For the Week of December 15, 2003
For the World Of Always-On to happen, we need to get straight on the important point of network applications.
We are accustomed to applications that live on a client. This newsletter was written using a copy of Microsoft Word on my PC. We're also becoming accustomed to applications that live on a server. Most databases live on servers.
The Miracle of the Web, the browser, made HTML files, whether written on a client or server, readable on a network. But it was not until several years later, with Blogger, that HTML became a true network application, something that could be created anywhere, shared anywhere, and live anywhere. This was done, in part, by putting the application (WYSIWIG HTML authoring) on a server, and then allowing that server to be shared.
Now several people can work on the same document, on the same server, and deliver it to a group or the world. For example, I currently write for DeanNation along with several other people around the country. The HTML tool needed to author the blog, Blogger, is accessible from anywhere and, to make things more interesting still, anyone can add comments (in plain text) linked to any blog item.
This network application is expanding in capability all the time. I like WebCrimson , for instance, because it offers true WYSIWIG authoring, with files or images inserted through a pop-up window, and a preview that looks almost exactly like what a user will see later. But the "network" version of Movable Type, Typepad , will also support the instant creation of RSS feeds, allowing aggregation of blog content based on keywords. There are other desireable features in the space, like e-mail list support, advertising support, WYSIWIG design (as well as authoring) - the list goes on-and-on. But the key event was the creation of the networked application. Suddenly the power of the application becomes accessible across the network.
Other applications are now due to make this journey, from client to server to network. There are many questions to answer along the way, pricing and security being just two. You also have to make the resulting files viewable (via plug-ins) across the network. Then there are questions of mixing various types of content within a larger file. Sound simple? Not when you start adding charts and spreadsheets and database calls to the mix, making all three equally interactive.
So far, of course, we have been talking about conventional computer applications, the kind you're familiar with in the wired world, the kind that live on a PC consisting of a typewriter, TV and tape recorder. But Always-On applications aren't that way. Some need new interfaces, like alerts or voice, delivered over new types of clients, like cellphones. There's a huge amount of system integration needed with every application (which is good), along with enormous value.
And just wait until you add GPS to the mix.
You may be thinking that all this is stuff we can wait to think about. But it's coming much faster than you think. The next Intel desktop chip, dubbed "Grantsdale," , will include most everything you need for a server access point (except, perhaps, the radio), in what is essentially a client chip. About half the PCs sold next Christmas will include Grantsdale, so as soon as they're turned on millions of wireless networks will be created. (Wireless broadband clients, built with PCMCIA cards, are literally cheap as chips already.)
This means the new Always-On platform will be delivered within a year, and millions of people will be looking for network applications that can ride on it. Sure you can talk (for a time) about sharing DSL service or music files, but you can do that now.
What will be needed for Grantsdale's success are true Always-On applications of the type I have been writing about here for the last year. I'm talking about inventory applications, security applications, medical applications, applications that live on the network, that respond only to their owners, and that put us in closer touch with our stuff and the real-world services we need.
The next Big Boom starts in 2005.
I work as a business analyst with Progressive Strategies, a New York research firm that has the ear of the world's top technology companies.
My last book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards .
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Takes on the News
Google Editing Needed
Google News is one of the best sites on the Net. But just as phony corporations are trying to hose the main site using Search Engine Optimization, phony news sites are trying to do the same to Google News.
The difference is that Google is fighting the former abuse, changing its algorithms in a move dubbed (by opponents) Project Florida. They seem to be doing nothing about the latter problem.
The problem comes from opinion sites that don't use blogging software, but instead publish only a string of bitter opinion pieces no better than bad blogs. These sites go by names like TownHall, SierraTimes, MichNews, Newsmax, American Daily, Intellectual Conservative, Washington Dispatch, Rushlimbaugh.com, and Mens' News Daily. They often run the exact same articles by the exact same amateurs. (To be fair there are also a few liberals getting through the screen, like Working for Change, but these are exceptions. Google News does let press releases through, and I have no objection to that.)
The difference between news sites and these Astroturf news sites (and Glassman's TechStreet Station should be added to the list) is obvious. News sites send out reporters to get stories. Astroturf sites just spout opinion. If Google is going to use that excuse to block blogs from Google News (despite the fact that many reputatable news gatherers use the software, more all the time) then it has to block these, too.
The result of this abuse is that, increasingly, you don't see much news when you input important news keywords at Google News. And I think that's what Google wants to avoid. Drop these syndicates, add some better blogs, and remember that your job is to serve the user with valid results.
Support Your Local Internet Sheriff
The Markle Foundation wants the government to share more data in crime-fighting, and hang the civil liberties implications. The government itself, meanwhile, has taken to threatening the commercial Internet with regulation if it doesn't support law enforcement more strongly.
Cyber-libertarians generally oppose such efforts, but there is a move that the government could make which might turn that attitude around.
Throw these guys in jail , spam gangs who have unleashed viruses with the intent of taking down all anti-spam activists. Get the authors of W32/Mimail-L into deep, dark holes and you will have proven the value of law enforcement to the cyber-activists, who will then take seriously your demand for new law enforcement powers.
Dell Quietly Remakes Itself
Very quietly Dell Corp. is moving away from its base as a mass customizer into more of a 20th century style mass producer. This may be the most significant backward march for a business in our time.
I took a phone call from CBS Marketwatch about one strategy it's using in this area, so-called "white box" production . Dell's factories in Asia are churning out PCs without labels, shipping them in high volume and low cost, then letting other folks sell and support them. It's the kind of business Taiwan has been known for since the 1980s, but for Dell it's playing on the other guy's turf.
Dell has also become a re-seller for things like big-screen TVs . It is doing mass-market consumer production with its "Digital Jukebox," an iPod knock-off.
Dell is doing all this in order to get WalMart-like power over suppliers . It's no longer competing just with other American companies. Now it is increasingly Asian in orientation.
It's a big risk for Dell, but a good risk for American business. We have to play their game their way and beat them at it. Dell is setting an example of how American businesses must compete to succeed, although given that it's now playing a game it's not used to, I won't venture a guess as to whether they will succeed quite yet.
Clued-in (and what took so long) is Paul Krugman who has finally begun writing about the threat unauditable electronic voting machines pose to democracy. (If Diebold were owned by Rob Reiner, I think Republicans would think differently about this issue.)
Clueless is baiting Nigerian 419 cons for sport , although their tricks should give law enforcement an easy way to bring these folks to justice. (Engage them in online conversation and send them a plane ticket.)
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