteed SLAs or credits could make up for the headache I had.  As someone who ponders, evangelizes, analyzes, and designs the next generation datacenter (the Cloud), this was a first hand lesson in the importance of continuing to radically re-think how we design, manage, monitor, predict, and recover the Cloud.  In other words, it’s time to stop putting lipstick on the technology and ideas of yesterday and make room for something different and innovative.

Finally, I’ve never really liked the term Cloud.  It implies simplicity or ease of use that may be prevalent on the front-end (users) but masks the reality of the complexity on the back-end (administrators).  The reality is nothing is 100 percent and “even the best laid plans go awry.”  The key is to understand that while technology is awesome, it pales into comparison to the power of being human.

Fun Alert: Insane 2011 Predictions That May Come True

Google Acquires Level 3 Communications

Really?  Forget net-neutrality, think fiber and capacity management.  Google gains a worldwide network and a host of services and options to redefine the Internet.  Google’s itching for another industry to transform, and the service provider market is ripe for the picking.  By streamlining processes, costs, and creating a true cloud, Google can change the game while laying the foundation for some incredible mobile products and services.

Apple Acquires Sony Corporation

Why?  How about content, home entertainment, consumer electronics, and more.  Imagine Sony TV’s pre-loaded with Apple TV or PS3 with an ‘Apple-like’ interface.  Apple would gain content via Sony Pictures, cameras, a massive distribution channel, and control of standards, patents, and more.  In the end, Apple would restore Sony to their former glory while drastically expanding their breadth and depth of products.

Cisco Acquires SAVVIS

Huh?  As Cisco is dead serious about the cloud and Infrastructure as a service, purchasing SAVVIS would give Cisco a ‘enterprise-class converged cloud solution.’  Plus, SAVVIS is a huge Cisco customer and early adopter, so Cisco wouldn’t’ need to swap out hardware as UCS is already in-play here.  Cisco gains data center expertise, IAAS, SAAS, Hosting, Content Management, and more while moving ever closer to end-customer and consumer.

Dell Acquires Brocade

Are you kidding me?  Dell needs an Ethernet and storage networking presence and they need it right now.  By purchasing Brocade and integrating their product sets, Dell can finally go toe-to-toe with HP and IBM.  Additionally, Foundry products finally get the sales and distribution channel they need to compete with Cisco, HP, and Juniper.  Dell would streamline manufacturing, sales, marketing, and more to create a viable alternative to HP’s growing ProCurve business.

Baidu Buys Yahoo

Never!  Baidu (the student) comes into the US Market flush with cash to buy Yahoo (the teacher).  Baidu would gain a US presence while putting their thumb in Google’s eye.  Yahoo gets an injection of cash and swagger, as they focus on platform services and open source projects.  Meanwhile, Microsoft quietly wins here as they continue to work with Yahoo/Baidu and expand their Chinese presence.

Huawei Buys Juniper

Come on?  Shunned by Dell, Juniper has little options as IBM refuses to enter the networking hardware business.  Huawei desperately wants to enter the North American Market, and Juniper’s name and mix of service provider and enterprise customers are just the ticket.  Huawei would quickly ramp up Juniper’s product line while introducing new lines of business including wireless carrier infrastructure, storage networking, and more.

Oracle Buys NetApp

Finally something we can agree on!  While Oracle/Sun have some amazing storage products, NetApp gives Oracle legitimate world-class storage solutions.  Oracle could leverage NetApp within their next generation ‘Exa’ products while refining how Oracle products perform on NetApp storage.  Meanwhile, Oracle/NetApp will make billions from FlexPods while moving closer to Cisco.

Google Must Change Tactics and Android Must Succeed

It is safe to say that I have not been a big fan of Google. I have issues with their tactics, business model, and insatiable appetite for personal information. It will come as no surprise to my readers, that I was delighted by Google’s recent announcement to cancel plans to bring the Nexus One to Verizon. However, my reasons behind supporting this decision may come as a shock to you; Android must succeed. Why?

To put it bluntly; Google may be the only company left that can stop Apple’s dominance in the mobile space. While Microsoft certainly has the talent, I question if they have the will as they continue to chase Google for advertising dollars. Meanwhile, Nokia seems a bit dazed and confused by Apple’s success as they cling to Symbian OS. RIM is stuck in the Enterprise world as they must now fight Apple on their home turf with devices that seem behind the times. Finally, Palm may find a buyer but also obsolescence.

One of my best friends put it this way, “When you buy an iPhone you are buying a device without root access.” In essence, we are forced to use and develop applications on the iPhone via the pleasure and direction of Apple. In the past few months, we have tried to develop more than a few interesting iPhone applications only to find we were in danger of violating Apple’s Licensing or Apple’s iPhone OS did not support or allow what we were trying to build. While some have gone the “jail breaking” route to overcome these obstacles, we would rather stay within the mainstream user population and remain legal.

While Apple controls every aspect of the iPhone, Google has the chance to disrupt this model. For some reason, Google has a tenancy to follow leaders in particular spaces. In my opinion, that is why they created the Nexus One as they thought controlling the hardware and software was key in creating a successful device. HTC and Motorola proved this notion incorrect when they created superior devices with the same Android OS. What Google really needs to do is concentrate on improving and refining Android’s usability and functionality to exceed that of Apple’s iPhone OS.

A refined Android with a vibrant community filled with robust application development has the chance to trump iPhone because it is open (we have root access!) and a killer application is sure to be developed. Google has many different avenues to make money off of Android including advertising, cloud services, and more.

Therefore, Google must change their tactics by concentrating on refining and improving Android while supporting their hardware and carrier partners.

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