Archive for the ‘The IT Industrial Complex’ Category

Apple, Microsoft in Mobile Phone scandal. Film at 11.

Wednesday, April 14 2010

I don’t really see why people are so surprised that Apple approved Opera for the App Store. Various tech pundits were convinced that, since it duplicates functionality in Safari, by being a web browser, it would be rejected. And yet, if one looks in the App Store, and searches for “Web Browser”, there are actually a number already available. Including iCab, a browser I used for some years on the Mac, and a variety of others promising “Full Browsing” or “Private Browsing”. (After all, the web experience is nothing if you can’t watch porn.) One wonders why not one pundit or journalist reporting on the story noticed this. Did none of them look? (Maybe it’s a self-selecting thing. The only people who thought it worth remarking on were the ones who couldn’t be bothered checking their facts before publishing.)

So it seems that Opera really had nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s probably a bit of a let down in marketing terms. They can’t claim to be a champion of the people oppressed by the almighty Jobs.

Of course, the question remains, which browsers have been rejected, and why? I suspect there was a reason other than “duplication of core functionality”. (Security, perhaps? Or it was just crap?)

In other news, you have no doubt heard about the big mobile phone announcement in the last week. Sure the critics have had a lot to say, but I’m sure the lack of features will be made up for by the ease of use and smooth interface.

I am, of course, referring to the finally announced, long anticipated “Pink” project from Microsoft. Microsoft announced this week that they were releasing a “social” phone platform, with two MS branded handsets, the compact Kin 1, and the Sidekick-reminiscent Kin 2.

No doubt, the blogosphere, and the pundit-verse, are full of the hate already. After all, neither device runs Flash, or even MS’s own Silverlight, there’s no e-mail, and 3rd party apps aren’t supported. Also, as I can’t find reliable technical specs online, the battery life must suck, and it must be really slow. We know from experience, that these are the things people care about in a mobile phone.

Or maybe it’s just what people expect from an Apple branded mobile phone. Still, it’s interesting that less than a week after the much anticipated announcement of multitasking on the iPhone, MS have announced two “feature phones” (ie phones with very few features). It’s an interesting move from Redmond. While not a direct competitor to Windows Mobile Phone Seven Series Phone Series 7, it does compete against products made by companies that manufacture Windows Mobile handsets.

Perhaps more intelligently, it’s also not a direct competitor to the iPhone. Apple make one handset with one set of features. The iPhone is a smartphone, and is designed to do many things. It seems that “Pink” or “Kin” or whatever, is aimed at the sort of people who used to have a Sidekick (before the…unpleasantness), who aren’t necessarily after the functionality of an iPhone or a Blackberry.

Of course, the lack of features will be the kiss of death. Plus tying it to one carrier in the US, and not even one that uses the same network as the rest of the world (thus requiring two sets of hardware, a CDMA one for the domestic market, and GSM/3G for the rest of the world).

I look forward to further developments in these stories. Just not very enthusiastically.

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Unspecified Apple Product Announcement Pre-Report

Wednesday, January 27 2010

We here at the department of pre-announcement, well…OK, I’m actually going to be travelling during Steve’s big announcement tomorrow, so I thought I’d get in early with what I think or maybe hope will happen.

Everybody is talking about Apple’s big event tomorrow, with most people concentrating on the announcement of the rumoured tablet device, allegedly an iPhone with a 10 inch screen. Some of the speculation seems grounded in credible reports from content partners about negotiations with Apple, while much of it seems to be people making stuff up on the spot. (Hell, that’s how I do most of my analysis. It’s not like anyone pays me for it anyway.)

Anyway, at this stage I’m really hoping that Steve has something else up the mock-turtleneck’s sleeve (had to make a reference to that, didn’t I?) that not only isn’t a tablet, but that will make people forget about tablets as an entire product class. This is mostly because of the wild speculation about a tablet device. It’s like I feel at this point it would be a let down.

Whatever it is, we can be sure that other vendors will be trying to match it. Arguably, this started already with the launch of numerous tablet PCs at (and around) CES. Apple has moved from setting trends in the industry with its products, to setting trends in the industry with wild rumours about products that not only haven’t been announced, but that cannot actually be verified as existing in the first place.

Let’s face it, there have been no credible pictures, no leaks with details specific enough to be believable (hearing vague statements about Steve’s feelings on the product hardly count, no matter how many times you hear them from how many different sources). Now, Apple have been cracking down on their leak problem, but still, we had much better information on each of the iPhone versions by this time before the launch. Where are the blank forms for the accessory manufacturers? Where are the photos smuggled off the assembly line in China? Even people who swear blind to have held one in their hands provide us with conflicting reports, and none of them have pictures to back them up.

“The greatest trick Apple ever pulled, was convincing the world the tablet didn’t exist…”

One source of wild speculation has been “sightings” by analytics firm Flurry of 50 iPhone OS 3.2 devices that don’t leave the Cupertino campus. The only thing they know for sure is that they stay on campus, and they don’t report as iPhones. Therefore, they must be a tablet, right?

Well, Apple have been known to run their OS on non-Apple hardware in the past as a proof of concept. Project “Star Trek” (Where no Mac has gone before) was one in a series of projects to run Mac OS on Intel hardware long before they moved to the Intel platform. It’s a way Apple makes sure that, if necessary, they can make major changes in architecture quickly and seamlessly. This raises another possibility for the 3.2 devices Flurry have detected. Who is to say that they haven’t ported the iPhone OS to a number of other platforms, such as the Droid, the Palm Pre, the Nexus One, or even the Blackberry, just to show they can? After all, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a new tablet device running iPhone OS 4.0?

Of course, that doesn’t explain what Steve is going to announce tomorrow. MacPaint X? Socks for the iPhone 3GS? The Apple HiFi 2? Any of these will be a complete letdown, of course. Everyone wants a tablet. Anything less than a tablet will be derided as a failure. Even if it runs on sunspots, and reverses climate change.

There is another possibility, that frankly troubles me. It may turn out that, as many have suspected for sometime, Steve Jobs is a Super-Villain. And tomorrow’s announcement is where he will reveal his plans for world domination. And, after talking about Apple’s performance, and how many iPhone Apps have been sold this week, there will be one more thing. And Steve will put on the gas mask…

Something’s been bothering me…

Saturday, October 24 2009

I’ve heard a lot of people recently refer to Windows 7 as a service pack for Vista. I didn’t really think this fair, particularly as the same criticism is often made of Mac OSX releases. However, after using it for some time (only because I get paid to, not for fun or anything), I’m starting to come around to this idea.

Without going into the whole Mac OSX release schedule, and what counts as an upgrade and what is a service pack, I’m beginning to realise that, at least with respect to the UI, Windows 7 is not really much different from Vista. It has the same version of the Start Menu and task bar, it has Aero, has a few extra interface features (Shake a window to hide others? Who is actually going to be able to do that reliably enough to use it?), and otherwise, looks just like Vista. So, is it just “Vista done right”?

I’m not convinced there, either. Vista’s chief problems seemed to be the change in the security model, with the Windows Firewall, and particularly UAC. Maybe I’m looking at it from too much of an enterprise perspective, but that is where I use Windows, in a large enterprise, and part of my job is doing the sort of thing UAC tries to stop, without UAC trying to stop it. Vista’s security model was a significant factor in our organisation not upgrading. (The others were a lack of funding, and the fact that everyone else was avoiding it.) It was just going to be too much effort to bypass all of the bits and pieces we needed to so that we could install software and/or hardware without bothering our users. So we made a decision to wait for the next version.

This is quite different to our move to XP. That started out as a plan to move to Windows 2000, and a lot of work was done to prepare for that. When it was changed to XP, most of the work was already done, the only difference was the client operating system.

The problem is that we abandoned all the work (which was not much) that had been done on Vista before Windows 7 was available (because of the funding problems), so we hadn’t been able to work out many of the issues prior to our current plans for Windows 7. (And, now we’re rushing through it for a number of reasons, including the fact that our OS has fallen significantly behind our hardware.)

In any case, my point, and I do mean to get back to it, is that Windows 7 might actually be a service pack release for Vista, but I don’t think it counts as Vista “done right”. At least not from an enterprise perspective, and shouldn’t Microsoft be more concerned about their enterprise clients? Especially if they’re going to give us 7 different versions of Windows including Business and Enterprise?

Recent telephonic developments

Thursday, June 11 2009

I just lost a brilliant diatribe on Copy and Paste on the iPhone, thanks to the network authentication at the National Library, which is a load of crap. Auto save said it had saved the drafts, but apparently it didn’t.

In any case, my point was that Copy and Paste, and also background applications, were difficult due to Apple’s attempts to prevent memory overflows or protection faults from being a vector for viruses or other nefarious purposes. This seems to have eluded most people, who have been complaining about how they “need” these things.

Be that as it may, I am more interested in the potential for tethering that the new iPhone OS provides. I am constantly frustrated that I am not able to make the most effective use of my 3G data allowance because of what seem to be QoS restrictions put in place by AT&T. Very few podcasts, for example, are less than 10MB, so this limit makes the ability to download them directly to the iPhone less than useful. (Being able to “Refresh” a podcast feed from the iPod application would be even better, but one step at a time.) It is possible that my local carrier has placed similar restrictions on the network, but I’ve not heard anything from them about it.

In any case, I look forward to being able to use the tethering feature, unless of course my provider doesn’t let me. While Virgin Mobile is a wholly owned subsidiary of Optus (itself owned by SingTel), there is a warning that such use of a mobile phone may violate the Fair Use Policy (under the clause that prohibits using the service with a device that automatically retrieves data or something, it’s not entirely clear). Plus, Virgin Mobile have not yet updated their website with any information about the iPhone 3G S (I’m also interested in what they might say about upgrades, although I’m still not sure if I want to bother; I’m sure I could use 32GB, and the new camera sounds good, but I could just wait to upgrade at the end of my current contract instead). Of course, if they do allow it, there’s the matter of whether it will be an additional cost, or whether I will be able to just use my existing data allowance with it.

In closing, I’ll just quickly go back over the comments I made about the Pre before they were lost. I don’t want the Pre to fail, unlike some people. Although I don’t expect to ever use one, myself, I do see a place for it. Then again, I think there’s still a place for a normal “phone” phone, which doesn’t have a camera, or play media, or do any of the ridiculous number of things that the iPhone, the Pre, Android, or Windows Mobile allow you to do. Conversely, I also see a place for a device that does all of that, but doesn’t necessarily make phone calls. I hardly ever call anyone on my phone, but I’d be lost without SMS, e-mail, web browsing, and an IRC client.

This was a lot better when it had my 600 word diatribe about memory protection and security in it. Damn you WordPress! Damn you to Hell!

Macworld, CES, VMWare Fusion, and Windows 7

Sunday, January 11 2009

Of course, the big news this week has been the two huge tradeshows. The last Apple attended Macworld, and the first post-Gates CES. The big question is: Was the Phil-note better than the Monkeynote?

In previous years, I have attempted to watch both the Steve-note and the Bill Gates Keynote. Usually, the difference was clear. Steve has on-stage presence which Bill doesn’t. Plus, in 2007, everyone was agog over the iPhone, while watching Bill demonstrate a Windows Bus Stop was hardly thrilling. (It’s a bus stop! And it runs Windows!)

I dare say if Steve had given the keynote at Macworld, he would have clearly given a better presentation than Ballmer could hope to. (Or is that my bias showing? Maybe it is.) But it was not to be a battle of the Steves. Perhaps Steve was worried about being compared to Monkey-boy. Maybe he felt that Apple didn’t have the product to compare with news on Windows 7. Or perhaps he was, as they said, ill and just not up to it this week. (Although, in a bit over a week I expect to see him on stage at Cupertino. Probably wanted to conserve his strength.)

Anyway, I haven’t actually watched either keynote (although I have seen the edited highlights), and I will thus reserve final judgement until I finally get around to it. I’m in no rush. I often feel that you should actually be at a keynote, or at least watching live to make it worthwhile. If it’s actually going to be worthwhile. I regret I will never have been to a live Steve-note, and will never get the chance now (unless I maybe get to WWDC, but I’m not actually a developer, so not much point in spending the money).

Anyway, what I did do as a direct result of the announcement at one of the keynotes, was download a copy of VMWare Fusion and install the Windows 7 beta on my iMac. As an IT Professional, I have some experience installing copies of Windows on PCs, even Virtual PCs. I have to say that Microsoft have been (slowly) getting better at the OS install process. Windows 95 was horrid. You had to sit there and constantly reassure it and pick things from menus, then wait for it to fall over, reboot and recover. (Well, we did because of a hardware issue with our PCs, but it was still a pain.) XP wasn’t nearly as bad. (I don’t remember 2000 much, and never had anything to do with 98 or ME.) It seemed with XP they’d finally realised that you could collect all the information up front, then let the user go away for a bit. Plus we started using disk images to deploy instead of having to run Setup every time.

The Windows 7 install, as it now stands, seems to be fairly straightforward. It possibly ran slower than normal since I was installing on a virtual machine with limited resources, but it ran without much interference on my part. And what I’ve seen of it so far looks to be an improvement on Vista.

Anyway, it’s getting late, and I need to work in the morning. I wish to examine the whole Windows upgrade paths and installation issues thing further. Maybe I’ll remember to do that soon-ish.

And now the end is near…

Friday, September 5 2008

Final day of MS TechEd. Last night’s party was, perhaps, a failed effort. Unless free beer and wine appeals to you, I suppose. (It wasn’t all bad, but I think some of the acts were lost on the audience.)

Last night was more interesting from the viewpoint within my own organisation. Some of the topics discussed at the bar afterwards, to my mind, showed up typical biases between the various branches of the organisation.

But, as for the conference, it continues. Not many interesting sessions today, so hopefully I’ll get a bit of wandering done.

TechEd 2008 Day 3. Or is it 2? I lost count.

Wednesday, September 3 2008

I’ve been meaning to keep this more up to date, but the fact that I am this disorganised is the main reason that I haven’t been too active as a blogger before.

So, I’ve been wandering around TechEd, going to sessions on the relevant topic, and sitting through talks that are more about selling products than solving problems. Throughout the whole thing, I have been encountering what I see as being Microsoft’s problem since the early 90s, if not the mid 80s.

Microsoft don’t actually seem to get on board to anything until they see where it’s going. This gives them the appearance of following rather than leading. They used to lead, once, some might say they still lead today, but really, they’re following other companies, and also the open-source and online communities.

For instance, I sat through a presentation in the keynote, where they went on about a new asset management and workflow tool. It looks really impressive, except that I’ve seen more or less the same thing from 3 other vendors in the last year. And some of them are much more mature. Of course, as per usual with Microsoft, theirs offers “seamless” integration with Exchange, Office, etc… but they give no clear idea how it might integrate with other extant systems, such as those in use at my organisation. We already have substantial investment in HP and Symantec products, and we’ve started looking at their offerings, so Microsoft are a bit late to the party, but they are going to tell us how we it is part of Windows Server.

Of course, this brings up the touchy subject of anti-trust, which I’ll go into somewhere else, but that’s not really the point. The point is there’s no real innovation here. Or if there is, they’ve kept it secret too long. Of course, many people will see this for the first time here, and assume they’re ahead of the curve, and Microsoft will be safely ensconced in organisations around the world. (Remind me later to go on about Monocultures as well.)

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