Apple’s OS Innovations and iPhone

New York Times speculates that the iPhone may be Apple’s next device:

A look at the laundry list of features in the company’s new version of OS X indicates that a computer-phone is much more than a vague idea for Apple.

Of the 12 new OS X features the company has been emphasizing on its Web site, most would be desirable for a hand-held phone, including chat capabilities, mail, an address book, calendar features, automatic networking and a synchronization feature that will become available in September.

And several of the features, including the company’s handwriting-recognition technology and Sherlock information-retrieval program, would be much more relevant to a small, portable device than to a desktop computer.

Sherlock in particular has been repositioned in a way that would make it a perfect counterpart for a portable phone. Its original purpose, which was finding files and content on the computer’s local disk, has been transformed into a more general “find” utility program. Now, Sherlock is being extended to search for types of information like airline and movie schedules and restaurant locations. The software can display maps and driving directions.

The Everything Drive

John Robb’s dream: “I am in college. A person that I have seen in a couple of my classes, comes up to me and asks me if I want the “everything” drive. I ask, what is the “everything” drive? He whispers that it has every book, song, newspaper, magazine, and movie that has ever been published. Everything is categorized and first quality. It even includes a clone of Google and some new search techniques that are even more powerful. Incredulous, I ask what the catch is. He says, nothing, just knowledge. I then ask how much it will cost. He says nothing, just the time it takes to transfer it and a promise to give it to two other people. ”

Data Transformation

In an interview with News.com, Dave Hollander on XMl and the future of data. He says the biggest problem is that of transformation:

It means, how does the receiver interpret the intent of the sender of the information? The easy one to think about is in language, going from French to German, “rue” to “strasse.” Being able to understand that intent, and transform what the sender intended to what the receiver needs to do, becomes a transformation. Semantics is understanding the intent of a thing, of a concept. I like to think of it as the boundary between data and behavior. If you send out the same data and get five different responses, then there are five different semantics associated with that data. In order to do a transformation from “rue” to “strasse,” I have to understand the fundamental transformation that this is a street, and whether it’s a street or highway or road needs to be differentiated. In order to make meaningful transformations, you have to understand the semantics of the information.

The Net Effect

Sun’s Simon Phipps:

The key values of the Internet flow from the mesh of participants, which Metcalfe’s Law observes as leading to an exponentially growing pool of potential relationships. Complementing that are loosely coupled, open, royalty-free standards, allowing all to participate at the linear-growing cost of connection to the standards rather than the exponentially growing cost of negotiating each relationship.

This exponential-relationship, linear-cost world is termed the “Net Effect” and has been the primary energy source of the Internet revolution from its inception.

The Web resulted from the Net Effect, and today we need a development and deployment methodology that harnesses it. Open source provides the ideal, loosely coupled yet rigorous environment for the massively connected community.

He related the Net Effect to Open Source: “What distinguishes projects like Apache, NetBeans and Linux is less the price tag but rather the eclectic inclusiveness. If a standard is a technology where the community affected by changes controls the changes, then open source will underpin standards in this century….The experience of Sun and others is that open source provides ideal development and business models for today’s Net Effect economy. It’s not about free stuff; it’s about enfranchising every user and development community member. Today’s software innovations need this model more than ever before. With an open foundation, companies can gain their just compensation for their innovations “above the line,” but the subtle lock-in offered by our traditional understanding of “standards” is largely avoided.”

WiFi’s Growing Ubiquity

Writes John Patrick (News.com): “Wi-Fi is one of those grassroots phenomena that will soon become as ubiquitous as the PC itself.”

Adds John:

Think about all the places where you have to “wait”–the car shop, medical offices, hotel lobbies, restaurants, hospital check-in areas and, of course, on a bus, train and in airport lounges.

Think about the concept of community services. When people go downtown, they naturally expect the local infrastructure to include streetlights, fire hydrants and parking spaces. Soon, I believe, they also will expect Wi-Fi connectivity. Sitting on a city park bench and checking e-mail will not seem so strange; in fact, it will be something people demand.

Not that everyone needs to be connected all the time, tethered to the Internet. But if people want or need to be connected to the Internet, they should be able to plug in. The Internet has transferred power from institutions to people. Isn’t it time to enable this power to become pervasive?

TECH TALK: Tech’s 10X Tsunamis: Blogs and RSS (Part 4)

Blogs take silent voices and make them heard within the enterprise and on the Internet. They are a disruptive innovation in the world of information processing and knowledge management. Writes Ray Ozzie of Groove (and the architect of Lotus Notes):

What has struck me over the past few weeks is the fact that blogs represent a radical new approach to public discussion – one that, in essence, completely and naturally “solves” the signal:noise problem, and does so through creative exploitation of a unique architecture based upon decentralized representation of discussion threads. Let me elaborate.

In traditional discussion, topics and their responses are contained and organized within a centralized database. The relationship between topics and responses is generally maintained in a manner specific to the nature of the database – that is, in newsgroups the messages might be related by Message-ID hyperlinks or crudely by title. Summary-level “views” are generated through database queries. And that has been the general architectural design pattern of public discussions for quite some time.

But blogs accomplish public discussion through a far different architectural design pattern. In the Well’s terminology, taken to its extreme, you own your own words. If someone on a blog “posts a topic”, others can respond, but generally do so in their own blogs, hyperlinked back to the topic’s permalink. This goes on and on, back and forth. In essence, it’s the same hyperlinking mechanism as the traditional discussion design pattern, except that the topics and responses are spread out all over the Web. And the reason that it “solves” the signal:noise problem is that nobody bothers to link to the “flamers” or “spammers”, and thus they remain out of the loop, or form their own loops away from the mainstream discussion. A pure architectural solution to a nagging social issue that crops up online.

The last word comes from an article in Information Week (July 22,2002) entitled Are You Blogging Yet? article (July 22, 2002). Writes John Foley: Put [the] three dynamics together–the empowered consumer, the connected professional, and the collaborative business–and it’s easy to see why there’s so much buzz about weblogging. What professional wouldn’t benefit from being part of a loose-knit virtual community that helps people share ideas and experiences?

A Personal View

On a personal note, I have been blogging for more than three-and-half-months. I can feel the same excitement that I did when I created my first web page in 1994. My blog already serves as an extended memory for me, helping me get to articles I like at later points of time, and creating an archive of my thinking and ideas. Using the RSS feeds from other bloggers helps me processmuch more information in the same amount of time. I have also made available blogs within my organisation so that people can create their own public, private and group blogs.

My learning so far: For blogs to work, they need to be like email: everyone should use them. There will be some who will write much more, but others also need to read and contribute. Blogging is a fundamental change – writing does not come naturally for most. But thinking and doing things does. Think of blogging as writing about what is doing and thinking – that makes it easier to get started. Writing what one is thinking in ones own space makes sharing of knowledge much more easier. Blogs are what the Web should have been in the first place.

Additional Reading:

  • Tech Talk: Blogging (Feb 25 March 1, 2002)
  • Tech Talk: Knowledge Weblogs [1 2 ] (March 30 April 1, 2002)
  • Tech Talk: The New WWW: Weblogs [1 2] ( May 6-7, 2002)
  • Tech Talk: The Digital Dashboard [1 2 3] (June 20-24, 2002)

    Tomorrow: Business Process Standards