Showing posts from January, 2004

Telirati Newsletter #42

I predcited in 1999 that Microsoft would start to sort out the winners and losers from their Internet ventures. As with many other things that look like an action plan for a year, maybe two, at most, this process continues to drag on, and Microsoft is, still, part owner of an also-ran cable TV channel portal hybrid, among other oddments. Telirati Newsletter #42: Species of Internet Ventures There is no one kind of Internet startup, and it is a multidimensional space in which they exist. But at least one axis of this space can be mapped out, and it is to our benefit to do so since we can then place Internet ventures along this axis to see what type they are. And, more usefully, if they appear not to be in the right place, it can tell us which way they ought to be going. At one end of this axis are companies that have business models enabled by the Internet. These include Ebay, PriceLine, and every company taking a new whack at direct sales based on the prospect of the Interne

Telirati Newsletter #40

Here in the archives of the Telirati we have a classic tragedy of bad management. It is as current as ever in informing the process of management selection in small ventures. Telirati Newsletter #40: Care and Feeding In the ecosphere of the enterprise there are two species that require special care and feeding: engineers and salespeople. Salespeople are, to me, a delightful mystery. They live eat and breathe interaction with customers. Yet, the last time I had the pleasure of sharing a car ride with three of them, they were volubly discussing the role of Altoids in White House affairs while I was on the phone with an important investor and potential customer. Engineers, on the other hand, are more my cuppa. Companies that keep their engineers happy reap worthwhile rewards. They skate over the perils of product transitions, they build high walls around their markets, erecting a thicket of features that are hard to duplicate. They acquire a halo of high touch that can sustain

Telirati Newsletter #38

This isn't one for the ages, but it is an example of giving kudos where due. Microsoft often set the standard for handling problems. It will be interesting to see if content protection and other priorities can be accomodated without negatively affecting that customer focus. Telirati Newsletter #38: How it’s done How it’s done: When Microsoft got caught in a privacy problem, using unique ID numbers generated on the fly (these are the backbone of every software service that has to identify things across networks) to identify Windows customers across sessions with Microsoft Web sites, and for other purposes, Microsoft immediately issued a statement to the effect: “We were wrong, and here’s a fix to get rid of it.” Immediately, as in hours after the first press reports. On the weekend. How it’s not done: Intel could have just stopped programming unique IDs into some Pentuim III CPU chips and allowed customers to make up their minds whether to buy chips with or without the nu

Telirati Newsletter #37

For four years now our privacy has been hanging in the balance, and there it remains. The next major developments of PC technology could turn personal computers into tools of mass surveillance. Microsoft could, still, do for Linux what Linux has failed to do so far: provide a compelling reason to use Linux on the desktop. Telirati Newsletter #37: How not to win friends and influence people Intel recently attracted a lot of bad publicity for the Pentium III processor. They managed to take a fairly innocuous feature, a processor serial number, and turn it into a scary public relations monster that will be very hard to kill. A boycott was called by several privacy advocate groups, which Intel’s waffling response has so far failed to lift. Intel’s mistakes stem from a recent trend in the industry to forget what the letters “PC” stand for. They stand for “personal computer,” of course. And that implies a number of things that, if not properly attended to, can lead to ruptures in pub

Telirati Newsletter #36

Here is a little-known "success:" Apple's line of servers. The thing I missed was that unless Apple servers are as friendly as Apple's desktops, the purpose of having an Apple server is... what? It would be nice if Apple made servers my mother could configure and operate, but that is not likely to happen without years of effort. Telirati Newsletter #36: Can everyone be right? Can everyone be wrong? Can everyone be right? Yes. Can Steve Jobs be doing a wonderful job of reviving Apple, and can Microsoft safely view Apple as irrelevant? Yes to both. Even if, as a worst case (from Microsoft’s point of view), Jobs has successfully managed Microsoft’s expectations w.r.t. OS X and Apple successfully rolls out a competent server product without drawing Microsoft’s ire in the form of letting Office for the Mac platform wither, Apple cannot divert the freight train momentum of NT servers reshaping corporate and small-business computing. Apple can, however, carve out

Telirati Newsletter #35

Here I make a singularly safe prediction: Unless AOL/Netscape plays to win, they should just give up. Subsequently, the collapse of that entire "threat" to Microsoft was more complete than Bill Gates's fondest hopes. Even if the illustration turns out to lack suspense, the lesson remains: Don't take on large problems with small plans. Telirati Newsletter #35: New horizons in competition There is a theory I developed as I plied my craft early in my career: Most management failures are a result of insufficient radicalism. I was a hothead, a trouble-maker. I was always being told that, in the “real world” you had to be patient and that people could not digest too much new technology at once. You can see this mind set writ large if you pick up any trade publication oriented to corporate data processing: “Why do they keep revising software?” is a persistent theme of columnists in those pages. Those bad, bad, software people just do it to make problems for the decen

Telirati Newsletter #34

Four years ago I warned that computers would have to simultaneously continue to acquire the capabilities of large-scale computing systems, and they would simultaneously have to get easier to operate, maintain, and defend against cracking. There has been precious little progress since then: PCs can't be easily clustered, despite the potential .NET has to enable pervasive distributed processing. Security from attacks is still elusive. Encypted file systems are still an obscure feature. An Internet of servers is as far away as ever. And the prospects are still dim. Microsoft has distracted itself with DRM while Linux prepares to make they jump to desktops. Telirati Newsletter #34: A long way to go According to a recent report in The Register, a researcher at Sony devised a novel way of designating files to be copied from one computer to another: He used a pointing device, a pen in this case, to indicate which file he wanted to transfer on the monitor attached to the computer on

Telirati Newsletter #33

Here is a blast from the pre-9/11 past. In this newsletter I proposed that secure communication could be the killer app for IP telephony gear. Now that we have entered an era of surveillance society, such an idea seems impossible, even if it isn't yet illegal. Still there is plenty of reason telecom gear should enable secure communication. Many parts of the world are unfree and suffer from official corruption. Businesses and individuals should still be interested in securing their communications from these threats. Telirati Newsletter #33: Privacy as the norm Recently, the President of the United States was reported to have mused to one Monica Lewinsky that a foreign government might be listening to their calls. This has all kinds of interesting implications, but the one I would like to focus on is that is the guy who can command billion-dollar spy satellites cannot routinely secure his less momentous communications. There are serious national security implications to t