Friday, December 22, 2006

Redefining Service

Unfortunately, my HP notebook's life is drawing to an end. Fortunately, it picked a great time to give up the ghost as the year is winding down and things aren't so hectic at the office. I started evaluating new machines several days ago and had narrowed my decision down to another HP or a Dell Inspiron. I was on configuring a notebook, when I stumbled upon something that really struck me. One of the many support options available for the machine had the following accompanying visual in its description:

Is it just me, or is Dell now admitting what we (including everyone at Dell) always knew all along: overseas tech support is an oxymoron of the highest order? My supposition is that that answer to that question in an undoubted yes. Assuming that is the case, what I really want to know is how they can get away with this.

First, let's spell out what's happening here. Dell, and all other major PC manufacturers, provide support on their customers' purchases for a finite amount of time. If the customer would like to receive support beyond that time frame, they can purchase the service for another pre-determined period of time. From much experience, I can say the term support is used very loosely. Having someone read aloud to you the same service manual or other support documentation that shipped with your PC hardly fits most people's definition of support. Typically, however, after much effort and patience, most users' problems can be sorted out one way or another. Sadly, during the outsourcing bandwagon party which started early this decade, Dell and several other major PC manufacturers, sent this work to India. The only thing worse than having an American regurgitate your service manual to you is to have an Indian, who can't very well speak English and tries to call himself "Frank" or "Joe", regurgitate your service manual to you. This had made for some very frustrated customers over the past several years. I know people who have sworn off Dell because of their decision to outsource support, and who can blame them?

So, in essence, Dell has taken a requisite service, degraded its quality severely over a period of time and started charging a premium for the original bare minimum level of service. Can you get away with this? I know my customers wouldn't be too receptive to the idea. How would my clients feel if I stopped answering emails or phone calls in any decently timely manner for the next year, and then offered to resume my timely responses in 2008, but only if they pay a premium? I have a feeling my they wouldn't be customers for very long.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Too LinkedIn?

I've been thinking a lot about social networks recently. I can't say why, other than that it is motivated by business purposes. At any rate, I was engaged in a conversation with a co-worker the other day, in which LinkedIn came up. The conversation could be paraphrased thusly:

Me: "You on LinkedIn?"
Him: "Yeah, isn't everyone?"
Me: "Yeah. How many people are in your network?"
Him: "People that I know: 15. Extended network: the entire planet."
Me: "Yeah. There are 5 people in a remote village in Swahili that aren't in my network...yet."

So, that got me thinking. Am I really any better off or more connected that I was before I joined LinkedIn? If everyone is connected, doesn't that mean that no one is connected? Can I leverage a relationship that everyone else shares? If the value of a relationships is based on its exclusivity, aren't social networks like LinkedIn eroding that value? Now, to be fair, most, if not all, social networks that employ the "friend-of-a-friend" paradigm suffer from the same problem. LinkedIn is the particular network that I happened to be thinking about recently, but it be any number of them.

To be sure, I think that LinkedIn is a winner. However, I think they've got to somehow segregate large groups of users and reduce the "degrees of separation" to limit the size of users' networks and put exclusivity, and therefore value, back into the relationship.

Users of LinkedIn, or other similar social networks, let me know what you think. Can being too connected erode the value in your connections? I'm interested in thoughts on the subject, for purely selfish reasons, of course.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Video Games and Pissing Contests: Business Lessons Learned From Nintendo Wii

Although real life has made substantial demands on my free time, I have been an active video game player since the age of seven, when my parents purchased a Nintendo Entertainment System for my half-brother and me. I remember spending countless hours playing our NES-as it was more well known then-until my mother would force us to go outside and play. Eighteen years later, the video game industry has matured beyond what most people could probably hav ever envisioned. By today's standards, the NES was a dinosaur, more fitting to be placed in the Smithsonian than in the living room entertainment center. For some reason, though, I didn't seem to care back then. I had as much or more fun playing video games as I did any other activity.

Every new generation of game system would bring with it better visuals, better sound, larger worlds to explore and a generally better experience. I can always remember thinking to myself, "I can't believe how much more realistic the games on SystemNew look compared to the games on SystemOld." The holiday seasons in which new game systems were launched were spent with much anticipation and anxiousness. I could hardly wait for Christmas to find out what new experiences would be made possible by the new systems. It seemed like the experience just kept getting better and better and more and more fun.

Somewhere between generations three and four (it is generally accepted that the current generation is the fifth), however, I stopped having fun. I still marveled at how great the new games looked, but I didn't enjoy playing the games nearly as much as I did several generations ago. Sure, I bought an Xbox 360 during its launch last year, but have probably only played it once or twice since then. I enjoyed mutli-player gaming on the PC with large groups of friends, but I think it had more to do with the good-natured verbal sparring than it did the game. For the most part, I had mostly tired of the gaming experiences that were available at the time.

Then, earlier this year, Nintendo and Sony announced details of their upcoming systems. I was intrigued by Nintendo's Wii and its novel approach to the next generation of gaming. Instead of getting in a spec war (read pissing contest) with Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo decided to innovate in an area largely neglected by the other two: input. Since the original NES, video game controllers have remained largely unchanged and iterative. Nintendo seemingly started from scratch with the concept of input and its impact on game play. Using motion-sensing chips, the Wiimote, as it's affectionately referred to, lets users control games by more or less mimicking the motions of the desired move.

Soon after it's public debut, gamers debated whether or not the Wii would be usable or too gimmicky. Nevertheless, it got people talking. Fast forward to November mid November of this year. Sony and Nintendo release both the PlayStation 3 and Wii within days of each other. Of course, both systems are in high demand and securing a system required camping out in front of retail establishments for hours. I had decided that I would not camp out for the Wii as I had done with the Xbox 360. Luckily, however, I was able to secure a Wii a week after its launch and only had to wait for several hours in front of a Best Buy. I believe it's worth mentioning that Best Buy is handling the PS3 and Wii much better than it did the Xbox 360 and forced bundles.

It has now been approximately two weeks since I purchased my Wii. I have played it nearly every night since then. My son has played (with my help of course) and I'm sure my wife will play as soon as she's recovered from surgery. It's by far the most fun I've had playing a video game since my childhood. I haven't noticed the visuals one bit as I've been too busy admiring the experience. The Wiimote works flawlessly. I'm shocked at how realistically my bowling technique is replicated in Wii Sports Bowling. Sometimes, for just a split second or two, I forget I'm playing a video game. The experience is that good.

So, what business lessons have I learned from the Wii and why the preceding six paragraphs chronicling my gaming experiences through the years? The second question is easy. Nintendo has completely restored the fun and enjoyment I had lost from video gaming. More importantly, and to answer the first question, they didn't get into a pissing contest with their competition. As a huge supporter of Seth Godin's writings, I firmly believe in the "Purple Cow". For so many years, the video game industry has been nothing more than an arms race. Nintendo knew that it would have a hard time competing with Sony and Microsoft and decided not to try and match firepower with its two heavyweight opponents. Instead, Nintendo changed the game by innovating and changing the conversation about game consoles. Suddenly, there is more for gamers to consider than just CPU speeds and hard drive sizes in their consoles. That Nintendo could pull this off, after all but being declared dead after the last generation of consoles, is nothing short of amazing. Consider also that Nintedo is actually making money-an unheard of achievement in the console wars-on every unit they sell. Microsoft just started making money on the 360 and Sony, as has been well documented, is losing a pretty penny on each of its PS3 systems sold.

I am inspired by what Nintendo has done with the Wii. I feel obliged to look for ways to innovate in my company and to find ways to change the conversations in my industry. Apple has pulled off what I consider to be the greatest corporate comeback in big business history. Nintendo may end up giving them a run for their money with the Wii and their ingenious strategy should be the benchmark by which all others are measured. The question we should all ask ourselves concerning our businesses, our services, our products and our people is, "Do I have a slightly faster processor or do I have a Wiimote?"

Friday, November 17, 2006

Biting the Hand That Feeds

In an interview with Billboard Magazine, Universal Music Group (UMG) CEO Doug Morris claims portable digital music players are "repositories for stolen music and they all know it". This, he mused, was justification for Microsoft paying royalties for the privilege to sell its Zune device. Something here just doesn't make sense to me. The amount of "pirated" music is dwindling by the day. File sharing application use is constantly dwindling. Legal digital music sales are constantly growing. CD sales are up, despite what the record labels and the RIAA would have you believe. So, if all of this music is in fact stolen, where is it coming from and how are the record companies still making billions of dollars every year? Unfortunately for Microsoft, Morris and his cronies are still bitter about Apple outsmarting them and are taking pent up frustrations out on them. Of course, this is chump change, or something less than and more insignificant than chump change, for Microsoft. In fact, I'm sure they'll be glad to pay the royalty because it will mean their device is actually selling. Microsoft's indifference to money aside, has anyone ever openly berated their customers like this? Personally, I will refrain from purchasing any music in any format of any UMG artists or labels and I hope many others will do the same. I guess I just have a hard time buying something from someone accusing me of stealing it in the first place.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

YouTube - White & Nerdy

Someone recently sent me a link to this and I thought it was worth passing on. I particulary enjoyed this piece because I relate in some measure. Although some may write him off as merely a novelty, Weird Al has some serious talent. He also seems to be one of the few artists that "get it" concerning the digital media (r)evolution.

Link to YouTube - White & Nerdy

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

DailyTech - McAfee Places Full-Page Ad in Financial Times Blasting Microsoft

I just don't get it.  Wouldn't this be like plumbers taking out full-page ads deriding manufacturers for making more durable pipes? 

Link to DailyTech - McAfee Places Full-Page Ad in Financial Times Blasting Microsoft


Monday, October 02, 2006

GigaOM » Mobile ESPN: Grounded

In case you missed it, Mobile ESPN, or as I call it, "The Ocho", announced it will be shutting down operations in December of this year. I guess my only question is, what took so long? This ideas was doomed from the beginning. You had to know they were in trouble when they started airing commercials that stated you'd get a cash "signing bonus" for signing up. There are talks that they will license their content to other operators, which is not a bad idea at all and is what they should have done in the first place. I'm just glad I won't have to endure any more of those terrible commercials during my weekend football watching.

Link to GigaOM » Mobile ESPN: Grounded

Monday, September 25, 2006

Not Quite Right Beta

Last night I received an invitation to test the beta of Google's Blogger platform. After a painless few clicks of the mouse, I'm on the cutting edge Google blog hosting, albeit months after the initial release. Looks like much custom code was lost on the way over. I had forgotten how much I had customized my Blogger template. Hopefully, all can be restored to its former state.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Online Ads Aren't All Bad

So, after spending some more time with my "Two birds" killer, I realized I had made an incorrect observation about it's capabilities, or, rather, Windows Mobile 5's capabilities. Whereas I thought I had set up true Outlook synchronization with my MDA, I had really only set up email pop access through the device. It turns out that, with the most recent iteration of Windows Mobile and ActiveSync, Microsoft had disabled wirelss syncing between PCs and mobile devices.

This was not good for obvious reasons. After much "research" on the subject, the only answer I could some up with was to beg my IT department to move to a hosted Exchange service. You see, Microsoft didn't totally kill wireless sync, they just restricted it to Exchange-based networks. Granted, that accounts for a large majority of people who might use a device like the MDA, but it in no wise helped me.

As I was using Google to launch one of my many searches on the subject, an ad on the results page caught my eye. It said something to the effect of "wireless sync for mobile without Exchange". Curious, I clicked on the ad, as I am not want to do very often. I sure am glad I clicked on this one.

The company being advertised was Emoze. Sure enough, they provide a plug-in for Outlook, with support for Lotus Notes and Mozilla Thunderbird promised, which provides "push" sync services with mobile handhelds, such as my trusty MDA. The service is in beta, according to the emoze website. After a simple registration, I downloaded and installed the beta client on the laptop on which I run Outlook. In no time at all, I was up and running. Next, I had to install the client on my mobile. Another easy painless install later and I was up and running.

True to its word, Emoze delivers Blueberry-like "push" email to various handhelds. As soon as I receive an email in Outlook, I receive it on my MDA. Outlook calendar items, tasks and notes are instantly synchronized both ways. While this may be a beta product, I have yet to see anything wrong with it on my Windows XP SP2 / Outlook 2007 Beta combination. Everything works as advertised. This is an incredibly useful application and I'm sure many will find it useful. For the first time ever, I'm glad I saw a banner ad.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

New Toy

Upon my return from the city that never sleeps, I came to the realization that I had two major problems I needed to solve quickly. First, my trusty Motorola RAZR had serious battery issues, which resulted in less than five minutes of talk time and an hour of standby. I should note that I have absolutely nothing against the phone. It's the best I've ever owned. I believe it was simply in need of a new battery. Second, I had an access problem. Whilst in New York, I was without network access for 8 or more hours per day. Unfortunately, this is not an option in today's business environment. This also isn't an isolated issue. All of my clients are Fortune 500 companies. They all take security seriously. This means no wired or wireless access when visiting them. Being the "kill two birds with one stone" kind of a guy that I am, I set out to find a solution to my quasi-related problems.

I knew such a device existed that could give me "anywhere access" and more than 5 minutes of talk time. I also knew that I would almost assuredly stick with my current provider, T-Mobile. I surveyed the current offerings from T-Mobile and found I had a couple options. I could go with one of the ever popular Blackberry devices or, take a chance on a device I had previously not heard of; the T-Mobile MDA.

Two things instantly drew me to the MDA. First, the device can slide open to reveal the keyboard. I've never liked the Treo or Blackberry because of the keyboards. Yes, I do realize that there is a Blackberry that only has a numbered keypad but, then, how do you type messages with it? Sort of defeats the purpose in my mind. Second, the MDA runs Windows Mobile 5. Our salesforce uses Treos and I've seen their struggles with Outlook integration and synchronization. I know there are far fewer issues with Windows Mobile devices. So off to my local T-Mobile store I went. A few hours later, I was the proud owner of a T-Mobile MDA.

Having owned the phone for about a week now, I can say that it's quickly in its way to supplanting my beloved RAZR as the "best phone I've ever owned". It syncs up with Outlook just beautifully, has Bluetooth, IR and WiFi connectivity options, has great call quality and decent battery life. Combined with T-Mobile's Total Internet service, I have high-speed network access via their EDGE network almost anywhere I go. I can even share the connectivity with my laptop via Bluetooth. Using the qwerty keyboard, I can send emails quickly from anywhere. I have, indeed, killed both birds with one stone.

The phone is certainly not without its flaws, however. My biggest gripe is the lack of a numeric keypad. Of course, I can't really gripe about this. I knew this would be the case going in. It's a small price to pay for all of the features and benefits I've gained by moving to this device. All in all, I'm very pleased with my decision. I reccomend mobile business users who aren't sold on a Blackberry or Treo, for the same reasons I was, to give a Windows Mobile device like the MDA a try.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Big Apple

I was alerted Friday afternoon that I would be making a trip to New York city on Sunday. This is the first time I've been here during the summer months and, I must say, it's much nicer during August than it is January or February. The weather has been tolerable during the day and incredible during the evening, with temperatures around 70 degrees. I'm amazed that a city with infrastructure of such size can operate so efficiently. It's really quite amazing. People all over the place all of the time, yet they're always moving quickly and with a purpose. It really is incredible to experience.

Friday, July 21, 2006

iPod has Competition?

The blogosphere has been a buzz recently with rumblings of an "iPod killer" from Microsoft. The guys over at Engadget have confirmed the existence of said product and have added their two cents based on information from their sources. Admittedly, I am an unabashed Apple supporter and, the Zune, as it's being refered to, sounds like it could give the iPod a run for its money. I even caught myself thinking, as I was reading the scoop at Engadget, that this device would blow away any iPod currently on the market. However, I can't help but think about how badly Steve Jobs hates to be showed up. I have a feeling that the next generation of iPods, whenever they may be released, are going to blow us away and I'm not just talking about video. I think Steve's got something big up his sleaves. Back to the Zune, they're not going to call the jukebox software iZunes are they?

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It's Been a While

I've been terribly busy with work over the past 6 - 8 weeks. Much has been happening since my last regular postings. Hopefully, I can pick it back up.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Eating Your Own Dogfood

I have spent the better part of the last 6 months extolling the virtues of blogging, podcasting, RSS aggregation and all other manner of popular technologies to our clients and asking them to explore the possibilities of using them to enhance their businesses.

Whilst in a meeting today, I was asked how my company was harnassing the power of these technologies to improve our communications with our customers. I was dumbfounded that I had to answer that we weren't. In our haste to sell someone something, we forgot to try it ourselves. It hadn't even occured to me until today that we don't have a company blog set up. We don't do a lot of the things we tell our customers to do. That's a very sobering thought, but one we're going to change. The company blog goes up tomorrow.

Isn't there an inherent problem in selling something you don't use yourself? I'd love to hear thoughts on this one.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Vista Beta 2 Thought Stream

I love the new Aero UI. I thought the transparency would kill the experience, but, rather, it actually adds to the experience.

System Restore will take down even the most formidable hard drives in a matter of hours. It seems like every time you click something, a restore point is made. Does anyone know of a way to limit the amount of drive space used by System Restore like you can in XP?

Aero is awesome.

Search seems to find things really fast. I don't know if it's as fast a Spotlight yet, but this is also a beta.

I can't play any of the games I've installed for more than 10 minutes without hard freezing of my system.

Sidebar would benefit from a "slide out" feature a la Google Desktop.

More to come...

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Adventures in Vista

To quote the Microsoft Windows Vista homepage, the publicly available Windows Vista Beta 2 is meant for “…IT professionals, developers, and technology enthusiasts”. While I am certainly not an IT professional nor developer; I am definitely a technology enthusiast. So I decided it was high time for my machine to experience something new and downloaded the 4.4 gigabyte DVD image. After burning the DVD, I popped it in my DVD-ROM drive and booted to Windows XP.

Once safely booted into XP, I ran the installer on the Vista DVD and away I went. I chose the upgrade option after reading of many successful upgrades on numerous blogs and forums. Why not keep my data intact, I figured. Installation was typical of Windows. Serial key was entered. Files were copied from the DVD drive to my hard drive. Computer rebooted several times during the whole process. Eventually, after what seemed like a very long time, I was greeted with the new Vista login screen. Right away, I could tell them something was very different about this version of Windows.

As was my experience with Office 2007 Beta 2, my first impression of Vista Beta 2 was one of awe. As a designer, I can appreciate the immense amount of work that has gone into making the Windows user experience a decidedly better one. While it isn’t without its flaws-I’ve had to reinstall it several times after infamous BSODs-the next version of Windows is going to really impress a lot of users and not just because of its impressive eye candy.

I must say I’m impressed, which is something that I rarely use in conjunction with Microsoft. However, from what I’ve seen of Vista Beta 2 and Office Beta 2, Microsoft is looking like they’re going to turn the corner of usability and start to close the gap on Apple. I choose my words carefully because I still believe Apple is the king of simplicity and usability. However, Microsoft is making large leaps and, obviously, committing resources to ensuring great user experiences.

I don’t plan on reviewing Vista Beta 2, per se, because so many are floating around the blogosphere. I will, however, document my thoughts in some sort of “stream of consciousness” post(s) as I have experiences worth sharing. Needless to say, I’m impressed with Vista Beta 2 and can’t wait to see where Microsoft will take it with the remaining development time they’ve got until release.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Microsoft Word 2007 Beta 2 Review

One of the most widely used, if not the most widely used, word processing applications is Microsoft Word. In Word 2007 Beta 2, Microsoft did not rest on their laurels, instead including several very useful new features and increasing Word’s overall usability considerably. Let’s look at some of the most useful new additions to Microsoft Word 2007 as it stands right now. Note that some of the features covered in this review may exist in previous versions of Word. However, I have never personally seen them. As an aside, I read that during the development of Office 2007, a user group was commissioned by Microsoft to determine the features most requested by potential users of the software. A majority of the features requested by the focus group already existed in the Office suite. This illustrates the difficulty most users face with traditional cascading menus and is probably one of the driving forces behind the innovative “Ribbon” interface present in most of the Office 2007 Beta 2 applications.

“On Demand Toolbar”

First, when a section of text is selected, a compact toolbar containing font and paragraph formatting commands appears just above the text selection. While this is nothing revolutionary, it certainly underscores the importance placed by Microsoft on usability in the new Office suite. One other nice touch Microsoft has added to this toolbar is that it fades in and out based on the location of the mouse pointer in relation to the text selection. In other words, the toolbar fades away as the mouse pointer moves away from the text and fades back into view when the mouse pointer moves back towards the selection. Nothing huge, but a nice little touch that will surely save more than a few trips up to the menu bar.


The next notable feature included in the beta is the “Styles” bucket. Styles may have actually existed in previous version of Word, but I have never seen them. Even if they had, Microsoft has added a simple, but powerful feature that will make this iteration much more useful than before. By default, the Styles bucket contains several options for formatting text selections, including: Normal, No Spacing, Heading 1, Heading 2, Title, Subtitle, Emphasis, Strong and many others. What stands out about this version of Word, and other office applications which share this feature, is the live, real-time preview of selected effects before commit. So, as you mouse over the different commands in the Styles bucket, the text selection changes dynamically to reflect the effect currently selected. In this way, users can quickly preview changes without having to play the “guess/commit/undo” that so many users have to play before finding an appropriate style that works. This feature, which is present across most of the applications in the Office suite, is going to save a lot of people a lot of time and will be a major reason people will enjoy using Office 2007 as much as they will.

Smart Art

The Insert tab allows users to insert the same charts, tables, shapes and clipart as they have been able to do in Word for some time. The major change in Word 2007, as well as Excel 2007 and Power Point 2007, is the aptly named “Smart Art”. Smart Art is really incredible, actually, and will be a favorite of those who may not be gifted graphic designers. Smart Art items are a collection of predesigned illustrations depicting processes, relationships, lists, cycles, hierarchies and many of the other diagrams business users frequently add to documents to explain certain concepts. So what’s so great about some illustrations? In and of themselves nothing, but where Smart Art gets its name is the intelligence built into their design. Once a selection is made from the Smart Art list, the chart is placed into the document, along with a hierarchal text input box beside the chart. If the chart calls for one text label for each object in the Smart Art, then the text box will contain three text input fields. As text is entered into each field, it’s rendered on the chart. If, for example, one of the shapes in the Smart Art is smaller than the others and the text being input in the corresponding text field will not fit on the shape reasonably, the text is automatically resized to fit in the object. Not only is the text for that particular object resized, but the text in the other object is resized as well. This will help users create consistent, well designed illustrations. The same styles with real-time previews that exist for text selections exist for Smart Art objects and colors and styles can be changed quickly and easily with the user getting to see any what any changes will look like before they are made. Smart Art objects can also be changed on the fly as well. Users can go from a three step gear illustration to a four piece pie chart instantly, with all of the existing text transferred to the new Smart Art object. As an artist, I know many users struggle with making consistent, well-designed illustrations. This will go a long way to helping average users create presentable charts, graphs and many other illustrations. I’m very excited about this addition to the Office suite and I’m sure many users will agree.


Themes take Styles to the next level by providing “templates” to pre-define various elements in the document. Themes apply to colors, fonts and effects. Using the same real-time preview found in various other Word and Office features, users can quickly browse through various themes and see how the entire Word document is affected by the theme. Users can also create their own themes to match corporate guidelines and other pre-defined templates they might use. As with Styles, this feature may have been present in previous versions of Word, but I never saw it.

Windows Button

The File menu has been replaced in most of the Office 2007 applications and replaced with the “Windows Button”, at least I think that’s what they’re calling it. The Windows Button presents users with familiar commands such as New, Open, Save, Save As, Print and Close. Several features have been added to account for variances from the simple create, save and print workflow.


The Finish command contains several sub-commands that existed in previous versions of Word, such as Inspect, Permissions, Signature and Compatibility commands. These are not new, but have been moved to the Windows menu, which now acts as sort of a workflow-driven menu.


The Send command contains two sub-commands: Email and Internet Fax. Again, both of these options exist in previous versions of Word, but have been moved to reflect their place in the typical workflow.


The Publish command gives users the option to publish their document to a document manager or workspace, such as Share Point. The new, and quite nifty, command is Publish to Blog. Yes, Word 2007 Beta 2 (I assume this feature will survive any feature cuts made by Microsoft, but you never know) can be used as an offline Blog post publishing tool. What better indicator of blogging’s mainstream acceptance than to see support for it in Microsoft Office. Just like Apple did with podcasting, Microsoft has a chance to push blogging to the top of the adoption curve with this feature.


Microsoft has made incredible strides to improve usability and functionality of Word 2007 and the same goes for all of the applications in the Office suite. Check the screencast for a better illustration to see Word 2007 Beta 2 in action and stay tuned for more reviews of most, if not all of the Office 2007 Beta 2 applications. I do not claim to be a Word power-user and, as such, probably missed many points in this and previous versions of Word. Please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know if I goofed on any of the features I touched on in this review.

Road Weary

It's been over a week since I've posted. I've been in beautiful San Jose, California on business. I managed to write a quasi-thorough review of Microsoft Word 2007 Beta 2 whilst traveling. I'll post it shortly and hope to have a screen cast of the review up tonight or tomorrow.

While the weather in San Jose was awesome, my wireless internet experience was not. I'm shocked that I can go to one of the most wired cities in the world and stay at a hotel where I don't have access to wireless internet. I'm not going to rat out the offending hotel (well known, upscale chain), but I was disappointed to have to string an ethernet cable around the room to get access. And don't get me started on the $10 a day price, either. Makes me wish I could afford one of these.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Windows Vista Ultimate: $450 US? - Engadget

All I want to know is this: is anyone going to shell out this much money for any OS? I know this is the Ultimate edition, afterall, but when is too far? What is the most you would pay for an OS, regardless of platform, etc.? I'd love to hear opinions on this. Leave a comment.

Windows Vista Ultimate: $450 US? - Engadget

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Microsoft Office 2007 Beta 2: User Interface Review

As I mentioned several days ago, Microsoft publicly released the second beta of Office 2007 last week at their WinHEC conference. I, like many of my early-adopting, sneezing peers, raced to download, install and test some or all of the components of the coming Office suite. I wrote that my early impressions were those of amazement. After having spent considerably more time with the suite, my thoughts are the same: Microsoft Office 2007 is going to blow away anything that has come before it. The more I use it, the more I seem to like, maybe even love, about it.

So what has me, and many others long-time Office users I’m sure, so impressed with the next Office offering from Microsoft? User interface. For the first time that I can recall, Microsoft has actually put thought into the user interface. Not only have they put some thought, as well as myriad resources, into the user interface; they’ve delivered some real results, which shows that they’ve gone further than they ever have before to execute on what the users need rather than what they want users to need.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll devote this review to the broad and sweeping changes to the user interface that permeate most of the Office 2007 Beta apps I’ve tested so far. I’ll write app specific reviews separately. As an aside, can anyone tell me what the plan is for apps such as Project 2007 or Visio 2007, which, as of Beta 2, do not implement the new “Ribbon” interface?

Upon starting any of the basic Office apps (Word, Excel, Power Point, Outlook) the user is greeted with an interface that probably looks very foreign to veteran Office users.

At first glance, it might appear that the Office dev team has simply grouped different functions of different existing toolbars together into buckets below the toolbar. This is partially correct, but there is so much more to the interface that to imply that this is the extent of the changes would be completely missing the point. A closer look at the “Ribbon” interface, as it’s being called my Microsoft, reveals the task-oriented nature of the new interface. While in previous versions of Office, one could wade through menu option upon menu option looking for the appropriate command, the Office team has brought the most pertinent functions to the user based on what they happen to be doing at the time or on the task they want to perform.

For example, when I wanted to insert the above graphic into my writing, I clicked on the “Insert” tab of the Ribbon interface, just as I have down in earlier versions of Office apps. The Ribbon interface then updated to show me the most useful command available to me for inserting an object into the document.

All of the old Insert commands we’ve come to know and love, such as: Shapes, Table, Picture, Clip Art, Chart, Hyperlink, Header and Footer are there. One thing that immediately stands out in the Ribbon interface are the large iconic illustrations that accompany each command. This, in and of itself, is a huge visual improvement over the cascading menus that have plagued recent versions of Office. However, the next example illustrates the simplicity and beauty of the interface created by the Office team. Below is the Ribbon for the Insert command when writing in “blog” mode in Word. (Yes, Office 2007 will include a mode in which users can create, edit and upload blog posts. More on this in the Word 2007 Review).

Notice the absence of the Shapes, Pages and Header & Footer groups of commands in the Ribbon? This, of course, is because I can’t insert any of those objects into a blog post. While seemingly simple, and maybe insignificant, this contextually sensitive interface is light years beyond anything Microsoft, or most any company, for that matter, has ever created. It is this simplification of the user experience that I believe so many users will come to appreciate, whether they know it or not.

Of course, each app in the suite has different commands and works slightly differently, which is to be expected considering these applications are still in beta. However, this great turn to usability is one that I have not seen Microsoft take at any time previously with the Office suite. Obviously, there is much, much more to cover in the Office suite. However, I will cover these in the individual application reviews. Needless to say, I am incredibly impressed with the work the Office team has done to create a better experience for the majority of their users and will try to show some of those things in each application review.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

First Impression of Office 2007 Beta 2

My first impression of Microsoft Office 2007 Beta 2 is actually really positive, despite the fact that I had very low expectations. I’ve now been playing with Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access and Publisher and am amazed at what they’ve done with the user interface. I never expected to see something like this from Microsoft. I don’t know where to begin, except to say that I definitely need more time to wrap my head around what I’m seeing before I can write any review. By the way, I’m writing and posting this from Word itself. Remember my post about blogging in Word? Well, it’s true. Much more to come this week. All I can say right now is AWESOME!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Microsoft Office 2007 Beta 2 released

Earlier today, Microsoft, during their annual WinHEC conference, release a public beta of Office 2007. I tried to download it earlier today, but the servers were predictabely getting slammed. I'm downloading the installers now and will post a review later tonight or tomorrow. I'll focus mostly on what's going to matter to the average busines user.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Skype not Aftraid of Net Neutrality?

According to an article over at ars technica, a Skype executive mentioned that he has no worries about ISPs charginga premium to carry Skype traffic over their pipes. He believes that the Skype user base will cause an uproar with the ISP(s), such that the ISP(s) will have to reconsider their decision to cash in on Skype's hard work. To quote the article:

Skype's battleplan is simple. If their user base is large enough, companies will think twice about tampering with Skype traffic. When Brazil's biggest telecom pulled the plug on Skype, the outcry in the country was big enough that the decision was soon reversed. Bilefield said, "The community has the power to change things."
While I don't know whether or not that is a sound strategy, it got me thinking about this whole "net neutrality" argument.

As I posted on the thread at Digg that referenced this article, I believe the ISPs are in a bit of a pickle if they think they can do whatever they wish with content providers. Unfortunately for them, the relationship between ISP and content provider is symbiotic. The ISP needs them to provide compelling, rich, bandwidth-hungry applications as much as the content providers need a pipe over which to provide the service or application. Would anyone really need a 6 Mbit connection (my current RoadRunner connection) if all they were doing was emailing and surfing As with most established monopolies, the ISPs will never innovate and/or change over time to stay relevant. Instead, they will focus all of their efforts on fighting the inevitable and piss off a lot of customers along the way, never giving thought to what was best for those customers.

Since the big Skype announcement this week of free Skype Out calling services, I have been trying to convince everyone I know to drop their land lines in favor of a Skype solution. I really hope it catches on in this country as it has in others and that we can, as Mr. Bilefield said, "have the power to change things".

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Google Notebook is Live

Google Notebook is live, which we knew would happen. Here's what was somewhat of a surprise to me: it's a Firefox extension. I certainly didn't see that one coming. Did anyone else? It's late, but I'll give a short review here.

First, a "Note this (Google Notebook)" item has been added to the Firfox contextual menu as pictured below.

Basically, anything you can get in your browser window can be "Noted". Google is also adding "Note this" links to your Google search results. Note the link in the picture below.

The Notebook lives in the lower right of your Firefox window and can be minimized or restored. Maximizing it open a new browser windows with a full-screen view of your notebook.

Notes can be manually added and you can create multiple notebooks with the click of a button on the aptly named "Actions" drop-down menu.

I'm sure the blogosphere will disect this thing tomorrow, but, on the surface, it seems easy enough. I'm sure we'll all put it through its paces tomorrow.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Free calls to all landlines and mobile phones within the US and Canada - Skype Blogs

Can it possibly be true? Even though this is only guaranteed to run through the end of the year, this is a big announcement. With everything that's happening with the NSA and telcos, there couldn't be a better time to offer someone an alternative. There were already over 6 million people on Skype as of this writing. I wouldn't be surprised to see this number increase dramatically very soon. Even if it does go back to a pay service in January, many people will continue the service. Brialliant move by eBay-Skype's marketing folks.

Free calls to all landlines and mobile phones within the US and Canada - Skype Blogs

Saturday, May 13, 2006

AMCP Tech Blog: Word 2007 to support Blogging

You know blogging has hit the mainstream when the the largest software company in the world integrates blogging support into the most widely used office application suite in the world.

AMCP Tech Blog: Word 2007 to support Blogging

Mashable* » Coming Soon: Paypal Payments via Skype

Pete Cashmore from Mashable has posted an blurb via Skype Journal regarding the integration of PayPal into the Skype client. There was a discussion over at either TechCrunch or GigaOm about the disaster that was the Skype purchase by eBay. I had, and still do have, a very different feeling about the purchase. I think it was a great idea for two reasons.

First, eBay charges small, nominal fees to enahnce a seller's listing such as bold listings, picture galleries, top of page listings, highlighted listings, etc. Many people participate and eBay has numbers to support the investment. Now then, large numbers of people were putting "Skype Me" buttons in their listings well before the buy out. However, it requires the editing of HTML, which is more than some sellers can handle. So eBay make a "Skype Me" button a $.50 option when the listing is created. They may even already do this, it's been ages since I've used eBay. No fuss for the seller and they get to keep up with the more technically savvy users already doing this. One thing about eBay is that people will mimic anything they see being used successfully. If one seller with a really high feedback rating has a "Skype Me" button in all of his listings, you can be darn sure that everyone else will want to do so as well. All of those small $.50 transaction start to add up quick when you do the volume that eBay does. Eventually, eBay will start to earn that money back.

The second, and more exciting, use of Skype on eBay will be voice services. Ether already does this, although they have not publically launched yet. Pete, from Mashable, is the only person I've actually seen who uses it and has commented on his experience. Read his post here to get his thoughts. The general idea is that a seller sells his time rather than a tangible good. For example, I create a listing on eBay for technical support on Apple computers. I set my rate at $20/30-minute increment. Someone has a question about their iLife software. This person doesn't have the time or knowledge to peruse forums on the web to find and answer to their question, but they know they can jump on eBay and find someone to answer for a decent price. They search on eBay just like they do for goods and eventually find me. They see my rate and my excellent feedback from people whom I have helped and decide to call me. They call, through Skype, and I walk them through the solution to their problem. Once we have finished, $20 is sent to my PayPal account and I have another satisfied customer. The same use case scenario could be made for any number of services in which people interact and communicate. Tech support, business consulting (which is Pete's specialty), relationship advice, home repair advice, blogging advice, it could really be anything.

What happens when you're so successful that you can't possibly answer all of the calls you have? Why you just join forces with some of the other highly rated experts in your category or hire knowledgeable people like you would any other business. With Skype's real-time presence abilities, you can have a virtual call center of people ready to answer questions and help your customers. If you're not available, the buyer can see that and go to the next available expert. If that person takes the call, you give him a cut of the revenue and keep a bit for yourself for doing nothing but letting him use your good name and reputation. If eBay and Skype are smart, they will build group presence into Skype presence at some point to simplify this process for the users.

So now, you have just exposed your "business" to millions upon millions of potential customers and eBay has tapped into a whole new revenue stream, which investors really like to hear about. Because Skype's communications are encrypted, users can rest easy knowing private conversations won't be compromised. Can't guarantee that with a phone call, especially in light of the recent NSA fiasco. It's a win win situation for everyone. The question is when and will it happen?

Mashable* » Coming Soon: Paypal Payments via Skype

Friday, May 12, 2006

Yahoo CEO laments not buying Google | | CNET

Ya think? Of course, hindsight is 20/20. I admire the confidence Brin and Page had asking for $1 billion at a time when things were really bad and no companies were selling for any amount of money. They obviously knew what Google would become and saw immense value. I'd say they made the right decision.

Yahoo CEO laments not buying Google | | CNET

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Adventures in MySpace

Without getting into too much detail, I've been arduously studying social networking for "research" for "projects" I "may or may not be working on" at "work". It has been quite interesting, to say the least, and I've learned quite a bit about behavioral patterns of people of varying general demographics. Because I follow technology so ardently, I have, of course, heard of the king of social networks, MySpace. I've also heard of several others such as TagWorld, Bebo, Orkut and the recently launched AIMPages.

Up to this point, I have resisted getting involved with any of these networks for two reasons. First, I don't have a whole lot of time to devote to contributing relevant content. Second, I've been literally disgusted at the abominations called MySpace pages I've seen from friend and co-workers. As a designer, I die a little bit each time I see a MySpace profile.

Unfortunately for me I have come to the point that I need to actually participate in one of these communities to further my understanding of their operations. For this purpose, I have decided to join the established leader (MySpace) and the up-and-comer (AIMPages). I can summarize my brief experiences with both thusly:

MySpace's strength is in numbers. Chances are anyone who might join the network already knows several, if not many, existing members. I counted at least a dozen on my first perusal through the alumni from my graduating class. MySpaces' weakness is, of course, it's horrid collection of pages. I can't write further of it for fear of getting sick.

AIMPages has impressed me despite it not playing well with Firefox on my Mac. Most of the pre-designed page templates have a clean layout. They're also promoting an open architecture by using web services widgets based on existing services such as Flickr. Widgets are easy to implement into a page; simply drag and drop them from the gallery onto the page. Ultimately, I think AIMPages will gain some ground on MySpace based on it's ease of use and cleanliness. Having a tie in to the most popular IM client and established advertising infrastructure doesn't hurth either.

I will post further on my experiences with the two services.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Longhorns to snatch "world's biggest HD display" title from Dolphins?

The guys over at Engadget have the scoop on the "biggest HD display in the world". It will reside in Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, which just happens to be the home of my beloved Longhorns. Now, if only they could replace the "Running of the Horns" video while they're at it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Much Ado About Squidoo

I recently covered Squidoo and mentioned that I had set up a "Lens" to see what kind of response I would get out of it. Within the last couple of days, Michael from TechCrunch wrote an article predicting its demise. Today, Pete from Mashable picked up the discussion. The census seems to be that Squidoo will die if they remain a "walled garden", or closed service. Their other hinderance is that they don't allow for community interactions around the "Lens". Of course, I already wrote this in my previous post.

Syndicated at Last

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but check out what I saw when I logged into my FeedBurner account today.

That's right, I've got a subscriber. Look out!

First Impressions: Drupal

Working for a small business (I hate the term start-up) I am, understandably, often asked to wear multiple hats. My title is Art Director, but I am asked to do much more than direct art. One of the things I've been working with my colleague Chris on is finding a suitable intranet/wiki/cms system for us to use. I have spent a resonable amount of time searching the interweb for a cheap (preferably open source) solution that we can implement without having a PhD. I may have found a strong contender in Drupal.

I could tell from perusing the Drupal site that it would probably meet most of our needs. My only concern was the setup. Neither Chris nor myself have gobs of time to devote to a project like this. I decided to give it a try over the weekend. Much to my surprise it wasn't very difficult at all.

First, I must disclose that drupal required Apache, a database backend (MySQL, etc.) and PHP. Fortunately for me, XAMPP did all of that heavy lifting for me. I could do a whole post on XAMPP, but just know it's all of the backend stuff you'll need to run a server in a simple installer package. Definitely check it out if you're thinking about running your own server.

On to Drupal. Setup was fairly straight forward. I followed the instruction found on the drupal site. It was quite painless, actually. I was up and running in about 10 minutes. One of the great things about Drupal is the modular plug-in system they've implemented. I was able to download and install several useful plug-ins (I believe they're referred to as modules) very easily and in very little time. Visual themes are similar in nature; very easy and quick to install. Now, I have not yet put Drupal through its paces to really ascertain its viability for us, but, if first impressions are an indicator, we've got a winner on our hands.

Based off of my limited exposure to Drupal, I would still recommend it to anyone in the market for an intranet/wiki/CMS. Of course, I'd love to hear from people who may have had better experiences with another package or didn't find Drupal useful at all. Leave a comment and let me know what you've found.

Playstation 3 to cost more than my PC?

So, today at E3 Sony announced details of the Playstation 3. Read Engadget's write up for all of the info. Here's the part that gets me: $499 for the 20GB HD version and $599 for the 60GB HD version. My incredibly useful MacMini cost me $425, although, in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I purchased it as a "refreshed" product from the Apple Store. Still, between $500 and $600 for a gaming device? Sure, it will play Blu-ray movies, but what else? On the other hand, I do realize how powerful it theoretically is and how much Sony will be losing on each unit sold. I still have to wonder if the arms race between Sony and Microsoft will really pay off for either of them. I think Nintendo has a great opportunity with the Wii, simply because they're trying to innovate their way through the market, rather than spec through it. Will you pay for the PS3? Leave a comment and let me know. Maybe I'm all wrong about this.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ode to Taco Town

In honor of one of my favorite SNL skits, I had some office mates make a Taco Town taco, replete with pancacke and qucamalito sauce, at our Cinco de Mayo party on Friday. "Pizza! Now that's what I call a taco". Posted by Picasa

Thank you BlogMad

Last night I signed up on BlogMad, a blog traffic exchange site. Through the last few hours of the night and early this morning, my traffic has increased tremendously. I'm impressed, to say the least. Definitely check them out if you're looking to increase traffic and find new and interesting blogs. I'll put a full review up later.

Sunday, May 07, 2006 - Easy Counting

I stumbled upon a fairly easy-to-use and straightforward service today. BlogCounter does what it sounds like it should - provide a hit counter and statistics for your blog (although, technically, any site in which you can edit the HTML can be tracked). I had to insert a small snippet of JavaScript into my Blogger template, but it was easy to do. I like the fact that their stats are simple. They tell me how many people have hit the blog and where they came from. I've made their Top 100 list, so I guess I've got that going for me. Anywho, if you're in the market for a simple hit counter for your site, check out BlogCounter.

Lonestar Showdown - Game 1

The game between the Spurs and Mavericks certainly lived up to the hype; coming down to the final seconds. The Mavericks had a chance to tie or win as time was expiring, but Jerry Stackhouse got caught in the corner and had to jack up a three-pointer as the clock ran out. It was certainly a good showing by the Mavs, considering the game was played in San Antonio. The experience and toughness of the Spurs prevailed, though. This should be a good series.

Sphere Blog Search

There's a new search engine in town. This one, however, is different. Sphere, which just recently launched, is a blog-only search engine. That's right, blog only. Why would anyone need search results only from blogs? It makes sense, actually.

As a result of the increased popularity of blogging, there are probably multiple blogs touching any and all topics anyone could ever want to know about (and probably many they don't). My thinking is that people can find whatever they want whenever they want through the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN. News and information is syndicated from a small pool of sources and the story is pretty much the same regardless of the source you pull it from. Here's where blogs come in. People now want to discuss the story with other people. Go to any number of news sites and read the top headlines. They're all essentially the same. Go to any number of blog posts about a particular story and, most likely, they will all be very different.

Sphere has a chance to become a very relevant threat to the traditional serach engines in the "information gathering" space. I can't wait to see how it grows.

TechCrunch » Rapleaf is Now Live

Michael over at TechCrunch just reported on RapLeaf, a portable commerce feedback system a la eBay reputation. The big difference between eBay and RapLeaf is that RapLeaf isn't tied to any service. In other words, you can use your RapLeaf reputation rating on a Craigslist listing and use the same reputation rating in an email response to someone selling something in your local newspaper classifieds or a ticket exchange forum on your favorite sports team's website.

Technically, any electronic communication which supports HTML should support embedding of your RapLeaf reputation "badge". RapLeaf has, or will have, an API, which means this can be integrated into other apps or web "mashups".

eBay really missed an opportunity here and I'll be interested to see if RapLeaf can really catch on with the masses. I didn't see anyting on their site that talked about money and I would be curious to see their business plan (assuming they are indeed trying to make money). Read Michael's write-up at the link below.

Read more at TechCrunch » Rapleaf is Now Live

Lonestar Showdown

Two of my favorite teams begin what should be a great NBA Playoff series today. The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks play two very different styles of basketball, which should make for an interesting series. I've got to give the edgo to the Spurs, however. They've got home-court advantage and their defense can stifle any offense. Either way, I'll have one of "my teams" in the Western Conference Finals, which is more than most fans can say.

Read more at sportsillustrated.cnn.c...

Texas Longhorns - Zimbio

I created a Zimbio portal for my beloved University of Texas Longhorns. It will be interesting to see if I can get any user participation. I'm curious to see just how useful other people will find this type of resource.


A New Kind of Portal II

No sooner than I post on Zimbio do I find yet another interesting take on "portals". This time it's called Squidoo and I think I like it too, albeit for different reasons. Squidoo does things a bit differently than does Zimbio. First, Squidoo portals, or "lenses", are maintained by a single person and not by the community at large. Second, Squidoo earns revenue from Google AdWords and shares that revenue with the Lens Masters (those "experts" who have made Lenses on various topics). Both models are unique and interesting in their own ways. I'm very curious to see if these can pass the "wife test". Will they become simple and useful enough to catch on past the early adopters? Squidoo's problems are that it's a "walled garden" (as far as I can tell) and that it doesn't open communication lines between users. These two factors might seriously hinder its potential.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A New Kind of Portal

I recently was turned on to a really interesting "Web 2.0" site named Zimbio. Zimbio has taken a very unique spin on web portals. Basically, they've given users the ability to create their own "portals" on a wide range of topics. The cool thing is that any user can contribute to the portal in a number of different ways. There is a group blog, forums, links, blog rolls, picture galleries and more. Each portal has an AIM-driven chat room as well as IM presence indicators for each contributing member of the portal. I believe this is the future of "portals": online communities of people aggregating relevant content around a certain topic. This blurb certainly hasn't done the site justice. There is much more here than what I have covered. The community seems to be relatively young (I believe they just left private beta) so go visit and find a topic to contribute to and discover the future of information portals on the web.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


I'm writing this from a Starbucks in San Jose, California. I must say I can see why people love to live here. The weather is beautiful, and that might be an understatement. Of course, the cost of living would be tough do deal with, which might also be an understatement. The high temperature today in San Jose is expected to be 74 degrees whereas it will probably reach 95 degrees in Austin. I just wish I could bring some of this weather back home.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

NFL Draft

One of the biggest crap shoots in sports-the NFL Draft-is taking place this weekend.  From a purely business standpoint, it's amazing to see the amount of guaranteed money professional athletes are getting today.  
I can't imagine any Fortune 500 company paying a key executive a $15 million signing bonus, yet it is common place among professional sports organizations.  Furthermore, what are the chances someone in any other industry gets paid whether nor not they actually perform any of the stipulated services put forth in their contract?  Professional athletes do and they do it frequently.  

So back to the draft.  The first pick on today's draft, Mario Williams, has already signed a 6 year $54 million contract, of which approximately $20 million will be paid to him whether nor not he ever actually even shows up for a single day of "work".  Insane!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What's in a Name, Part II

So, we finally decided on a name for the company. SOMNIO, which is Latin for to dream. Very fitting for a creative agency, I think. We have overhauled our branding and refined our story to be more indicative of who we are. So far, our customers have responded favorably, which is really the only thing that matters.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Survive and Advance

My Texas Longhorns are still dancing in the NCAA Tournament, thanks to an unbelievable buzzer-beating three pointer to win their game against West Virginia. The shot was made by senior Kenton Paulino, who has been basically a role player during his career. Therein lies the beauty of "March Madness"; anyone can hit the shot and be the hero on any given night. Texas plays tomorrow against LSU. Should be a good one.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Skype Challenger

I've seen a million (or so it seems) supposed "Skype killers" and, so far, none of them have even been Skype competitors. Om Malik has posted about a new version of Yahoo Instant Messenger. If the things he's saying it's going to be, and there's no reason to believe it won't, are true then Skype will finally have some competition. Om touches on something that only a handful of companies, unfortunatley not including Skype at the moment, are poised to do: blur the lines of communications formats or platforms. The next generation of comm apps have to be able to aggregate communications between you and your friends/family regardless of whether it was text-based (email, chat) or voice (VoIP), real-time or incremental.

Imagine this scenario:
1. You send an IM to a buddy. He/she responds and you start a conversation.
2. You decide to do a voice chat to save your hands from typing.
3. An hour after the conversation ends, you remember to tell your friend "one last thing" and send him/her and email reminder.

Now imagine an application that can save those three communication streams as one. Maybe you give it a subject, for instance "Trip Planning with Victoria". Now you can go back at any time and re-read or re-listen to the various part of the conversation in their different formats. Now imagine you can "tag" these conversations with multiple key words to serve as search or organization criteria later. Assuming OM's correct in his assesment, Yahoo is at least moving in this direction by allowing the user to send an IM, email or voice from a single app. The next logical step is to index and search (assuming people will allow it considering the privacy ramifications). Google seems like the other company that could move there very quickly. They already index your GMail emails and GTalk text chats. The only thing for them to do is index the audio chats.

Of course, there are serious technology requirements to archive all audio chats. I believe this is only a temporary concern as storage prices continue to plummet. Ad revenues could also be used to offset the increasing costs of such a service. Of course, this is all conjecture on my part, but I suspect we'll see it happen soon and for the better of all of us.

Monday, March 20, 2006

RIAA Don't Get To Randomly Hunt Through Computers

In a move that might signal the beginning of the end of the RIAA cartel's scare tactics operation, an Oregon woman was given the right by a judge to hire her own "expert" to determine whether or not she has committed the crimes accused her by the RIAA. The judge even ordered that the cartel has to foot her bill. If you haven't followed the story of the RIAA and it's fear-based initiatives, you can read up on them at the site linked below. Story via

RIAA Don't Get To Randomly Hunt Through Computers: "racking up wins against the RIAA... keep em coming..."

(Via digg.)