Showing posts from December, 2003

Telirati Newsletter #32

Many people have forgotten the Microsoft Cordless Phone. Some, especially those invovled in developing the product, may still be in therapy. Telirati Newsletter #32: It’s only a phone, how hard could it be? I don’t do product reviews, and this isn’t a product review. So what am I doing writing about the Microsoft Cordless Phone? Yes, if you haven’t yet heard, Microsoft now makes cordless phones. Naturally, the phone connects to your computer, and thereon hangs the lesson in this newsletter. More often than otherwise, software people come to think “It’s only a phone, how hard could it be?” This, usually just before wading into the quagmire of computer telephony never to be seen again. The Microsoft Cordless Phone is less a product than a touchstone. It characterizes Microsoft’s development approach to a deceptively difficult problem. Let’s see how well they did… First, what do you get? You get a phone with a charger-base, and a separate radio base-station. This radio base-stati

Telirati Newsletter #31

In 1998 the world was only a few years into the widespread commercializiation of the Internet, and the Internet bubble was only beginning to form. Now, after it has burst, we still have a "TV" model of Internet service for most customers - no servers, limited ports, all kinds of restrictions on what, still, should be a nework where every node is potentially a server. Telirati Newsletter #31: Who will pave my information super-driveway? I live at the end of a nine-hundred foot long dirt driveway through the woods of rural Massachusetts. My local CO is not a 5ESS nor a DMS100. It is an earlier model, and Bell Atlantic is moving no faster than Nynex was in upgrading. No chance for ISDN here. My cable company, which had been a sleepy little outfit that purposely made itself hard to find in the phone directory, was recently bought by Paul Allen, and has now vowed high-speed Internet service on an HFC network by next year. But that might be by the end of the next calendar yea

Telirati Newsletter #30

He shoots! He scores! This is one of the best things I ever wrote. Telirati Newsletter #30: Why tu que? We are shaped in our outlook by our geography. The north woods of Maine offer a desolation unimaginable to a Western European city dweller. The American west is even more impressive, and the emptiness of some quarters of it gives rise to the romantic notion of escape and refuge. The latest group to pack their pickup trucks with guns and mean dogs and cast their gaze toward the distant hills is year-2000 alarmists. Positing a frightening cascade of system failures, the alarmists predict global meltdown of economic activity and social order. Most of these alarmists are American. Not coincidentally, I think. The possibility of running away from a collapsing society and the prediction of such collapse are linked. Whereas a client of mine from the Netherlands pointed out that there they have a) Not very many guns; b) No hills; c) Dogs that are mostly the terrier rug-rat sort;

Telirati Newsletter #29

In 1998, the idea of Java becoming a threat to the Windows desktop environment was, already, dead. Now Java is the dominant langauge for creating mobile applications for mass-market handsets. Back then, desktop Java died, in part, for lack of a "home" platform. Now the question is whether the 450 million telephone handsets shipped each year provide such a home. J2ME - the mobile variant of Java - has been used mainly for games, and Java is not tightly integrated into any mobile handset OS, with the exception of SavaJe. This is surely a topic for blog posts to come! Telirati Newsletter #29: Who killed Cock Robin? No! Not the ice cream parlor! (Though that would make another study in bad management.) I mean why is Java as a serious threat to the Windows platform all but dead? It was a simple and beautiful idea: Start from scratch. Build a language. Build a computing environment with system services and user interface services. Without all the baggage of history, how co

Telirati Newsletter #28

Looking back at 1998, before the launch of OS X, Apple was, once again, caught trying to reshape strategy on the fly. But, despite all the last-minute course corrections, and as I predicted, Steve Jobs would re-emerge as a force in computing. Now, however, Linux has become an even more prominent force in computing. If Jobs can position Apple relative to Linux and Open Source software in general, he has an opening for a true breakout in the market. Telirati Newsletter #28: Steve Jobs, The Most Dangerous Man Alive A wise man once said “Never say ‘Watch this!’ before throwing a Frisbee.” Steve Jobs evidently listened to this sage, and is reaping the rewards with the iMac. A craze of comparable magnitude to the Volkswagen Beetle revival has greeted the iMac. (Even though the iMac bears a disturbing resemblance to a deservedly forgotten vehicle, the BMW Isetta.) Had Jobs explained what the iMac was intended to be, it would have been counted a failure, or at least a bunt, when i

Telirati Newsletter #27

It wouldn't be a retrospective without a few thudding failures in prediction, like this one. A complex and only tenuously relevant analysis leads to an utterly wrong conclusion. Telirati Newsletter #27: Picking the hits. It has been an abiding interest of mine to figure out when technologies will become widely accepted and used. Recently it was brought to my attention that my interest in determining when, for example, real customers will buy unified messaging systems parallels a fashionable trend in the analysis of the history of technology. Writers like Jared Diamond, in seminal books like Guns, Germs, and Steel have brought an interesting new infusion of rigor to the history of technology and even to more-general topics in history. This new wave of historical analysis finds the underpinnings of historical outcomes in geography, climate, minerals, plants, and disease conditions of the regions of the earth. This is an attractive analysis. Genetics tells us that man is f

Telirati Newsletter #26

IP telephony used to have no "killer app." Really, it still doesn't. Which may have something to do with the fact that IP telephony is only now taking off, now that mobile telephony has eclipsed land lines and buying a conventional PBX seems a bit like buying a horse cart. IP telephony still does not, in general, offer better privacy, or even better voice quality than conventional circuit-switched telephony. Telirati Newsletter #26: Is privacy the killer app? One major reason why IP telephony makes sense for replacing PBXs is manageability. Data network managers have efficient, powerful, and reasonably priced management tools available to them. Tools for managing voice networks are more expensive due to the fact that the market for these tools is confined to the high end. A close relative of management is logging. Implementing voice logging in IP telephony systems can be a matter of configuring the software, which makes it cheap, easy, and invisible. In conventio

Telirati Newsletter #25

In this rant, I let rip on what was, in 1998, Microsoft's inability to make the NT elephant dance. The fact that now we all use NT - in the form of Windows XP - is a huge credit to Microsoft's abilty to execute. Telirati Newsletter #25: Microsoft’s soft underbelly What’s wrong with Microsoft? Not much. Expect NT to continue to consolidate the victory it has already scored over Unix and NetWare as a server platform for mainstream business server needs. Expect Windows 98 to be a winner in the upgrade market despite the usual grumbling gurus that say “don’t tamper with a working Windows 95 system.” Expect Windows CE to start taking off. But don’t forget that not everything made in Redmond turns to gold. Bob and At Work clunk the loudest when you shake the box, but there are incremental losses as well. Predicting such troubles is an extremely dicey business. To give you an idea just how dicey, I not long ago said that a particularly likely peril of perdition lay with Java,