Microsoft’s OneNote

Writes Steve Gillmor (via Scripting.com):

OneNote [is] a powerful idea processor from the Office group. Mark my words: OneNote is the new center of the Office universe, relegating Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to the edges of the architecture in a single leap. Billed as an Office add-on, in reality it’s a smart device programmed to transform Office from a suite of applications to a grid of interactive components.

OneNote — stupid name, so let’s call it Note for short — derives from Steve Ballmer’s directive to focus not on product groups but on scenarios. Scenario No. 1 for me has been capturing and manipulating ideas. Whether it’s writing this column, brainstorming, prototyping business plans, or retaining the myriad bits of information that keep my marriage intact, it all starts with a note.

These days we live in the e-mail client. I estimate my time splits up about 60 percent in e-mail, 20 percent in the browser, 10 percent in Word, and the rest staring out the window, trying to retrieve a semblance of a good idea. When (or if) an idea arrives, I typically capture it in the most inelegant way — as an email to myself.

Note is agnostic about three forms of notes data: text notes, handwritten notes, and audio notes…These notes can be typed or inked, and intermingled at that. Note lets you drop notes at any location on the page; drag and drop Web page data; reorganize and auto-categorize thoughts, lists, and documents; and then search all this data chronologically, by category, by contextual flags, and across both typed and inked notes.

Everything is weighted in service of idea capture, with processing available when you get the time.

Then Office’s current tool set becomes rendering engines for Note data: Word formatting, Excel calculations, PowerPoint presentations, and Outlook communications. Version 1 has a pseudo XML data format, and no visible programmable object model. But Pratley says turning XML on will take “a matter of days once we define the schema.”

There are three points I want to make on this:

First, we had an idea (building on some what I had seen with Radio’s Instant Outliner) many months ago of doing an outliner, and in fact had even written one. I used it for a few weeks ago, and then for some reason I stopped. I think that happened because the single page got too bulky to handle. Note seems to be a bit like the Outliner – a way to organise ideas. Maybe we should revisit it some time. I was just thinking the other day that inspite of all that we have on the computer, there is no simple writing space if one gets an idea or wants to remind oneself of something.

Second, I like the idea about using Office components for rendering notes. I had found the outliner good for writing and reading, but at times one wished for better rendering. Need to think this through more.

Finally, the point made by Ballmer on using scenarios. As we think of Emergic, especially the SME part, one thought keeps lingering: we need to talk the language of SMEs. In the opportunity to be the “IBM for SMEs”, what is needed is thinking through scenarios and mapping out business processes and information flows in typical SMEs. When we meet an SME, I’d like to sit with them and instead of showing the software we have (which they find it hard to relate to in a 15-minute demo), I’d like to: (a) show them the process and (animated) information flow maps, so we can relate to what they are saying, (b) give them a demo of mock scenarios in companies following information and events as they make their way through the enterprise, and (c) then talk about how various technology building blocks can be used to closely match what they are doing.

Blog Browsers

An interesting idea being talked about is that of Blog Browsers. Started with a brief, cryptic mention by Dave Winer: “The next big innovation will be blog-browsers, native apps that browse archives of weblogs outside the limits of Web browsers.” Dave added later: “If we use new software to browse weblogs (see above), there will come a day when you won’t need to render and upstream content to have it be publicly accessible and retain full control of it on your desktop. We will have routed around the Microsoft browser monopoly, and then a new round of innovation can start.” Dave also points to this.

Adds John Robb: “This may bring us closer to a day where you may not even need hosting space for your rendered weblog (= very inexpensive). Benefits include full archives of the weblogs you love, fast local search against the full archive, and the ability to apply tools locally to find cross connections between weblogs.”

Anil Dash had written sometime ago about the Microcontent Client.

Could this be a new idea brewing, or are we pointing back to the web browser?

WiFi NY

From NYTimes:

While most people were not watching, New York has become host to yet another layer of infrastructure, a random, interlinking constellation of what are called “wireless access points.” A survey last summer found more than 12,000 access points bristling throughout Manhattan alone, many open to anyone with a wireless card, many others closed and private, and still others available for a fee.

None of these were laid down by city workers. No streets were torn up. No laws were passed. Rather, this network has been made possible by the proliferation of ever more affordable wireless routers and networking devices, which in turn transmit the low-range, unlicensed spectrum (a wild frontier, home also to baby monitors and cordless phones) known as 802.11b, or, more genially, Wi-Fi.

This is what needs to happen in the cities of the emerging markets.

Spam Filtering Techniques

David Mertz of Gnosis writes about six approaches to eliminating unwanted e-mail (built around filtering) – via Kevin Werbach:

1. Basic structured text filters
2. Whitelist/verification filters
3. Distributed adaptive blacklists
4. Rule-based rankings
5. Bayesian word distribution filters
6. Bayesian trigram filters

Dimensions of Communications

Writes Jerry Michalski [via Kevin Werbach]:

All the communication technologies we use — telephones, newspapers, radio, IM, e-mail, mailing lists, TV, books — are mired in historical cruft that keeps us from seeing clearly what to build next. It is useful to go to first principles, then reexamine whatever communication task you have at hand. So let me suggest the following basic dimensions of communication:

Timing: instantaneous (IM, phone, TV), delayed (e-mail, TV) or slow (books, movies)?

Audience: one person (phone call), two (conference call, chat), a dozen, two hundred (mailing list) or everyone in the world (Website, Weblog)?

Mode: text, voice, video, audio, 3D — some mix of the above?

Length: short (IM) or long (movie, book)?

Persistence: evanescent (IM), temporary but retrievable (e-mail), published (Website, book) or pretty permanent (stone stele)?

Production Level: casual (ASCII e-mail), formal (proposal) or polished (movie, book)?

Identity: how much of your identity do you want to reveal? which identity (work, private)?

Permission: who can see or use the material?

Ballmer and Microsoft

An interesting NYTimes story on the “softer” Microsoft and Steve Ballmer:

The newest Ballmer buzzword is ”wallow,” as in what you’ve got to do to solve a really tough, complicated problem — take days, weeks even, to ”wallow” in it, with all the hippo connotations of tremendous physical presence and without the traditional Microsoft pressure to right then and there devise and implement some genius solution. In the old days, Ballmer, say his current colleagues, would sight-read your spreadsheets and tell you that what you were doing was simply wrong. Now Ballmer prefers to wallow.

Within Microsoft, the tightly disciplined members of the executive staff are very much on message. They are deadly earnest in their conviction that Ballmer doesn’t yell anymore. Instead of dominating all discussions, they say, he asks leading questions designed to teach his charges how to approach problems.

J2EE and .Net – Gosling

From CRN – keep in mind that James Gosling James Gosling is a Sun vice president and the father of Java:

“J2EE has it all over .Net,” Gosling said “It’s more feature-complete, more mature, and what .Net has going for it is a marketing budget only God can dream of. .Net is a product from a company. J2EE is a market.”

Gosling said Microsoft’s marketing engine has established it as a Web services leader but claimed that Sun’s J2EE environment is more secure and reliable than Visual Studio.Net.
“The thing Microsoft has going for it is easy tools, an unbelievable marketing budget and a desktop monopoly to exploit,” said a salt-and-pepper bearded, bespectacled Gosling, donned in faded jeans and a Java T-shirt. “There is a level of sophistication required [in Java development] that makes it daunting for entry-level developers . . . but the security in Java is very strong.”

While acknowledging that Microsoft’s Visual Studio.Net is an easier environment in which to program, and will become more full-featured over time, Gosling said the Common Language Run-Time (CLR) has fatal flaws, including a problematic memory model and unsafe access facility, that will have implications for the security and reliability of .Net applications.

He also said the forthcoming support for XML in J2EE 1.4 is robust, adding that published reports that J2EE’s support for XML is weak are erroneous and based on J2EE 1.3 implementations on the Java 1.4 SDK. The forthcoming J2EE 1.4, expected to be finalized in early 2003, “is a very complete [set] of XML APIs,” he said.

Point to ponder: “The killer architecture spans across infrastructure components all the way out to the edge of the network, so developers need to think globally and act locally.”

TECH TALK: Disruptive Bridges: The Coming Computing Shift (Part 2)

The latest Economist has a cover story on Computings new shape. It talks about the emergence of smartphones and wireless-enabled handheld computers as the next digital devices, marking a possible end of the PC era. Writes the Economist:

Mainframes ruled the computer industry until the rise of the PC; another 20 years on, the PC’s reign now seems to be coming to an end. Previous generations of computers live onmainframes are widespread, and PCs are certainly not going awaybut each successive generation of computing devices is smaller, more personal and more numerous than its predecessor. Mainframes filled whole rooms, and belonged to single companies. PCs sit on desks and are used by individuals or households. Phones are truly personal pocket-sized devices that are carried everywhere. More than a billion people around the world now have one.

The switch to mobile devices is thus a logical long-term step.

Adds the Economist on Microsofts strategy:

Microsoft’s once-visionary mission statementa computer on every desk and in every homenow seems dated. Instead, the company talks of empowering people through great software, any time, any place and on any device. This is an acknowledgment, concedes Ed Suwanjindar of Microsoft’s mobility division, that the PC is no longer king, and that mobile devices are totally critical to the new extended vision for the company.

In other words, the desktop is out, and mobility is in.

What is very interesting about both these stories is that two of the worlds leading computer companies (IBM and Microsoft) are making bets away from the personal computer. The worlds 6 billion people only have 500 million computers. In fact, India and Chinas 2 billion people have less than 40 million computers between them. Are these not important markets? Do these people not want a computer on their desks and in their offices? Or will they leapfrog to a smartphone in their pocket?

As we contemplate these questions, heres a wider perspective from Ciscos John Chambers (quoted in a Business Week interview):

If you’re growing [productivity] at 1% per year, like we were for almost three decades, every 72 years you double the standard of living of your country. If you grow at 3% per year, you double the standard of living every generation, which means that our children will have twice the standard of living that we did. Their children will have twice the standard of living that their parents did. If you grow at 5%, you double it every 14 years. That’s what business and government leaders around the world understand.

I believe that as productivity goes up, profitability goes up. Then small-to-medium businesses will be the area where the biggest consumption of new jobs will occur.

What I’m worried about is that increased productivity and technology will, over time, push companies to be located wherever the best-educated workforce is. So you’re going to see global competition — not just for jobs, but for companies — in a way that we’ve not seen before. The jobs will go where the best-educated workforce with the best infrastructure, with the right supportive government [are]. That’s why I’m so impatient about education.

Even as technology makes available new opportunities for the worlds developing countries, the digital divide is all but too gaping.

Tomorrow: The Digital Divide

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