You’ve done it all ….

originally published in CIO magazine on 3rd June 2015

You’ve done it all, you’ve broken every code, pulled the rebel to the floor
You spoilt the game, no matter what you say
For only metal – what a bore!

Yet another huge showcase event from another of the technology behemoths – this time Google I/O in San Francisco – ends ultimately in a feeling of disappointment. All foreplay and no climax if you excuse the pun.

Is it just me or are these big tech events all becoming a bit passe? Too much razzamatazz and not enough substance. Jeez, I know someone said that developers are the “new Rock Stars” but does that mean that every big corporate tech CEO has to think they’re Bono.

Perhaps, in a world increasingly dominated by style over substance, these events have to “play it large”. At the recent Salesforce World Tour in London, Keith Block prefaced his keynote with a full on James Bond / 2012 Olympics style video enhanced entrance. Now don’t get me wrong, I love that Salesforce continue to push the boundaries of enterprise software, but this year’s London event seemed to be joining the ever increasing world of “my show’s bigger than your show”.

The sad thing is these launch events actually launch very little that’s genuinely new. They seem destined, for now at least, to be the homes of incremental upgrades – but each one paraded to the sound of adoring whoops from the gathered faithful rather than being the homes of any great innovation (btw, a note to our US cousins, Brits don’t whoop – for anyone or anything, so don’t take it personally).

Nowadays, long before the first whiff of sulphur from the pyrotechnics has passed, we’ve already heard all that needs to be heard. It’s all pre planned leaks and tweets or so called secret blurry pictures secured with Jack Bower like espionage from a far flung manufacturing facility.

Maybe need every change wrapped in unnecessary pyrotechnics. Maybe my next Internet of Things enabled, fully cognitive, predictive, geolocated, voice activated toaster really does have to arrive at my house on a mock Back to the Future hover-board, along with flying drones playing a heavy meta soundtrack and firing stage cannons. Or maybe we really have done it all, seen it all and been everywhere – man ??

Certainly not !! Only today I sat in amazement at the latest innovation in robotics, connected everything and AI coming out of South Korea. So, I’m not going to settle for whooping wildly in fake amazement at incremental advancement. I’m not going to accept style over substance in an auditorium where they measure success by the number of people who couldn’t attend. I am going to continue to actively seek out the sources of genuine innovation (and potential disruption) and make some noise about them – and I invite you to do the same.

Whats the Buzz ?? It still just tastes like chicken

Almost a year ago now I blogged about the impending death of innovation when it comes to the user interface and asked “Does everything have to taste like chicken?”

My point was that in the rush to get the next great Web2.0/Social Networking/collaborative toy out into the market, developers were just copying each other and no one was being really innovative. Rather than celebrating the fact that one could be genuinely different, the prevailing view seemed to be that if you simply just throw more and more familiar stuff into into the same pot then the customers will be happy. Its the equivalent of the one stop shop…. the BlueWater approach to development. Just put as much as you can in one place and then the punter doesn’t need to think – they can just do. So as a result; Facebook updates Twitter which can update Facebook and set your status automatically in Linkedin which can pass the information to Plaxo and so on. Tweetdeck can be a browser and can now do embedded Picasa and YouTube, Disgby can look like Google Talk but actually update everything – aggghhhh !!!

Well, here we are almost 12 months on and its no better – infact to my eyes its getting worse…. and the most recent offender in the tastes like chicken stakes is Google Buzz. Who in the name of all thats good and true though we needed yet another social networking tool and then, worse still, who thought it would be a bright idea to embed it in a really good email client. Jeez, it must have been ‘Chicken Tonight’ over in Mountain View when they came up with Buzz. Now I don’t intend to go into the well documented privacy concerns here – you can google them – but just pause for a minute on the approach. Did we really need another status setting tool ? Did we really want to grow our already impossibly large contact lists again ? Did we really want our finely tuned and pimped Gmail client messed up with yet more notifications ?? ….. and wouldn’t an add on to Gtalk been just as useful (sic) ?

To my eyes, and granted they’re getting on in years now, it seems that there’s no value in being innovative. First mover advantage has all but disappeared and now we can all be fast followers – even Google – by just incrementing what already exists. Call me an old cynic but everything really is starting to taste like chicken

What d’ya think ?

My favourite free apps

As the world of free applications continues to grow almost exponentially, I’m often asked what’s the best “free stuff” you can load up on a spanking new laptop. Well, as always, there’s no definitive list of what’s best because “best” is all down to personal opinion and preference. Well, not being one to sit on the fence, here’s a list of free stuff that sits on some of my machines

Spotify – I’ve blogged on this just about anywhere I can – if you’re into music you must have Spotify which is free so long as you’re happy to put up with a few adverts. Quite simply the best quality music  streaming out there and simplicity itself

Mozilla Thunderbird – remarkably there are people out that that hate both Microsoft (so no Outlook) and Google (so no Gmail) – go figure. Anyway, if you fall into that camp then take a look a Thunderbird. Its had a checkered past but now seems to have a new lease of life with powerful tools and extensions from the Mozilla family

OpenOffice – another one for the anti MS/Google brigade but actually its a really powefull (and MS compatible) suite of office applications.

MediaCoder – a superb video encoding and transcoding application with specific solutions for all the popular device types that can be downloaded as separate modules. ave to be everywhere at once, and are happy to be signed in automatically by a 3rd party app, then this is for you.

Paint.Net / Inkscape – excellent Photoshop and Illustrator clones. They may not have all the features of their grown up cousins but they’re freeeeeeeee

Comodo AV/Firewall – the Comodo Internet Security suite was recommended to me by a colleague and it knocks the free competition as well as the more established brands for six. Simple to set up, ad free and low performance overhead.

Picassa – even the anti Google fraternity have to give Picassa a go. Simple way to organise, share and edit your photos

Slingplayer – I know its not exactly “free” because you need a slingbox back at home but the player is a fee download. Full control of my SKY+ and other attached media devices from anywhere in the world with a broadband connection – don’t leave home without it.

I’ll add more as I remember but that’ll do for starters

Anyone wanna recommend some others – go for it

New iPhone – big disappointment

Am I the only one who was disappointed by Apples iPhone announcement yesterday ??

Look – don’t get me wrong – I really want to love the iPhone. It’s cool, its sexy, its hip – it’s got an app store with some really good stuff but why does it have to be such a crap phone. For months now I’ve been wanting to ditch my old Windows Mobile device but every time I asked whether the iPhone did something the answer was always “no” to even some of the most basic stuff. No cut and paste!!  No sms forwarding !! No MMS!! No video!! No Voice-dial (kind of important for the Bluetooth brigade who want to stay legal when driving)  etc etc  …. Even the lowest cost HTC winmo devices could do that

So I waited with bated breath for the new iPhone announcement. Surely not only would all those deficiencies that Apple lovers happily overlook be rectified but we’d also see a new ground breaking device taking smart phones to the next level and throwing down the gauntlet to Google’s Android upstart.

Well actually no. What we got was the iPhone 3G S (…a sort of iPhone 3G with go faster stripes)

  • something that’s a bit faster than something that went so slowly Apple had to put disclaimers on their TV ads
  • something that has a bit more battery life than something that could barely last a day in average use
  • and loads of so called “new features” like Cut, Copy and Paste, MMS* and a landscape keyboard alongside a new camera (that’s still underpowered compared to market norms),  voice command (yep seen that before), a compass app (woohoo) etc

So no new form factor, no new call handling, no improved screen resolution (it stays at  320 x 480 pixels), no front mounted camera for video calls, no expansion slots or removable battery, no camera flash.

Saying all that, now that it’s the phone it should have been when it was launched, it’s actually quite an attractive proposition ….. until Google put android on some new hardware (the impending Samsung i7500 springs to mind) and slap down a new challenge.

Suddenly the mobile market is getting interesting again…. so what will I buy ?

No Kindle required – Google to sell eBooks

According to the New York Times, ” Google signaled its intent to introduce a program by that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers…. through Google”.

This was the big news at this years BookExpo convention in New York and seems to have been warmly received by publishers who have been concerned by Amazons pricing and revenue share policies. Google have said that they will leave pricing to the publishers in as much as the publishers will be able to set a list price for a publication, however Google will set the price paid by consumers through the e-Book program.

Now to be fair, we’ve heard this stuff before from Google however Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google, used the phrase: “This time we mean it.”

More importantly, this is apparently going to be a device agnostic initiative as Google’s program would allow consumers to read books on any device with Internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle. “We don’t believe that having a silo or a proprietary system is the way that e-books will go,” continued Mr Turvey.

This could get intertesting – watch this space

Spotify on Google Android …..

… now that might just be a buying decision

You all know how much I love spotify – well in all the announcements about the slew of new android phones we’re gonna see this year, this little nugget of information seems to have passed almost unnoticed.

Thanks to the nice guys over at TrustedReviews.com we have details of an early spotify app for Android. Building on their propose iPhone app (that still has the Apple boys in a bit of a lather) this one has something even more interesting under the hood – the promise of an offline mode where tracks can be stored for later listening.

Suddenly, android looks even more attractive

Google flexes its considerable muscles

In a move that some would say smacks of an excessive show of strength, Google have pulled music videos from the UK version of YouTube as part of an ongoing dispute with the Performing Rights Society.

YouTube claim that the new charges from the PRS, following the expiry of the previous deal, are excessive and for their part the PRS claim that Google’s actions to pull videos from YouTube came in the middle of ongoing negotiations.

Whatever the rights and wrongs here, this one looks like its gonna run for a while and, once again, the only loosers are the UK music loving consumer.

Come on – sort it out girls

Click here for the full article from The Guardian