Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"Screw The Nano"

"Screw the nano," said Zander. "What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs? People are going to want devices that do more than just play music, something that can be seen in many other countries with more advanced mobile phone networks and savvy users," he said.

... says the CEO of Motorola.

I love CEOs that just don't get it. It's not about listening to 1,000 songs. It's about having 1,000 songs to choose from. And judging by the number of high capacity iPods that have sold, plenty of people want more than 100 songs in their pockets. Not to mention the ROKR's lack of sex appeal.

The carriers that carry his phones are his #1 customer, and the users that use them are his #2 customer. In one sentence he manages to diss his #1 customers' for having less advanced networks than their European counterparts, and his #2 customers for being less savvy than their European counterparts -- all the while, completely missing the ball.

It doesn't matter whether or not people want devices that do more than just play music. It matters whether the ROKR is that device. We'll see how ROKR sales measure up to Nano sales (or even Windows Mobile sales!), and let the numbers do the talking.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Creating Passionate Users

Who can argue with a post called "Subvert from Within"? ;-)

Love it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Kevin Speaks

Kevin Schofield, whom I respect greatly, has some thoughts on the recent Business Week articles.

Kevin writes:

Enough already.

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Microsoft

Right on, Kevin. I'm glad you took the time to blog your thoughts.

Tuesday fun

I'd have to say it was a good day.

Woke up around 8am and decided not to go into the office. Too much work to do. Office is too distracting. Was 300% as productive working on my couch for a few hours.

Went into the office around 1pm for 2 meetings. Both very productive. Lost about an hour afterwards chatting with people in the hallway. Went to the bank. Drove through Taco Time. Came home.

Did about another 1.5 hours of work at 300% productivity level. Went to the gym. Went to Del Rey with my housemate for some food and drinks. Met up with coworker at Del Rey, then stopped by Viceroy for another round of drinks.

Was playing with my phone at Viceroy, when a cool chick was like "I have that phone too, but when I go out I put my sim card in my Razor instead". I don't blame her. Met her and her friends who also work for Microsoft (Windows & Windows Media Marketing & Bizdev). Fun kids.

Apparently we had a re-org today. I didn't go to the impromptu company meeting or watch the webcast yet. Honestly, it's just another distraction from the real work. I hope this is a step in the right direction for these people getting their shit together, but in the meantime I've got real work to do and since we're talking about my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss's boss's boss, it doesn't directly affect me much.

A friend who works for MSN Mobile convinced me to try Dodgeball. It rocks. Why is my friend in MSN Mobile convincing me to try Google products?

All in all, I'd have to say it was a good day.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Place Shift For Free*

Earlier today I wrote about the Slingbox for place shifting TV.

A few minutes ago I came across WebGuide 3, a free place shifting app for Media Center.

No, it won't let you place shift live TV, but it will let you place shift all of your recordings. It's software, so it's easily upgradeable. Who knows what other cool features are on the way. It's also web-based, so it's available across multiple platforms.

So why the '*'? Media Center is expensive (I don't have one yet either) - much more than the $250 Slingbox appliance. But, in the long run hardware prices will fall, Media Center will become affordable for the average consumer, and its capabilities as a platform will beat out the competition. We've seen this with Windows powered desktops, laptops, and servers. We're starting to see this with Windows powered phones. Next will be Windows powered TV, and following that will likely be Windows powered automotive systems (like car nav-systems on steroids).

Drinking the kool-aid? I think so!

The Slingbox looks neat.

Check out Sling Media. Their Slingbox product looks pretty sweet!

I totally buy into "place shifting". Tivo pioneered "time shifting" by allowing you to watch TV when you want. Sling allows you to watch TV where you want.

There are 2 things stopping me from buying one of these today:

1. No support for HDTV

2. No support for multiple tuners (I don't think my housemate would be very happy when I remotely change the channel through an IR blaster)

Ideally though, I'd also like to see:

- Place shifting integrated into existing devices (cable boxes, Tivo, Media Center) as a feature rather than requiring its own additional hardware

- Wireless support (I'm lucky that my wireless AP is near my cable box, but most people probably aren't in this situation)

- As little 3rd party software as possible (Content available via a web server, etc - also leads to platform independence)

- An API

Also check out this interview with Sling's CEO.

And while we're on the topic of TV technologies - why is there still no decent recommender system in place for TV? Why hasn't anyone tied TV into social networking apps? I want to see what my friends, family, and people with generally similar interests are watching. Every interview/demo I've seen of the future of TV talks about these features as being in the pipeline, but isn't it possible now? Why is TV still completely isolated from the Internet -- not just in terms of distribution (IPTV) -- I'm talking about the metadata. There is no technical barrier standing in the way of enabling these scenarios today.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Windows Presentation Foundation demo

Here's a preview of the type of applications you're about to experience thanks to the new Windows Presentation Foundation (Avalon). [To watch it, click the little square icon just under the video]

It's a very neat demo - you don't need to be a developer to enjoy it. Minute 3 is where the action starts.

I had a chance to play with Avalon C# and XAML capabilities during my last 4 months of school. It was super-cool stuff. Can't wait to see more apps taking advantage of it.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Business Week on Microsoft

Business Week did a whole series of articles (including a cover story) on Microsoft. Mini, subject of much attention, has got something posted on it here.

I'm a bit conflicted about Mini's blog. He makes some great points.. and I think his intentions are in the right place... but in the end is it really good for the company? He claims to care so much about the stock price.. but is the Business Week coverage he's generating going to positively affect the stock price? Will it help or hurt Microsoft's recruiting efforts? Its public image? The morale of its less-jaded employees?

Airing your dirty laundry in public certainly has consequences... I guess Mini's betting on his public criticism achieving positive change that could not be achieved through internal feedback mechanisms. But in the meantime, he's doing quite a bit of damage. It's high risk, and so far, I see little evidence that it's working.

Monday, September 12, 2005

My Hero

From an interview with Blake Ross:

10. What are some lessons learned from developing Firefox that you can share with my readers who are working on their own projects?

The things you never think about are the ones driving users nuts. For example, a developer making an e-mail client might spend 6 hours designing the compose window, and 5 minutes hooking up the "Attach" button to the Windows Browse dialog. But it's that Browse dialog that'll give people gray hair over time.

The fact that the dialog is a standard part of the OS is no excuse. In fact, software is often weakest where its developer settled for something prepackaged. Consistency is important, of course, and should always be a factor. But it's your responsibility to make the best software you can, and if you're delegating to the OS without question, your competitors already have a leg up on you. In Firefox, we threw out the Find mechanism applications have used for decades because, frankly, it sucked.

This is the coolest, most insightful comment I've read in a long time. I love it.

It especially strikes a chord with me because where I work, we're seldomly allowed to re-invent dialogs that are standard parts of the OS. On a macro level, I understand why. It makes more sense for us to push off those requirements to the people responsible for the sucky OS dialog in the first place. But on a practical level, such requests get deprioritized very quickly -- people want to build new features, not improve sucky dialogs.

This is why we need Firefox -- and competition in general. Challenge the status quo baby!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

PDC 2005

I'm sooo jealous of everyone going to PDC 2005.

I'm looking forward to watching some of the sessions this week, but don't know how on Earth I'm going to make time. There are hundreds of hours of presentations. In other words, if I spend 10 hours per day watching PDC sessions it would take me well over 25 days to see them all -- that's mindblowing.

Flickr users are starting to post pictures. Gotta love the Vista stairs - hehe!

Grrr. So jealous!

[10/30/2005 - Updated link to PDC 2005 content]

Google gets letters

This is amazing. Can you imagine how the Google mobile search engineers must feel when they receive letters like these? Wow.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Damn you, Scoble!

Damn you, Scoble!

I'm laying in bed, about to slam shut the laptop and go to sleep. But no, that little red plus on the Bloglines notifier icon is too tempting. Work was busy, I didn't have the chance to read a single blog today, so I figure I'll peak and see what's new in the Blogosphere.

What do I find? Channel9 has 5 kick-ass videos up of interviews with Bill Gates, Marc McDonald, Scott Guthrie and ASP.NET, Jeff Barr from Amazon, and Jason Shellen from Google (the dude who created the site that powers this blog).

There goes another hour of my time watching cool Microsoft videos. Nevermind that I spent the last hour and a half of my workday watching internal videos of new Vista technologies. Now you're invading my bed! Gee, I wonder what I'll be dreaming about tonight.. (hint: Clear. Confident. Connected.) *sigh*

What's going through my head tonight?

Today something pretty random happened. I was sitting at an outdoor meeting, and all of a sudden we hear helicopters. Everyone turns around, and BillG's helicopters (yes, plural) plop down on the lawn next to our meeting. It was neat. This is Shanti before making a presentation at the meeting. She's my manager. I think she's cool. :-)

I can't wait until my product is announced. I've found so many cool random product blogs at work... my coworker Ben and I are just waiting to jump on the work blog bandwagon. Tic tok tic tok...

So, here's some neat stuff:

GPS-Photo Link - Your camera has photo and time data. Your gps device has time and gps data. This app links the photo and gps data based on the shared time attribute. Pretty neat idea.

Geominder - Attach reminders to physical locations. This is a really neat idea. It's too bad you need to go to the location to set the reminder. I'd love to see notifications of this type that are dynamic -- show me information that's useful to me when I enter a physical location (like where free parking spots are when I drive into a parking lot).

Ah, still so much potential in location based services. I can't wait for people to start building platforms around this type of stuff. It's an area waiting to explode. If I didn't have a job that requires 100% dedication, I'd be building this in my garage right now. Oh well.

The other day my friend Mike and I took a picture of this bus with a "FREE WiFi service on this bus" ad on it. A day later, Mike found this local news article: Transit services adding Wi-Fi to buses. They're using the Junxion Box. So cool. :-)

Oh oh oh, and I read another book the other night: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. GO READ THIS BOOK NOW (and no, I'm not taking a commission on that link to Amazon). My Director of Program Management swears by it, so I picked it up a couple months ago, but hadn't had the chance to read it. The other night I was too tired to be productive, but it was too early to go to sleep, so I picked it up off the shelf and started reading. Wow. I read the whole thing in one sitting. It's 200 pages, but very very easy reading and definitely a page turner.

In short, the book tells the story of a leader who transforms an incredibly screwed up team at a fictional company into being functional. It talks a lot about establishing trust as the foundation for a healthy team. The key concept is that absence of trust leads to fear of conflict which leads to lack of commitment which leads to avoidance of accountability which leads to inattention to results. I know.. it sounds like a mouthful of psychobabble.. but it actually rings true.

Anyway, it's a great read. Check it out if you wanna kill a couple hours reading a great book on a peaceful Sunday afternoon or somethin'.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Linux > Windows Mobile ?

Russell Beattie is "betting that the future of mobility will be Linux, and not Symbian, Windows or anything else".

I disagree.

I don't really feel like spending an hour of my time writing a big pro-Microsoft anti-Linux diatribe on the subject (because it will come off as biased and I'm actually neither pro-Microsoft or anti-Linux), so suffice it to say that I disagree with Russell on quite a few of his claims and simply think he's as wrong about Linux as he was about Symbian.

He also claimed this article supports a statement that Linux has outshipped Windows Mobile devices, when in fact explicitly notes:

One slightly misleading factor is that Gartner apparently does not include Windows Mobile "Pocket PC Phones" in the smartphone data. Thus, relative market shares of Linux and Windows may actually be closer than the Gartner data suggest.

In other words, it doesn't include any of these Windows Mobile devices -- like the one in my pocket right now.

Oops. I'm letting myself get dragged into it. Stopping.

Time will tell.


Because even Bill Gates doesn't have a college degree...

Jenna over at the JobsBlog just made an awesome post: Ivy League and Minimum Wage.

Jenna, you rock. It's colleagues like you who make me proud to work where I do today. Any of you talented and passionate readers who do not have a formal college degree and are interested in positions at Microsoft should check out Jenna's post. I hope she follows up with a success story or two.

For those of you who don't know, I dropped out of college at age 19 to work for a couple of years. It was one of the best decisions of my life. At the same time, I must say I'm kind of glad I didn't find Jenna then, or I might never have gone back to school (another one of the best decisions of my life -- luckily I was in a place where I could do it).

BTW, as a sidenote, the JobsBlog looks GREAT! I really need to start a work blog soon...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Good to Great

Finally had a chance to catch up on some reading over the weekend. It's sad, but the airplane is one of the few places I find myself that still lends itself to reading for long periods of time without distraction. I wonder if that'll change as WiFi proliferates into more flights (sidenote: Is "into" the correct preposition for "proliferates"?) and as mobile phones become usable and I find myself sitting between two chatty cathy soccer moms unable to focus -- and we wonder why kids these days prefer gameboys and require Ritalin to function... but alas.. I digress.

My most recent read was Good to Great, recommended by my father. There are 380 customer reviews on Amazon, so I'm not about to walk you through the ins and outs here and now, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the read and highly recommend it.

Recently, I've read quite a few books that tell great stories and solidify much of what we already know, but don't provide much new substance. Good to Great did not fall into that category. In fact, I'd find it hard to believe that anyone could walk away from this book not feeling more knowledgeable than before reading it.

Based on a study of companies that consistently outperformed the market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, Jim Collins and his research team explore the distinguishing characteristics that cause 'good' companies to become 'great'. These 'great' companies are then contrasted point for point with a selection of comparison companies that failed to achieve the same level of greatness.

The findings are quite interesting -- so if you've got a mind for business books, do check it out. And if you've already read it and liked or disliked it, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts too.

Woohoo. Down to only 30 more on the "must read" list of books recommended by friends and family (but still growing faster than I can keep up).

I heard a new catchy buzzword phrase over the weekend from a friend who is working down at Sun in the bay area -- to "double click" on something, as in, to drill into something deeper. Example: "That's an interesting thought... let's double click on that (and further explore the implications)..." Muaha. I'm going to infect work with my new cheesy saying tomorrow.

Hmm... I just added it to Urban Dictionary, and was told:

Your submission is under review by editors. This can take up to 21 days. Check back here to see the results of the review.

That's lame. Imagine if it took 21 days and editor review to update Wikipedia. Oh well.

Google Earth on CNN

Upon arriving home from my visit to the San Francisco Bay Area, I walked into my living room to find my housemate watching CNN report on the hurricane disaster situation. On the CNN set were several large displays side by side. One showed live video footage from a news helicopter. The other, right alongside it, was a live instance of Google Earth.

"Whoah", I thought to myself. The news anchor was using a mouse on his desk to drive Google Earth, setting context for the live video footage from the helicopter and the story being covered. Seeing this was a mindblowing moment for me. After poking around the products section of the Google Earth site, I discovered CNN has also used Google Earth on the air during the Iraq war. Very cool.

I guess the reason I think this is so cool has something to do with challenging the way we traditionally think about building software (or other products, for that matter). When profit is the single most important goal, we become short-sighted. We start thinking about the 80% case. We start cutting features because the lowest common denominator of users doesn't have a powerful enough computer. We spend resources developing ways to monetize a product before it even launches when we should be spending those resources pushing the limits of the technology. We define a market then let our customers tell us what they want rather than realizing we might not know who our customers are and even if we do they might not know what they want.

Google (or in this case, originally Keyhole) built something cool that pushes the limits of technology. Now it's being used by everyone from hobbyists with GPS devices to a wide range of business and government industries. I have no doubt Google will have no problem monetizing this, not to mention the unbelievable free press you get when CNN decides to broadcast your product with your logo all over it to millions of viewers simply because they find it useful (and probably cool too).

Way to go, Google Earth team!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Yet another post entitled Work, work, work.

The last few days have been pretty intense. Things are chugging right along at work, and my team is pushing hard to get out of the planning phase of our new product. We're currently operating under Microsoft's "Product Cycle Model" software development methodology. I found this pretty damn informational powerpoint presentation on our download site -- it gives a pretty good overview of PCM. I also tried Googling for the site that links to this presentation, but couldn't find it. Hopefully the download link won't die anytime soon. Anyhow, there are lots of different software development methodologies in use at Microsoft -- groups still using PCM will likely move away into more iterative and agile methodologies over time. But for now, we're stuck chugging along trying to push our way out of planning.

So today I had my first feature area review with my group's product unit manager and the rest of our management team. I presented what I've been working on, and it went pretty well. He's a down to business kind of guy -- not much positive affirmation or warm fuzzy feedback. But yeah, all and all it went well, and got lots of useful feedback out of it. Now I've just got one more review to do tomorrow with the same group. We're a small team, so I've got 3 big feature areas... which is cool. Once the reviews are over and our deliverables are in, we're out of planning and into design, where I'll be spending the next month with my head down writing functional specifications on exactly how features in my feature areas will work.

So yeah, been spending lots of time at work... a few very long days. But it's been fun, and I'm taking a break this weekend and flying down to the Bay Area for labor day. I actually took a few years off of school after my first year, and spent some time living and working out there (for a software company called Xtime). I always love getting back there and seeing all of my friends and former coworkers.

Oh, on a somewhat random note.. I've started using Macromedia Fireworks at work to make UI mockups. It's amazing! It's like a cross between Photoshop and Visio. The frames feature is especially cool. Love it.

Okay, that's all for now. Need to stop rambling and go make some dinner and change laundry.