Adobe’s AIR Plans

Robert Cringely writes:

In terms of software applications, I can think of only two that have reached the point of ubiquity and hence invisibility — Flash and PDF, both of which come from the same company, Adobe Systems.

Adobe is moving into developer tools in a big way to support its grab for mindshare in the interactive/rich web application space where much of the excitement lately seems to be. Some people think of this as Browser Wars 2.0, but I think it is more fundamental than that. Here are the players. Microsoft is putting massive resources behind Silverlight. Sun is trying to take Java to the next level with Java FX. Mozilla is trying to improve its position through AJAX, Canvas support, and better offline support. And Adobe is leaning hard on Flash, Adobe Integrated Runtime or AIR (formerly code-named Apollo), and Flex. My money is on Adobe simply because of those two invisible weapons, PDF and Flash.

TECH TALK: Apple iPhone: The Platform

MEX wrote about Apple’s Browser and the implications:

According to the information Apple released to developers attending its WWDC event, the iPhone browser will enable applications to run in a sandbox environment, through which they can interface with the integrated applications to access functions like phone calls, email messaging, mapping, contacts and calendar. In practice, this means browser-based applications will be able to offer features like click-to-call, storing event reminders in the local calendar or showing a location on the integrated map.

Developer reaction to this announcement has divided into two camps. On the one hand, some are hugely dissappointed Apple is not providing a public SDK for genuine native application development; on the other, there are those who are delighted Apple has chosen such an open development path and are excited by the possibility of being able to go direct to consumers without the delivery channel issues which continue to impair developers on most mobile platforms.

There is Apple with unprecedented hype around its iPhone launch and a vested interest in building a web-based media platform spanning desktop, living room and mobile. Then there is Nokia, the worlds largest handset manufacturer, which has publicly stated its commitment to becoming an internet company and is planning a 2008 re-organisation which will see its devices, software and services businesses merged into a single business unit. Coming in from the left field, you have Google and Adobe actively seeking to disenfranchise Microsoft from its dominance of the desktop by making the web the software platform of choice. And finally, there is an army of developers constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of whats possible with web-based applications.

Robert Cringely wrote about Apples broader plans to turn the Safari into a platform:

Safari for Windows is part of a PLATFORM in the same sense that iTunes is part of the iPod platform or vice versa. In this case the platform in question is the iPhone and an as-yet unmentioned partner in that platform is Google.

The iPhone absolutely needs AJAX applications for the phone to be a success on AT&T’s EDGE network. By pushing more functional logic into the browser, the bandwidth consumed per http round-trip is significantly reduced, making the phone apps faster and helping to justify that big price tag. The problem with this is that AJAX apps don’t always work the same (or at all) on every browser. The iPhone has real browser support, which is good, but remember AJAX is based on JavaScript, which in this case is not so good. JavaScript isn’t statically typed and each browser has its own version of JavaScript. Developers are typically forced to hand-code different versions of their AJAX apps for different browsers. With the AJAX economy dictating that browsers with big market share like IE and Firefox get most of the effort, that leaves Safari as a second-class browser and, potentially, a liability for the iPhone.

Whaddayado? Introduce a Windows version of Safari, get a million people to download it in the first week, and scare developers into moving Safari customization higher on their AJAX priority list.

Where Google comes into this story is with the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), an open source compiler that compiles Java source code into optimized browser-specific JavaScript code. GWT makes writing AJAX apps like writing regular apps in the sense that developers can use many of the tools they are used to. And GWT adds the advantage that the GWT compiler handles all the problems of working with specific browsers.

So, get ready for the next revolution in mobile phones and computing!

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TECH TALK: Apple iPhone: Industry Impact

Om Malik wrote about how Apple’s iPhone will change the mobile business:

A true web applications platform for the mobile: Charles Ying thinks that Apple just reinvented the mobile applications platform. This isnt mobile Flash, mobile Java, or even the mobile Web. Its the real Web, the real deal, he writes.

Break the Wireless Walled Gardens iPhone is fully functional iPod, with full tracks of music. Do you need to download ring tones for $2.99 a pop, when you get a full song for a third of that price? Ditto for Wallpapers, and themes, and everything else that is being sold on the carrier deck.

Shift of control to the customers: If the embedded (Safari) browser if it performs the way as hyped by Jobs & Co., will give us the choice-control we have on the web. Search engines to web sites nothing will be determined by the wireless carriers who have thus far done nothing but create barriers between what we want, and giving us what they want to sell.

Slow demise of subsidized, boring phones filled with bloat ware: The introduction of the unlocked iPhone will do two things it would basically get US buyers savvy to the idea of buying full priced unlocked phones. Secondly, it is going to cause a behavior change – of buying phones instead of freebies.

Keep it simple or else: One of the lasting (at least for me) changes that iPhone will bring to the mobile market is simplification. Their new user interface is going to make complex mobile services relatively simple, and can have the same impact as Blackberry had on the corporate market.

Tomi Ahonen wrote:

I am certain that the mobile telecoms world will count its time in two Eras. The Era BI: time Before the iPhone, and the ERA AI: time After the iPhone.

From June all reviewers around the world will compare all new high-end phones with the iPhone. How near do they arrive in being “almost as good as the iPhone”. This is the phrase we will see in most reviews of smartphones. And the yardstick in usability will from now on – and my prediction is that for the fore-seeable future of mobile phones – the latest iPhone. A clear watershed moment in the industry. For the first time a major handset device which was designed from the start to be both a multipurpose smartphone and yet easy to use.

The second and much greater impact is the mobile internet, or the value-add services industry of mobile telecoms…It has been a lopsided battle, when most early internet-capable phones were monochrome WAP phones or modest speed GPRS phones with still tiny colour screens. Now we get the glorious sharp 3.5″ iPhone screen and its powerful web access software. It was easy to suggest a laptop with a WiFi or WiMax access card would “forever” trump a 2″ tiny pocket screen of an early 2.5G or 3G phone. Now we get the big screen iPhone and suddenly the pocket internet seems very plausible. And even at 500 dollars (subsidised) the iPhone costs half that of a laptop. Do we really need a new computer. If all we need is e-mail and music and uploading some pictures to Flickr or Myspace, isn’t an iPhone enough?

Yes the iPhone is a radical device and yes, we need the American IT and media and adveritsing industries to wake up to mobile phones. And yes, the iPhone will bring valuable goals for all user interface design in mobile telecoms, both for handset makers and mobile operators. But all invention didn’t happen at Apple or be caused by the iPhone.

But the level of the noise around mobile will double in June. Very many big guns will join the game. That is good. And it will be a change from an old Era, where handset makers like Nokia and Motorola ran the show with the major mobile operators (carriers). Now media giants will join in, as will major IT players and internet companies.

AT&T too is expected to benefit from being the exclusive partner for iPhone. The New York Times wrote:

It is a testament to the power of Apples brand name and reputation that many consumers appear to be giving it a chance to redefine phones as the iPod did music players. AT&T said 1.1 million potential customers had signed up on the companys Web site asking to be contacted when the phone is for sale.

Steven P. Jobs, Apples chief executive, has said that he expects Apple to sell 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008. That projection could include sales outside the United States, but Apple has not yet announced any deals with foreign carriers.

For AT&T the iPhone launch is bigger than the launch of a new device, Mr. Hodulik said. Its something more strategic. Its about moving the whole brand.

Tomorrow: The Platform

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Crowd Clout

[via Thejo] TrendWatching writes:

The power of groups, the clout that crowds can exercise to get what they want, is nothing new. What is new, however, is the dizzying ease with which likeminded, action-ready citizens and consumers can now go online and connect, group and ultimately exert influence on a global scale. Call it group power, call it CROWD CLOUT:

CROWD CLOUT: Online grouping of citizens/consumers for a specific cause, be it political, civic or commercial, aimed at everything from bringing down politicians to forcing suppliers to fork over discounts.


The New York Times writes about a new machine being introduced by Andy Bechtolsteim of Sun:

At a high-performance computing conference in Dresden, Germany, he plans to introduce his newest machine: a supercomputer to be named the Sun Constellation System that will compete for the title as the worlds fastest when installation is complete this year.

A lot of these high-end systems are superego machines, he said, referring to the industry practice of competing for the ranking of the worlds fastest computing mcahine based on a single type of mathematical calculation. Indeed, some of the fastest supercomputers slow to a crawl when they are given types of problems that require the movement of significant amounts of data between processors.

Mr. Bechtolsheim thought he had found a solution to that problem by modifying an industry standard data switch, making it possible for any of the 13,000-plus Advanced Micro Devices Barcelona microprocessors to communicate with each other more than 10 times as fast as with existing switches.

Social Sites and Class Divide

BBC writes:

Fans of MySpace and Facebook are divided by much more than which music they like, suggests a study.

A six-month research project has revealed a sharp division along class lines among the American teenagers flocking to the social network sites.

The research suggests those using Facebook come from wealthier homes and are more likely to attend college.

By contrast, MySpace users tend to get a job after finishing high school rather than continue their education.

In India, a teenager I know put it thus: “South Mumbai uses Facebook, North Mumbai uses Orkut.”


TechCrunch writes:

Mitch Kapor likes to solve problems. In the 80s, he was the guy behind Lotus 1-2-3, the first killer app for computers. More recently he decided to tackle a a simpler problem – synchronizing Firefox bookmarks across multiple computers. His popular Firefox plugin, Foxmarks, has been downloaded 700,000 times and has 350,000 active users.

All those users create some very well organized bookmark data. Unlike, where people throw thousands of bookmarks for later reference, users tend to have fewer, but more important, bookmarks linked directly from their browser. And they spend more time properly annotating those bookmarks, Kapor says. So far, Foxmarks is tracking 250 million bookmarks, from 20 million unique URLs.

Mobile Video

Michael Mace writes: “I think there’s a role for mobile video, but considering the limits on user interest, and the huge technical and business challenges, it’s not going to be the great horizontal application that drives the mobile data market. At best, it’ll be a nice add-on for entertainment-focused users who want video in addition to their MP3s and games.”

TECH TALK: Apple iPhone: Competition and Need

Walter Mossberg wrote about two alternatives Blackberry’s Curve and the Nokia N95.

The new BlackBerry Curve 8300, sold by AT&T, is sort of a cross between the maker’s low-end consumer-oriented Pearl and its larger, more traditional models like the 8800 series. It costs $199 after rebate, with a two-year contract.

The Nokia N95…[which costs $749]….lacks a full keyboard, physical or virtual and its email is primitive, but that’s not its main purpose. This device is the best combination of a camera and a phone I’ve ever tested, and includes a long list of other media features.

For $749, you could buy the Curve and a very nice digital camera. But the N95 is for photo enthusiasts who want an all-in-one device. The Curve is a more mainstream smart phone that aims for a balance of features at a low price.

Paul Kedrosky wrote in April why he thinks we need the iPhone:

Mobile browers are awful. The Treo isn’t bad, and it’s the best of the above three, but the Samsung and Blackberrry browsers should be outlawed. They are that bad. They are so bad that Blackberry users’ opinions about mobile services, mobile startups, etc. should be summarily dismissed.
iPhone: Browser is reputedly very good.

Touch screens rule. Once you’ve gone touch you’ll never go back. Treo has it, Blackberry doesn’t, and it drives me nuts. Trying to use a thumb wheel to touch a specific screen element is like dancing about architecture. It’s briefly mildly entertaining, but ultimately stupid.
iPhone: Touchscreen. ‘Nuff said.

Big screens rule. The Samsung screen is teensy and irritating. The Blackberry and Treo screens are bigger and better, but I want more. I hate having online real estate so crunched. It feels so … 640×480.
iPhone: Big, bright mofo screen.

Information Week writes about the browsing experience:

Forget the fact that the ultra-high-speed surfing shown on the first crop of iPhone TV commercials is a crock. Forget, too, that the main technical impediment to fast smartphone browsing isn’t software — it’s the carrier networks. (Many of the carriers are putting higher-speed networks in place, though for the iPhone only AT&T is of concern.)

Where Jobs has it right is that we all want an alternative to the excruciatingly slow loads we have to deal with today, on our BlackBerrys and other smartphones. Jobs is correct in implicitly recognizing that lighter, WAP-style Web pages aren’t really what users want. They don’t deliver complete enough content, nor do they do enough of an end-around to the slow-loading issue to matter.

So, notwithstanding all my iPhone bashing, Jobs’s vision that browsing on your mobile device should be no different than it is on your PC is absolutely on target.

Tomorrow: Industry Impact

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Two Webs

Liz Strauss discusses the Information and Relationships Webs:

Two very different world views one informational, one relational. Each point of view defines the experience differently. Static or dynamic, take your pick.

This elephant is standing on the web.

What is a link? Is a link clicks and traffic and Google rankings? Or does a link represent that I know you, that Ive read your content, that youre relevant and of value to me? Is a comment conversation or something I can buy or rent?

Were living in two Internets. It looks much like the companies we find in the world of brick and mortar. One is about places, information, and data. Its the buildings in which people work. The other is about people, relationships, and conversation. Its the people who work in those buildings. One is a structure. The other is social.

Yahoo’s Social Graph Search

Dan Farber writes:

[Yahoo’s] Speiser described search and social networks as dealing with two different problems. Search is more like the index of a book, with keywords with pages references. A social networks, like Facebook, is like a table of contents, and more about discovery and easier navigation.

We know who is winning on the search front today, and if Google were to acquire Facebook, we know who would be one of the leading table of contents, at least in terms of user profiles and relationship connections, in this second (Web 2.0) round of the battle.

We can be a giant table of contents for the Web, Speiser contended. We intend to be one of the players providing a social graph.

New News writes:

If news is still wide open, this begs the question: what would constitute the perfect news product of the 21st century?

I think I can sum it up with three things: Topix + TechMeme + Digg. But, theres something missing, or rather, all of those things have something to be desired. Oddly, none of those are search engines!

Freemium for Facebook Apps

Don Dodge writes about how widgets can be monetised:

What is the business model for widgets?

* The Freemium model, upselling from free to premium services seems to be the best bet, at least for now. Many of the widgets provide a free service with options to buy premium services such as more detailed traffic statistics, more powerful services, enhanced customization, or higher levels of service.
* Sponsorship might make sense. A simple “Sponsored by Big Company” tagline across the bottom of the widget might fit well. I don’t see how larger advertising units would work for a small widget, and I doubt the “hosts” would allow it.
* Revenue sharing with your host – Facebook and MySpace don’t need to share their advertising revenues with the widget guys, but a smaller social network might want to. If I were the owner of a social network and wanted to build an ecosystem of developers building cool widgets on my platform I would indeed share some advertising revenue with them.
* Syndication network – If your widget distributes content widely,, think YouTube, then the content owners might want to pay you to get their content on your widget.

Next-Generation Storage

The Economist writes:

A new storage technology, which will go on sale in the next few weeks after years of development, can squeeze more onto a small disc or cartridge than ever before. With the potential to store hundreds of times more data on a disc than today’s DVDs or even the latest high-capacity Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs, holographic storage is about to hit the market.

Unlike DVDs, which store data in thin layers just beneath the surface of the disc, holographic storage encodes information in three dimensions, within the volume of the disc. This will enable the first holographic discs to store a colossal 300 gigabytes of data12 times more than the latest Blu-ray discs and 60 times more than a standard DVD. And within a few years this capacity is expected to increase more than fivefold to 1.6 terabytes (1,600 gigabytes) of dataenough to store five seasons of a television drama, in high-definition video, on one disc. But as is so often the case with new storage formats, rival standards are under development.

TECH TALK: Apple iPhone: Features (Part 2)

Among other things, the iPhone also has Apple’s Safari browser, which will make for an excellent Internet browsing experience. Not to mention that the phone runs the OS X operating system. As Lev Grossman wrote in Time in January: They began by melting the face off a video iPod. No clickwheel, no keypad. They sheared off the entire front and replaced it with a huge, bright, vivid screen–that touch screen Jobs got so excited about a few paragraphs ago. When you need to dial, it shows you a keypad; when you need other buttons, the screen serves them up. When you want to watch a video, the buttons disappear. Suddenly, the interface isn’t fixed and rigid, it’s fluid and molten. Software replaces hardware…Into that iPod they stuffed a working version of Apple’s operating system, OS X, so that the phone could handle real, nontoy applications like Web browsers and e-mail clients. They put in a cell antenna and two more antennas for wi-fi and Bluetooth, plus a bunch of sensors, so that the phone knows how bright its screen should be and whether it should display vertically or horizontally, and when it should turn off the touch screen so that you don’t accidentally operate it with your ear.

PC Magazine has a detailed analysis of tie iPhone features with other smartphones. The iPhone occupies a unique place in the wireless market, straddling the line between smartphones, feature phones, and portable media players. In some cases, it exceeds the capabilities of all of these devices, while it lags behind in others. Will Apple’s magic combination of killer design, features, and a revolutionary touch interface be enough to match its enormous hype? We’re only a week away from finding out.

New York Magazine wrote:

It took half an hour, no more than that, after Jobs unveiled his gleaming new toy for the bloggers to dub it the Jesus Phone. Here was the gizmo wed all been pining for lo these many years: a music player, camera, e-mail tool, Web browser, and cell phone, all rolled into one impossibly seductive package. After watching Jobs enact the ta-da moment with typical brioI didnt sleep a wink last nighteven cynical observers were smitten. What a weird fucking day Tuesday was, Josh Quittner, the editor of Business 2.0, remarked. It was as if we were all participating in a shared consensual hallucination All these supposedly hard-bitten tech reporters wandering around like they were getting laid for the first time.

The panting over the Jesus Phone must have satisfied Jobs no end: Every product he crafts he regards as a sacred object, the primary aspiration of which is to incite naked lust. And in the months since then, the breathing has only gotten heavier. At the launch, the sales goals Jobs set forth were demure: 1 percent of the world market, about 10 million units, by the end of 2008. But industry analysts are less bashful. Piper Jaffrays Gene Munster forecasts sales of 15.6 million units in that timeand 45 million in 2009. Apple has been so good at executing these different multimedia elements with the Mac and iPod that they might be able to take over with their phone, says a London-based telecom investor. Nokia and the rest of those guys are absolutely shitting themselves.

Jobs has done little to dampen either the giddiness or the panic. Its the best iPod weve ever made, he says of the iPhone. Its an incredibly great cell phone And its the Internet in your pocket for really the first time. If it was any one of those three, it would be successful but its all three!

Tomorrow: Competition and Need

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Never Forget

Nicholas Carr writes:

The unexamined life, said Socrates, is not worth living. Today, we seem to be operating under a new and very different dictum: the unrecorded life is not worth living. Thanks to digital technologies, we now have the tools to chronicle our daily actions and thoughts in the minutest detail – and to share the record with the world.

The desire to bear witness to one’s personal experience isn’t anything new, of course. Long before words and pictures turned into strings of ones and zeroes, people set down accounts of events in their lives. They painted on cave walls, wrote in diaries, took snapshots and collected keepsakes and souvenirs. What’s changed is the scale of the effort. Whereas in the past we tended to record only important events, today we can, and do, record pretty much everything. Nothing we do or think, it seems, is too insignificant to be preserved or broadcast.

Relationships, Conversations and Transactions

JP Rangaswami writes:

Relationships first. Then conversations as a result of relationships. And finally, only where necessary, transactions.

Cluetrain. Markets are conversations. (Doc has a Nigerian pastor story that shows how universal this structure is. I will link to it when I have something more than a BlackBerry to use as my internet connection.)

A few hours ago, I read that Facebook now has more transactions per day than eBay does. Given that eBay has 8 times the number of participants, this is a fascinating trend.

Normally I would expect conversations to be a multiple of relationships, and transactions to be a subset of conversations.

Language Teaching

The Economist writes about how Skype, podcasts and broadband are transforming language teaching:

Tens of millions of people in 110 countries now download the free ChinesePod podcasts, Praxis’s flagship service, says Mr Carroll. About 250,000 listen regularly and several thousand pay for the premium services, which include individual Skype chats with teachers. A second service, SpanishSense, is out, and more will follow.

The customers are everywhere from Berkeley to Alaska and the Vatican. In the past, when language instructionalong with haircuts and massageswas a non-tradable sector of the economy, many people would not have found a native Mandarin speaker as a teacher in their town at all. Now they need only a broadband connection.

Apple and Innovation

The e Economist wrote (in a cover story) a couple weeks ago:

Apple has at least four important wider lessons to teach other companies.

The first is that innovation can come from without as well as within.

Second, Apple illustrates the importance of designing new products around the needs of the user, not the demands of the technology.

A third lesson from Apple is that smart companies should sometimes ignore what the market says it wants today.

The fourth lesson from Apple is to fail wisely.

Human-Powered Search

The New York Times writes:

Last month, another company, Mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you), inaugurated a search service with manually edited results. It started with several advantages: venture capital backing, 30 editors, systematic focus on the most commonly requested search terms, and the added idea of supplying Googles search results for any search not covered by its own best-of-the-best lists.

Mahalo now has pre-prepared pages for 5,000 terms related to entertainment, travel, health, technology and other subject areas. The company plans to expand its coverage to 10,000 terms by year-end, and eventually to provide results for one-third of the most common search terms.

A hand-built Mahalo search-results page has one conspicuous advantage over Googles: grouping into subthemes, which make a page of links much easier to scan and to find items of particular interest.