October 31, 2008

Dare Obasanjo on whether the Yasn-as-platform is dead. (channeling Alex Iskold)

Eeek!!! Has one of the major planks of my understanding and prediction of the software industry just turned turtle and sunk?

Well, I still believe in the widgets and YASN-as-Platform model. But some things clearly went wrong in Facebook's case. Is this in relation to their being evil?

Or is it an issue when giving away access to your platform : applications must pay somehow. What does this bode for GAE or Amazon or Faceforce or Microsoft's Azure? Presumably paying apps. earn their keep.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Java never made money for Sun. Which shouldn't surprise anyone. But does raise the question, what was their strategic objective? It's one thing to have had a sound strategy and just been beaten (eg. by Microsoft's C# or the free-software movements swarm of "scripting" languages) but it's very hard to see what on earth they were expecting from Java.

October 28, 2008

My first thoughts on Microsoft's Azure ended up at Folknology.

Basically, it seems to me that M$ aren't clear what they're aiming for. An Amazon-like generic hosting option. Or a GAE-like integrated experience. I'd be more impressed if they'd produced a great hosting story for ASP. At least then you'd feel that they had the something that they believe in. Dropping hints about PHP or Rails on the one hand, while pushing tighter integration with Visual Studio on the other, just sounds dissembling at best, and downright deliberately misleading at worst.

October 24, 2008

Cringely reads the tea-leaves of a recent Samsung announcement : that they are getting out of high-end SmartPhones from which he infers "nah, all phones are gonna be smart, but Samsung want to get out of smartphones with expensive (read Microsoft Windows Mobile) software".

And on the future of mobile platforms :
If I had to bet right this moment on the mobile 85-10-5 of 2011 I'd say iPhone, Android, then RIM, Symbian, or something completely new from behind Door Number Three.

To recap ... Microsoft are in real, real trouble. M$ are a company built around a particular vision that Bill Gates had in the 1970s : that with the right intellectual property protection, a company could be a pure software company, independent of any hardware vendor or service provider. And that vision was spectacularly successful for two decades.

But that business model is evaporating. As Cringley points out : on mobiles, two of the big platforms (Android and Symbian) are now free. The third, and (to-be) biggest (iPhone) is an appendage of a hardware manufacturer.

On the exploding netbook category the contenders are Linux and Windows XP, the product Microsoft is desperate to kill. (Here's a hint to Microsoft. Fix a couple of problems in XP, rebrand it as "XP3" and keep it alive for netbooks.) If M$ are stupid enough to kill XP, and Apple get into the game too, there's no guarantee Microsoft will have much presence here either.

And that's where all the growth is going to be in personal computing over the next few years.

Update : Bonus link to developer view.

October 22, 2008

Well known troll Andrew Keen argues the case for money in the great "money vs. something else" platform war.

My response :

Surely if something gets scarcer, it's value goes up, but, by definition, consumption goes down.

If there are fewer pancakes, we may obsess over pancakes, we may dedicate our lives to the great pancake chase. But most of the time, we'll eat bread.

In a recession, the thing that's got scarce is money. And whether we like it or not, we'll have to make do with less money, and more of something else. (Whether that's scrip, LETS, doing each other favours, growing our own food or donating our time to free software.)

Your argument is effectively based on the idea that demand for money is "inelastic" ... that however expensive it gets, people just gotta have it and so anything else will be sacrificed for it. I don't agree.

If there's less money, companies aren't going to start splashing out on *more* software licenses. People aren't going to start buying more CDs or DVDs. *Consumers* will either adapt to go without, or to pirate, or to consume free versions.

And whichever of those three they choose, the effect is the same : less money will change hands while people manage their software and content requirements. And there'll be less money going to programmers and "content creators".

This is true for any other product too. We don't imagine that a recession means more paid work for people in the steel industry. Why imagine that it will mean more paid work for journalists?

The only difference is that we know that when there's no money to pay for steel production, the quantity produced and consumed goes down. Because information isn't scarce in the same way, we don't know whether total production and consumption in the information industry will go down or whether amateurs doing it for free will pick up the slack.
How to add third party widgets to SocialText
This is an interesting place : Apple's AppStore now gets rivals from Android Market and RIM's Blackberry Storefront

Presumably the manufacturers will want exclusive control over selling to "their" phone platform. But for their device-swarm-market they'd like to be able to sell apps. for other phones. Who'll break this open?

Update : Who's gonna do this for ordinary PC ie. netbook software?
I continue to be a fan of M$ advertising.

This time the jokes on Wired for not getting it. (Even though some of their commentators do.) Ricky Gervaise is God!

October 03, 2008

Tim OReilly on Dell's move away from customization and flexible supply-chain.

There are two possibilities: first, that Dell is wrong, and their new supply chain approach will not save them, just make them more like everyone else. It could be that their "live suppy chain" approach just got too crufty, too complex - the article linked above suggests more than 5000 possible configurations. Maybe what they needed to do was to make the system smarter again by streamlining and simplifying.

But it's possible too that the competitive advantage to be wrung from a live enterprise only takes you so far, and that in certain circumstances other advantages are more important. It may well be that the PC market has reduced itself to such commodity status that standardization trumps customization. It may well be that the costs of physical goods mean that the laws of virtual networks are only partly true in that realm.

Worth thinking about, especially as I thought Dell should go in the opposite direction.

Update : Interesting that Dell's suggestion box Ideastorm is full of people demanding better Linux support and pricing. Guess this is a self-selecting audience, of course, but what does Dell do? Create a way of listening to customers and then not follow it for fear of M$, or follow it, and risk the wrath of M$?

PC manufacturers creating sites like this are bad news for M$ either way.

Update 2 : Why are Dell abandoning make-to-order? At one point I wondered if they're actually worrying about long distance just-in-time supply chains as the world energy prices keep going up. But it doesn't look as if that's what's going on. Or is it just a bet on cheap and standard over expensive and flexible (particularly as we go into a recession.)?

October 01, 2008

Windows Server on Amazon EC2

Good move for both of them.
Marc Andreesen joins EBay.

Hmmm. Is it just coincidence that Donahoe is talking about powerful communities when Andreessen’s current baby–Ning–is a social networking platform. Can you say exit strategy?

Admittedly, that eBay buying Ning idea is a leap, but crazier things–like eBay’s acquisition of Skype–have happened.

I must admit that I've warmed to the new Ning. It turns out to be pretty useful for putting a quick YASNS together. Buying it (and Andreesen) would definitely be a good move for EBay (if they can avoid wasting the opportunities the way they have Skype and Paypal)