Monday, October 31, 2005

Meg has the power!

For the second year in a row, Fortune magazine has ranked Meg Whitman as the most powerful woman in business. Meg Whitman is the CEO of eBay, the online auction site.

Ebay has experienced a 30% decline in stock price over the last year, but it is still experiencing strong revenue and growth.

Meg Whitman joined eBay as President and CEO in March 1998 and sits on the board of directors of Procter & Gamble and is a trustee of Princeton University. She received an Economics degree from Princeton and went on to receive her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Mrs. Whitman is in good company with:
  • Anne Mulcahy, Chairman and CEO, Xerox (No. 2)
  • Brenda Barnes, President and CEO, Sara Lee (No. 3)
  • Oprah Winfrey, Chairman, Harpo Productions (No. 4)
  • Andrea Jung, Chairman and CEO, Avon (No. 5)

Martha Stewart listed at 21 on the list. It looks like it helps to be out of jail at the time Fortune is making its selections.

Halloween Norwegian style

Tonight is Halloween, a great American tradition my kids and I look forward to all year long. The doorbell has been constantly ringing tonight, and I know there is no way all these kids live in my neighborhood.

Growing up in cold Norway, we did not celebrate this fall great tradition. By the time October 31 rolls around in my hometown of Raufoss, the snow is already up to the eaves and even the reindeer are put away for the winter.

Still, we do have a tradition similar to Halloween. It ocurs between Christmas and New Year's Day, and we call it "Julebukk" (literally “Christmas buck” in English). During Julebukk, children dress up and go door-to-door singing songs in order to earn a candy treat.

In Norse mythology, Julebukk is a goat-like creature. The tradition of being Julebukk-like goes back to Viking times when Pagans worshipped Thor and his goat (and yes my name is a variation of Thor, spelled correctly in my case).

During these Pagan celebrations a person carrying a goat head and dressed in a goatskin would make a surprise entrance into a party--and during the course of the evening would "die" and return to life. During the early Christian era, the goat would transform into a devil-like critter who would appear during times of wild merry-making.

Those were the days in Norway, my friends.

Anyhow, by the end of the Middle Ages, the Church and state forbade the game. Over time, the goat play been replaced by the tamer Julebukk celebrated in Norway today.

(Thanks to my dear sister Tone for the background info. I've been away from home so long, I forget some of the details.)

Craigslist--Can social values overcome market pressure?

The other day I listened to an interview with Jim Buckmaster, the CEO of on NPR. (I think Jim Buckmaster has the coolest name of any CEO in technology!)

Before I begin, some interesting Craigslist facts:
  • The person-to-person online commerce market has an estimated value of $18B
  • Craigslist uses only open source software on its servers
  • The company's only revenue comes from help wanted ads in LA, NYC and SF
  • Craigslist accepts no commercial advertising
  • The site generates 2.4 billion page hits/month
  • Users of the site generate 4 million posts a month
  • Most amazingly, Craigslist manages all this with 18 employees!

Buckmaster, when asked if he had bottom-line goals, said he doesn't really have any --he's more interested in's positive impact on society.

Interestingly, EBay owns 25% of the company. In spite of that ownership position, Buckmaster says he feels no pressure from EBay to start making money, and the CEO does not see that changing in the future--something that suggests he might be in a dreamworld, although I'm happy that he can go along feeling no pressure. Still, EBay surely sees the value/impact of Craigslist in terms of its potential to steal revenue from EBay itself.

At the same time, it is interesting to see that Google might be going into the ad space in competition with Craigslist (and competing with other ad outlets like newspapers, etc.)

Kudos to Jim Buckmaster and team for putting together a great concept, and one with strong social values. However, I think the competition in this space is heating up fast with growing pressure from EBay and Google.

I will be eagerly watching this situation to see what happens between now and January 1.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Another Wi-Fi City Rollout

In an earlier post, we talked about how San Francisco is getting citywide free wireless, courtesy of Google.

After posting, I heard people saying things like, “That is nice, but when is it coming to places like the midwest and where will we see it next?”

On Friday, Madison, Wisconsin, announced they were getting a Wi-Fi rollout, this time led by a firm supplying real-time automated meter reading for the utilities industry. Cellnet Technology has begun deploying a Wi-Fi network in Madison that will serve wireless users in the city's government, consumer, and commercial sectors. The project will be rolled out at no cost to the city and initial funding has been secured by the providers from service agreements from ISPs. Phase one will cover the downtown area with plans for later phases to cover the entire city.

"I made a commitment in 2004 to bring Wi-Fi to Madison," said Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz in a statement. "This is an important new service for Madison residents and businesses."

This is the kind of thinking other mayors should adopt. Madison is a college town and I am sure that the students will get good use of the new service. Downloading via Kazaa and BitTorrent should be even easier than via the U of W network!

I am sure the local telcos are having a hard time the thought of their users switching to VoIP. Rio Rancho is working on perfecting a version of mobile VoIP. I do think this will take some time to perfect, but it will come.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Google milestone – Value past $100 Billion

After just seven years, Google has a market value in excess of $100 billion dollars. Shares surged 12 percent in trading after Google announced third-quarter earnings exceeded analysts expectations.

After the closing bell on Friday, however, their market value was down to $98 billion (still leaving them valued $20 billon more than HP--one of the oldest and most respected names in technology.

This is unbelievable when you consider that the company is so young and is earning money off other people’s information. Google earns $$$ every time someone clicks on an ad during a search.

Wow...if you believe the market valuation is fair, then we, the users, must be clicking on the ads a heck of a lot--and more so every quarter. In the last quarter (ending in September) Google’s profits rose a full 7x to $381.2 million. Google has nearly quadrupled in value since their initial IPO fourteen months ago.

The expectations are now higher than ever for Google, and we will just have to see if they will continue their strong growth.

Google’s leaders have searched for wealth (pun intended) and have found a perfect hit: co-founders Larry Page (32) and Sergey Brin (32) hold stakes worth $12 billion, while the CEO, Eric Schmidt is only worth $4.7 billion.

Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP 3 Released

If you've been waiting for Exchange 2003 SP 3, the wait is over. Last week, Microsoft finally released the service pack to the public. (Microsoft Exchange 2xxx has been a very successful product for Microsoft with around 130 million client licenses sold.)

The biggest feature for this release is the “Direct Push” of e-mails to mobile devices. This eliminates the need for Microsoft to notify the remote device of new emails via text messages (contacts, calendar appointments, and tasks can also be automated).

This feature is already offered by Microsoft's competitor in this space, Research In Motion, via their BlackBerry device. With this latest release of Exchange, Microsoft is closing the feature gap between BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.

As I mentioned previously, I went to Microsoft for an executive briefing a few weeks ago. While I was out there, I hooked up with an old friend who works in the Windows Mobile group. He knows about my passion for shiny toys and was able to set up a private meeting with one of the Program Managers/Evangelists in the group. It was a lot of fun to see the things they are currently working on and what might be coming in the future to a retailer near you.

During the meeting, he showed me how SP3 uses “Direct Push” to get e-mails to the devices. One word: slick! He also showed how easy it was to reset devices back to factory settings using Exchange and Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. This will be a great feature to protect an organization like mine if a device gets stolen from a traveling employee. It also allows the administrator to direct the Windows Mobile operating system to wipe itself if the wrong password is entered too many times.

We also talked about many other things, but thanks to that non-disclosure agreement I signed, I am unable to share it with you. I can tell you that it was a great meeting and I would say this PM/Evangelist has one of the coolest jobs in the world--toys, technology, toys, and more technology—fun! (And he gets paid for it--can you believe it?)

Anyway, back to Exchange. Another significant new feature in SP3 is support for Sender ID, an e-mail authentication protocol that Microsoft is backing as a solution to spam. Other minor features includes better data compression techniques, the ability to support the S/MIME standard for encryption on handheld devices, improved anti-spam filtering, and an increase in the size of mailbox storage limits to 75GB.

I think this is a great release and a good product, but Microsoft needs to work on naming. These features are significant enough--and will have a large enough impact on the market, that Microsoft should have made this a numbered/dated release (i.e., Exchange 2005) rather than SP3.

Computer bargains

According to analysts, we should see prices for PCs fall before Christmas (this is due to excess of chip production by the Intels and AMDs of the world). Experts predict PCs for less than $199 this year--and not only Celerons, but Pentiums, too.

The lower prices are driven by high chip inventories. The chipmakers and PC builders like Dell and HP built up their inventories with the expectation they would sell off these chips before Christmas. And to the delight of consumers like you and me, this is exactly what we will see. PC makers have to get rid of the inventory before the chips gets obsolete--a perfect situation for bargain hunters.

Look for higher-end features and bundles introduced with lower prices. Black Friday (November 25) is when you can expect to see these deals hitting the shelves.

PC makers are looking for buyers to upgrade from the standard packages and drive profits by buying/ordering better equipped machines. Very likely, but I can still find uses for those bargain basement $199 PCs.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Is Firefox Flocked? New browser by Decrem and Co.

As soon as we thought the browser war was over, a new player is entering the market. Bart Decrem, a Firefox/Mozilla Foundation veteran, is leading a group in developing Flock. The group is located in Palo Alto, California, and has spent the summer creating another open-source browser. Flock released it’s beta Friday (it is said to be a developer beta and, therefore, somewhat unstable).

The browser is designed to work nicely with web services like Flickr, Technorati and Flock also features widely compliant WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop blogging tools. The browser even promises to detect and authenticate all those user accounts automatically.

RSS content feeds, blogs, bookmaking, and photo sharing are yet more of the key next-generation browser features Flock provides.

Do we need another browser? According to Decrem the answer is YES. “The browser has not evolved all that much," he says. "The basic concept or vision has not changed."

It is clear that his team is targeting Web 2.0--providing a stream of events, people, and connections to this new platform.

Decrem claims that Flock will not compete with Firefox.

Hmm. We'll see. "We are not trying to do Firefox with five more features," Decrem says. "We are trying to solve a very specific problem--yet it's a problem commonly experienced by many users." The Flock team is saying that they are moving to the original vision of Tim Berners-Lee of a two-way experience.

This is a brave move and I think it will be interesting to see what Flock will bring to Web 2.0 and to us, the consumers of these tools and services.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Who the heck is “DVD Jon”? Well, he is the young Norwegian (see circa 1986 picture of Jon at left) putting pressure on Hollywood.

I think it is safe to say that Jon is a true hacker. He's a geeky, 21-year-old Norski living at home with his Polish mother and Norwegian father. He claims to have no friends (other than his Pa), no drivers’ license, and he spends about nine hours every day in front of the computer, hacking merrily away.

His most recent "accomplishment" came in August 2005 when he reverse engineered the encoding used in Microsoft’s NSC format and authored a decoder. Today he is focusing his efforts on Apple iTunes music store to remove restrictions on how many times legally bought songs can be copied or on which devices they can be played. I am sure we will read more about this shortly.

In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, writer Steve Stecklow says, “Mr. Johansen, Hollywood executives claim, has done more than almost anyone in the world to ignite the explosion of movie piracy on the Internet, costing them billions of dollars in lost sales. He scoffs at that.”

Jon was the first brainiac to crack the copy protection on DVDs and he wrote a program allowing people to copy DVDs. This is something both U.S. and Norwegian governments has tried to convict him of, with no success.

The article continues: “As for Mr. Johansen, he now says he plans to move to a different jurisdiction with more job opportunities and a better climate--southern California. He hopes to take a job in the computer industry. 'Of course,' he says, 'when I'm in the U.S., I will take great care not to break any U.S. law.' "

Will DVD Jon be part of Norwegian history or just another punk trying to hack himself to the top? Only time will tell, but I hope Norwegian history has no room for the legend of DVD Jon. Perhaps Hollywood will make a movie about his life (which, thanks to the subject's trickery, we can illegally copy using one of his programs).

If you are living in Southern California, look for him at your local DVD rental store. I think we are safe from him here in Minnesota–too cold here for DVD Jon.

If you want to read the story, click here. If you are interested in DVD Jon’s blog click here.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ajax – A revolution or just another old thing?

Growing up in a bitterly cold country in northern Europe, I spent a lot of time watching soccer (In Norway, we call it by its proper name: football ). One of my favorite teams was the awesome Dutch team, Ajax. Peppered with great players like Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol, and, above all--the talented genius, Johan Cruyff--Ajax won several cups including three European Cups, six league titles and the World Cup. The Ajax team created a place in football history.

Ajax is in the news again, however it is not the football team making news this time around.

Ajax also stands for Asynchronous JavaScript+ XML and can be used with any web development platform : .NET , Java/J2EE, PHP , Perl or any other server-side deployment. Ajax is not a technology in itself; rather, it is a term that refers to the use of a group of technologies together to create interactive web applications.

Ajax uses a combination of the following:
  • HTML (or XHTML) and CSS for presenting information
  • The Document Object Model manipulated through JavaScript to dynamically display and interact with the information presented
  • The XMLHttpRequest object to exchange data asynchronously with the web server. (XML is commonly used, although any format will work, including preformatted HTML, plain text, JSON and even EBML)
(Source: Wikipedia)

Ajax is just old stuff wrapped up in a new buzzword. Granted, it is a cool buzzword (especially to European football fans), but it is hardly revolutionary. Microsoft developers have utilized the conceptual foundation of Ajax for years to create data-centric applications on the web. In some sense, Microsoft has moved beyond this to the next great thing: Smart Clients.

Maybe in a few years when Smart Clients is mainstream, we will have another buzzword named after some other European soccer club. Liverpool is my all-favorite soccer team (oh, to relive the days of Kevin Keegan--exactly 100 goals in just 323 appearances before leaving Liverpool) and

I think Liverpool should be the new buzzword for Smart Clients. What do you think?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dangerous animals and technology

This picture is scary! I am sure you have all seen this picture and, like me, wondered who would leave dangerous animals like this on the loose?

(In case you haven't seen the photo, a python ate a crocodile with disasterous results for both creatures!)

Specialists speculate that the python attacked the croc, swallowed it alive (as crocs are wont to do) and, while the croc was struggling in the snake's stomach, ripped the snake in half.

Sweet revenge, huh? (We should all make sure that we have the stomach for what we are about to eat before swallowing it.)

We can look to Japan for a solution to the problem of dangerous pets getting away from their owners. The Japanese government is consider a law which requires owners of dangerous animals (such as crocodiles and pythons) to inject microchips in their pets to help identify them if they get loose and rampage through the countryside.

Do you think we should do the same--and maybe feed the owner to the animal? I think over time it would take care of the problem.

Yahoo and Microsoft taking a bite out of the market

Earlier today, Yahoo and Microsoft announced plans to make their instant-messaging services interoperable. We have to see what market leaders AOL and Google will do to counter this move.

Before summer 2006 we will be able to exchange messages, contacts, share emoticons, and make PC-to-PC voice calls between Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger users.

Apparently, this has been in the works for some time. It has taken the companies a full year to come to an agreement but, with this partnership, they are forming a joint a user base close to the #1 player, AOL.

Let’s take a peak at the IM landscape by market share:
  1. AOL 51.5%
  2. MSN Messenger 27.3%
  3. Yahoo Messenger 21.9%
  4. Yahoo Avatars 1.5%
  5. Skype Messenger 1.2%
  6. Trillian .9%
  7. ICQ Unified Messaging .7%

Source: Nielsen/NetRatings -- US in September 2005

John Delaney, Ovum analyst, was quick to react to the news. "In my opinion, the biggest external driver for this announcement must be MSN and Yahoo's mutual need to defend themselves in the long term against Google. Google is a relatively recent insurgent in these services, but it is clearly determined to grow its presence there aggressively."

No comment yet from AOL on this story, but I am sure we will soon hear from both AOL and Google.

I am a user of MSN Messenger an am looking forward to getting my hands on Microsoft Commander, the Microsoft product which exposes this feature. I hope the industry can eventually agree on an open standard and that we can have our vendors compete on the basis of features and not on where the people you want to chat with have their account.

"The wide iPod...huge success--time to replace it."

These were the opening words from Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs as he introduced the new iPod with video. No surprise!

The new iPod will come in 30Gb (7,500 songs, 25,000 photos, or 75 hours of video) and 60Gb (15,000 songs, 25,000 photos, or 150 hours of video) versions showing up on the shelves in late October (note: these specs don't quite add up, but they're Apple's, not mine). Music videos, Pixar short films, and ABC TV shows are currently being sold on the new iTunes 6.0 to support the launch.

The new iPod is very thin and comes with a bigger screen than the Photo iPod, with some significant new features:

  • Enhanced photo viewing and quality
  • Four clocks to that you can display at one time
  • Locking, like the Nano
  • Lap timer (Same as the Nano)
  • Two colors (Black and White)
  • Video (the big feature), 2.5 inch color TFT, 320 x240 pixels, 260,000 colors, H.264 at 30 fps (used in QuickTime 7.0), MPEG 4 at 30 fps
  • TV out (need to buy the optional cable)
  • Size--the new 30 GB is 31% thinner than the old 20 GB and the 60 GB is 12% thinner than the old 20 GB. This is nice.

Now to the price:

  • 30 Gb--$299
  • 60 Gb--$399
  • Songs and music videos $1.99
  • TV Shows (ad free) $1.99
This product looks great, but I think I will stick with the iPods I have today.

Steve Jobs also introduced the new iMac; thinner, with a built in camera and "front row" (something like Windows Media with a cool ergonomic six-button remote). I have to say it looks great!

Keep them coming Steve. At this rate you will someday make me an Apple user – but not today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My Agile Presentation

Last week I presented the concepts of Agile development to my peers and to the company’s CIO. As always, I had too many slides (my presentations are commonly and unkindly referred to as “Tor’s Slide Fests”), but I think I got my point across.

The outline of my presentation was simple:

  • Business objectives
  • What is agile?
  • Agile Manifesto
  • Myths
  • Realities
  • Agile Methodologies
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Result
  • Questions

(Thank you, David Hussman, for the material on Myths and Realities of Agile.)

The business objectives slides were met with little discussion. We are all living with the same challenges and business demands.

Definition of agile was followed by a little more discussion but, to my surprise, when we got to the agile manifesto section (the definition and principles behind agile), the discussion kicked into full force. Every word was analyzed and we discussed what the Agile would mean to our company, associates, and my department.

The rest of the presentation was marked by lively discussion and interaction. One of the things I wanted to cover was my Agile experience and lessons learned but, unfortunately, time ran out.

The group embraced the concept and saw what Agile could do for us a company. The discussion covered what we should do to integrate Agile practices into our way of delivering projects. We decided to fully engage our Delivery Assurance group to bring elements of the Agile practices into our methodologies and the way we deliver projects.

Overall, the meeting delivered more than I expected. Agile is a different way of thinking (and delivering projects) and we should never underestimate the changes to the organization and education Agile will require before full acceptance and implementation.

[I did sneak some time in at the end to talk about continuous integration, as well as Test First Development (TFD) and what we have done with this. (I will not spend any time talking about the subject in this post, but look for more posts covering this in the future. It is cool and provides great business impact.)]

ADS NAS Drive Kit

Tonight, while browsing for technology news, I came across a NAS Drive Kit. A NAS (Network Attached Storage) device was something that previously only used by large organizations, due to the cost of the device. The ADS NAS Drive Kit is a low-cost way of getting NAS into your home or small office for a little over $100. I purchased mine online for $139 (shipping and tax included).

The ADS NAS Drive Kit lets me to add a hard drive of any size. After I install my hard drive, all I have to do is to connect to my network (Ethernet) and I instantly have a NAS device. I will use this to back up my work files--but a lot of people use it to share music, photos, and other data. The great thing about this is that it will always be on, configured with an IP address, and will operate like any other device.

Here are the specifications:
  • Interface: RJ45 - Wired Ethernet 10/100 (This is slow, but good for backup)
  • Buttons: Power button, Reset button
  • Indicators: Power/Status LED, LAN: Act/Link LED, HDD: data transfer
  • Kit Dimensions: 5.24”(H) x 8.75”(L) x 2.375”(D)
Look for upcoming posts on how easy it is to assemble, configure, and operate.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Microsoft Executive Briefing

Tomorrow I am off to Redmond to see Microsoft. Several of my colleagues and I are going out for an executive briefing.

The briefing is designed to enhance our partnership and foster collaboration between our companies. Senior executives and product managers from Microsoft will share information about their key initiatives and we will communicate our challenges and our technology needs. As a result, we will understand what Microsoft can do for us in the future and Microsoft will understand what companies like ours need in the future. This is a powerful foundation to drive a great partnership.

I will post what I can from this meeting, but we are under a non-disclosure agreement about most topics, so my follow-up may be limited.

Windows Mobile 5.0 for Samsung i730?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I bought a Samsung i730. It is a great phone and it has enabled me to get down to one device. As with any new piece of technological wonderfulness, the day you buy it it is outdated. New inventions and advances in technology drive the desire for upgrades. Well, this device is no different. Soon after my purchase, Microsoft released Windows Mobile 5.0. Wish I could just go out and purchase the operating system, but unfortunately, it is not that easy. The manufacturer of the hardware needs to release an "image" made specifically for the device.

Earlier today, I read on Engadget that there will be an upgrade available next year for the i730. Great news. I am looking forward to getting the latest and greatest operating system for my phone. Click here for the full story.

What is America coming to?

At the Web 2.0 conference, America Online CEO Jonathan Miller announced that his company is renaming itself to AOL Inc.

According to Miller, America Online is "rediscovering" itself and is moving from a proprietary view of the world to become more in concert with the market. “This is not only a mindset, but also a business model shift," said Miller. AOL is actively talking to other companies about partnerships, acquisitions, and mergers to enable the company shift (ncluded in this are discussions with Microsoft).

Will this become Microsoft Online? (MOL)?

LOL is what I say, AOL!

"BPM suites will be the 'next big thing.'"

The title of this post is a prediction from Gartner and something I fully agree with. The need for Business Process Management (BPM) is nothing new, but the changes in business conditions are driving organizations to respond to market conditions quicker than ever before.

BPM technology platforms utilize business templates (flows that provide 60%-80% functionality) that gives them the ability to respond to the market in a near-real-time fashion. These platforms will compete with traditional application suites, integration suites, and content suites in the future.

Yesterday, I was in a meeting talking about the harvest of one of our core applications. We have worked to get this application off the mainframe (yes you did read that right--mainframe) for some time and it looks like we are finally going to succeed.

As I looked at the architecture and the business problem we are trying to solve, I see it screaming for BPM. The application drives the process management and integration for a lot of our processes, data and applications. It provides the management of the processes to support our business transactions and events from beginning to end of our product life cycle. It also applies the policies and rules needed to support our organization’s business model.

This is the sweet spot of BPM. BPM will also provides us the ability to speed up our execution of data and process through the enterprise and allow us the business agility we need to respond to our customers and market conditions.

Here are some attributes of BPM (according to Gartner):
  • BPM runs within the cultural constraints offered by a company
  • BPM runs to meet the conflicting goals set by management and optimizes to find the “sweet spot” between them
  • BPM considers the contexts that it runs in while meeting stated outcomes
  • BPM ideally suggests better operational behavior
  • BPM ideally points to better tactics
  • BPM runs within tolerated and expected scenarios
  • BPM is flexible in a near-real-time fashion.

BPM and BREs (Business Rule Engines) are key elements in an enterprise architecture built for the future. These elements are prevalent in our enterprise architecture. We refer to them as Policy (BRE) and Process (BPM) management. Look for more on this topic soon.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Google and Sun partnership announcement--sign of the apocalypse or effective sleep aid?

On Tuesday, Sun and Google announced a multiyear partnership and distribution deal. It looks like the actual news fell short of the market speculation which had built up significantly prior to the event. Maybe we're not reading enough between the lines, but it appears the two companies merely announced that they would collaborate on work on Sun's, Java, and OpenSolaris, and Google's Toolbar.

Much of the pre-announcement hype was fueled by this blog entry written by Sun President Jonathan Schwartz last Sunday. Schwartz hinted that the world and the way we buy and use software was about to change. I do think Google and Sun would like that to be the case sooner than later, but this deal does appear not get us there immediately.

What impact will this have on Microsoft? The market is reacting with mixed outlooks--from minimal (yawns) to extreme (the end of Microsoft is here). The answer probably lies somewhere in between, with an unquestionable threat to Microsoft if the two companies truly partner to go after the software king.

It could be argued that is the first time Microsoft is seeing Google as a real competitor and, with this deal, Google has something that will, to some extent, truly compete with Microsoft Office.

Microsoft is not officially commenting on the news, but I think it is certain that they are keeping a close eye on Google.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Holiday gifts for the geek in your life

Cold weather is here, which means the holidays are right around the corner. So today I am writing the first of a series of posts to help you pick the perfect gift for the geek(s) in your circle of friends and family.

Cufflinks are certainly not as popular as they were when my dad grew up, yet somehow over the years I have collected a drawer full of different ones--from tiny guns to goofy "mood" stones.

At this point, you're probably asking yourself what would drive a geek to covet a new set of cufflinks? Well, I think I have the answer: LED cufflinks.

These bad boys are available in six colors. Each link has a bright LED light on it and a set will only set you back $200. I think we'd all agree that this is a small price to pay to tell the geek in your life that you love him/her.

Sure, they're sort of dorky. But remember your recipient. And rest assured--any geek will be sure to appreciate the spare batteries which are included free of charge.

Click here to order your pair.

An Apple blog post a day...

Appleinsider claims that Apple will announce a video capable iPod during an October 12th conference. The new device will be somewhat similar to the current 60gig Photo IPod, but several millimeters thinner and with a smaller click wheel. Along with this announcement, it is also expected that Apple will release a new version of iTunes (which may or may not support the purchase and downloading of *ahem* video content).

These announcements are no big surprise to me or, apparently, to the market. Not too long ago I read a story on the web about a fellow who was digging around in the resource files of iTunes and came across a hidden "Video" button.

Interesting news, but for now I will stick with my current IPods.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

My favorite watch -- Rolex GMT Master II

If you read my blog, you know I like watches. I have watched (pun intended) the evolution of fine timepieces for years, and the Rolex GMT Master II is my favorite. My passion (read: addiction) to watches is something my wife and my kids simply do not understand.

Today in church my youngest son told me that I had "excessively many watches," something the rest of the family no doubt agrees with. In spite of this, my wife purchased a Rolex GMT Master II for me as an anniversary gift–a sign of her growing respect for my passion and her love for me (not necessarily in that order).

Thank you so much, Jayne!

The GMT is part of Rolex’s professional collection. The GMT-Master II (Oyster Professional GMT-Master II) dial has a 24-hour hand and an indepenent adjustable 12 hour hand in any two different time zones. It is self-winding and waterproof to 100 meters (330 feet).

Working with Osterman's Jewelers in the Mall of America it became quickly clear to me that they had no idea of how to operate and set the watch. At one time, the woman in the store told me that the watch had a compass. (I'm pretty sure Rolex does not know about this new feature!) The owners’ manual is somewhat unclear about how to set the watch and I had to head to the internet to get the full details. Now the watch is set and I intend to be on time for all my future meetings (at least I will try).

I promise I won't purchase another watch until Oracle buys another company.

Mark this date on your GCalendar

My sources tell me Google is ready to launch GCalendar any day now. This should be a terrific addition to the Google suite, and it is the most obvious missing part of their service offering--short of providing a full OS.

Google continues to tread closer and closer to the Microsoft product space. I think the old promise from Sun and Oracle of network computing is closer than ever to become reality via Google’s many offerings.

If this becomes reality, it will attack the very core of Microsoft’s revenue stream (Office and Windows) and, I believe, will actually threaten their existence. Not only is Google going after Microsoft’s products but they are also targeting Microsoft's brainpower. Recently Google has raided talent like Dr. Kai-Fu Lee and many others. Microsoft's flat stock price over the past several years certainly hasn't motivated the talent base to stick around. [Google's hiring of Dr. Kai-Fu Lee inspired a failed lawsuit by Microsoft to keep Lee on board. Click here for story.]

Google is a company with money, vision, product, and sex appeal. It will be interesting to see what the future brings to Microsoft, Google and the rest of the computing industry.

Free Wi-Fi access from Google

Free Wi-Fi from Google? If you're like me, you might have asked yourself why they would do such a thing. After all, Google isn't in the Wi-Fi it?

Well, the key is advertising. Think of the power that Google that will have by knowing your profile--in combination with your location. Local ads (and maybe even ones that you do not mind seeing) will flow to your laptop. Let's say, for instance, that you're out with the kids at the Mall of America and you're thinking of buying a new Rolex. You fire up your Wi-Fi-enabled PDA to check your e-mail via Google's free service and bang, there's an ad for a Rolex sale and at jewelry store across the mall. Or, better yet, you're at a bar and the waitress informs you happy hour is ending. But thanks to Google's Wi-Fi service, you get a tip that you can still get two-for-ones a couple of doors down. Is this a great country or what?

Recently, Google and a dozen other ISPs submitted a proposal to the city of San Francisco to offer free Wi-Fi access across the city. The mayor is planning to have the service in place by the end of 2006. Google’s proposal will provide service to 95% of the outdoor locations and 90% of residences with EV-DO speeds of 300 kb/sec.

If I was in the telecom or cable business, I would be very nervous about this proposal, since the majority of my profit will be in competition with a free service.

Only time will tell how companies like Verizon, SBC, and Comcast will react. I am not planning on buying any stock in these companies in the short term (or long term). And this is not the only challenge these companies have – Podcasts and VoIP are starting to exert pressure, too.

I think Google's strategy, although risky and expensive, is a sound one--and the price of providing this sort of Wi-Fi access is minimal compared to the opportunity. Frankly, I am looking forward to having free access everywhere--even if it means that I have to view the occasional ad for local products and services.

Apple announcement

Look for another big announcement from Apple on October 11. Chatting with an old friend over the weekend, I was informed that there is another big announcement coming from the Apple world. Unfortunately, I do not have the inside scoop on the announcement. My guess, though, is that we're finally going to see a video IPod--which is very exciting news. Think of it--instead of just listening to music on your IPod during your commute, you can now mount the IPod on your dash and watch TV at the same time! That should make my morning drive more fun...if not a lot more dangerous

(Just kidding. I would never let something like that distract me while driving. It's hard enough typing this blog entry on my auto PC--much less watching video, too.)