Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Off the Spot?

A while ago, there was a lot of buzz about Microsoft's SPOT Technology. SPOT was an information delivery technology that used FM radio frequencies to send data updates to small devices like watches and clocks. In addition to getting atomic time, you could also get stock quotes, sports scores and the weather. While people initially greeted it with great fanfare, it seems to have fizzled out a little bit.

Yes, just like Microsoft always does, it seems to be fiddling with new uses for it, and maybe in the 3rd round of revisions they will get it right, but I wonder, will its promise be utilized? Melitta thinks so, they created a coffee maker with SPOT built-in to give you the weather and time along with your daily grind. I wonder what comes next for SPOT? I wonder if Microsoft has any SPOT announcements brewing (pun intended) for CES?

Regardless of the early adopter caché of such devices, will people really shell out $200 for a coffee maker that tells you the weather?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why Open Access Trumps Open Source

A handful of years ago, during the dotcom boom, there was a period where Linux and other Open Source technologies were getting a lot of headlines and attention on Wall Street. They were the next revolution. While some of the spotlight on Open Source seemed to flame out a bit along with the dotcom boom,  companies continued to (and still do) take it seriously. Despite that, many companies realized that just because the software is free doesn't mean it has no cost. While there are many Pros (and Cons) to Open Source software, people have come to realize that using open source software does come with it's own costs - hardware, maintenance, training and customization aren't free. While many companies find Open Source to be a good fit, many others see it as too costly. Quite frankly, the latter have come to the realization that sometimes, for specific needs, COTS (Commercial - Off-The-Shelf) software is a much better, less costly alternative. But therein lies the rub.

One of the biggest benefits of Open Source is your ability to customize it. As a Software Professional with over a decade in the industry, one of the key pain points for CIO's is Integration. If I had a Nickel for everytime I was asked to help with an Integration issue, I could've bought YouTube myself! Yes I can buy great COTS for CRM, and for ERP, and for Financials, but how do I get them to talk? How do I get my website to talk with my fulfillment and inventory systems? How do I get my suppliers and customers systems to talk to my own? How do I create unified reports across all of these systems so that I can get a clear picture? With two incompatible COTS packages this can get very tricky. Open Source seemed to solve some of these issues, because it enabled companies to get at an applications underlying data structures and make them integrate with their neighbors. But along with power comes responsibility. Using open source meant that you had to keep up with patches, that you had to do regression testing that you had to work harder to ensure your own data integrity. While this worked for many, it was obviously not the most ideal situation.

Enter Web 2.0, the birth of the 'New' web, blogs, and rich content recently caused two very important things to happen - first, it bolstered the popularity of a little-known technology concept called AJAX (I was using the underlying technologies of AJAX in 1997, but  they weren't called AJAX then) and as people became more and more creative with AJAX, the advent of the Mashup. These two concepts have given people the ability to visualize a new concept - Open Access.

In my definition, Open Access is the notion that a developer of commercial software provides its users with an API or Web Service that allows them to directly interact with the application's data. IMHO, Open Access is great. It enables me to leverage my existing COTS by scripting integration points between them. By utilizing COTS with open access, my development staff can focus on specific integration needs without having the extra burden of maintaining software patches for Open Source Software. Interestingly enough, Open Source also benefits from open access, as it now becomes easy to even integrate Open Source and commercial products.

As companies like Google, Salesforce, and even Microsoft open up these Web Services and APIs, it will give new dimension to the trials and tribulations of integrating software.

Now if only I can discover that killer mashup? :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

e-mail 4rmal-t? - u have got 2b j/king

For those of you who actually read my blog, you know that I am a big fan of G-Mail, and Google Talk. I was very pleased that they integrated IM and presence into e-mail. Just like Microsoft has done, albeit with a different set of features, to outlook and office. Yet today, Yahoo announced that it too is integrating IM into it's web mail client. Finally we are seeing the convergence of IM and e-mail, with the only distinction to be whether or not the user is currently available to chat. I would think that this is a good thing, but there is one reason holding back the rays of light between the clouds - my Brother.

No, my brother isn't some kind of evil dictator nor does he work for any of the aforementioned companies. But my brother is, at least for me, a prime example of what might soon happen - the loss of formality in e-mail. My brother is one of those people who's first exposure to communications on the Internet was IM. What's wrong with that? Simple - its not a formal means of communication.

When e-mail was introduced, it was simply a means to communicate formal communication via an electronic medium. In simple terms, people used e-mail to type up the same memos as before, however they now didn't need to make 500 physical copies of them, but could distribute them almost instantly. Despite the influx of spam, forwards, and viruses, e-mail today still has that level of formality.

IM on the other hand, was a way of talking with text (and now voice and video via the computer). Since we all talk faster than we type, a shorthand evolved. And since e-mail was primarily an informal means of communication, people were willing to forgo things like grammar and punctuation for the sake of expediency.

Enter the AOL generation. Somehow, because they are IM'ers first and an e-mailers second, the lines between the two are very blurred. These are the people who will use IM shorthand in e-mails all the time. The people who are reminded by their first bosses that e-mail communications needs to be formatted in proper English. It's a hard enough battle as it is, think of how much harder it will be now that the software companies are blurring those lines.

I hope that despite this innovation, people will still be able to write a decent letter every once in a while.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Second-class Google Accounts

I have been using Google Apps for my domain for a few months now, and by and large, I have been very satisfied with their service. But all that aside, there is one big problem that I have with my Google Apps accounts - that I can't use them in any other services aside from those setup for my domain.

If I want to use Orkut, the new Blogger Beta, or even the Google Toolbar's custom features, I still need to use my old G-Mail account. Granted, this isn't a major inconvenience, but I would much rather have an opportunity to do this with just one account, and just one password - it would make things a lot easier.

Are you listening Google?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

If you Write it, It Will Come + Applesque Simplicity

No sooner did my last posting about wanting an iPod hit my RSS feed, did I win an iPod in a raffle (which is weird, because I never win anything). No, not the 4GB Red Nano that I wanted, but even better - a 30 GB Video iPod. (Of course, I would still love the Zegna iJacket, and maybe a Mirage Omnivibe to go with it, instead of the Nike + Sport Kit). I have been wanting one for a long time, and I in my first few days I have been enjoying and playing with it.

In my first impressions, I have been discovering the beauty of Applesque Simplicity. I wanted to start studying things, and thought that an MP3 player of any kind would be beneficial for me, so that I could, say, learn a foreign language, or listen to lectures or audiobooks (and of course, the ocassional vodcast). I thought subscribing to podcasts would be hard - but it's so simple. With just one click, I add a podcast subscription and next time I sync the iPod - presto, it's there. It just works. No downloading multiple MP3s, or 5 different software packages, or worrying about compatibility between my player, it's loading software, my favorite music software, and the web site producing the podcast. It Just Works!

This is precisely the reasoning that Microsoft is creating the Zune. To provide its users with the same kind of user experience. Of course, Microsoft has a lot of work to-do, as Apple is currently perched at the top of the mountain.